The Benefits and History of Sauerkraut

Fresh Sauerkraut

The Benefits of Sauerkraut

Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, have always been valued for their ability to remain edible without refrigeration, a quality that makes these foods particularly relevant to those on long voyages. Durability isn't the only value — or even the main value — of sauerkraut in modern times, however. As it turns out, this finely shredded, fermented cabbage has plenty of health benefits. Take a look to learn some things you probably didn't know about the value of sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut Boosts Your Immune System

Sauerkraut is packed with probiotics that help control inflammation by building your stomach lining and helping your gut flora to remain healthy. This keeps toxins of various sorts from migrating from your digestive system into your body and provoking unhealthy immune responses. The healthy gut flora that sauerkraut encourages also produce antibodies. In fact, one serving of sauerkraut contains 24 percent of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C. (And as an added bonus, sauerkraut also contains impressive levels of vitamins B1, B6, and B9.)

Sauerkraut Aids in Bone Strength

The vitamin K in sauerkraut helps your body absorb calcium, which your bones and teeth rely on to stay strong. In addition, the proteins produced by vitamin K facilitate bone mineralization, the process by which your bones intake calcium. Also playing a part on bone health is sauerkraut's vitamin C, which helps connect calcium and phosphorus to collagen to form new bone tissue.

Sauerkraut Fills You Up to Promote Weight Loss

When you eat foods that are rich in probiotics, such as sauerkraut, you show a lowered risk of obesity. Sauerkraut also contributes to weight loss thanks to its high-fiber nature — because it's a low-calorie food, it fills you up so you aren't tempted to snack on less healthy foods.

Sauerkraut Is Packed With Antioxidants

The phytochemicals in cabbage contain powerful antioxidants that help reduce inflammation throughout your body. Some evidence indicates that these antioxidants may also provide some protection against cancer.

Sauerkraut Fights the Common Cold — and Scurvy

As sailors knew back in the days of tall ships, sauerkraut is a powerful fighter of scurvy, which is caused by a vitamin C deficiency. While few people in the modern world have to worry about scurvy, getting enough vitamin C is still important to keep your immune system healthy. When you get enough vitamin C, as you do from eating sauerkraut, your gums become healthier, you're less likely to contract colds, and you're more likely to recover quickly.

Sauerkraut Is an Excellent Source of Dietary Fiber

You need plenty of dietary fiber to keep your digestive system regular, and the cabbage in sauerkraut provides it and keeps the peristaltic movement of your bowels going. By eating sauerkraut on a regular basis, you can avoid the discomfort of constipation, excess gas, and flatulence, as well as the need to take unhealthy laxatives.

The Nutrients in Sauerkraut are Highly Bio-Available

The fermentation process that creates sauerkraut means that the cabbage is already partially pre-digested when it hits your digestive system. That makes all those wonderful nutrients in the sauerkraut easily bio-available to your system. This feature of sauerkraut is especially important for those with compromised digestive systems.

Sauerkraut Eases Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Problems

The digestive system benefits of sauerkraut just keep adding up. Because sauerkraut helps minimize inflammation in the digestive system, it can help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The enzymes that are a result of the fermentation process help break down the nutrients passing through your system, easing any digestive discomfort.

In addition, the fermentation process that the cabbage in sauerkraut undergoes produces a wide spectrum of good bacteria (or probiotics). In fact, one serving of sauerkraut contains about 3 billion (with a B!) good bacteria. The probiotics and enzymes in sauerkraut may also have a positive effect on symptoms of candida, various dermatological conditions, liver function, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Sauerkraut's Fiber Content Also Promotes Heart Health

You may be more aware of the effect fiber has on your digestive system, but it's also a positive factor in promoting the health of your heart and circulatory system. The fiber in sauerkraut helps reduce fatty deposits inside your arteries, which in turn reduces your risk of heart attacks, hardening of the arteries, strokes, and other major circulatory system disorders. When you eat a serving of sauerkraut, you take in menaquinone, which prevents calcium deposits in your arteries, thus reducing your chances of heart disease.

Sauerkraut Fights Inflammation

Inflammation occurs when your body's immune system turns against itself. As a response to harmful factors entering your body, your immune system releases white blood cells to protect your body against damage. However, sometimes your immune system goes into a type of overdrive that can be dangerous, triggering white blood cells to flood the system when there's no foreign invader (such as, say, bacteria or viruses causing disease) to repel. When you have allergies, that's what's going on: Your body has perceived, say, milk as a harmful substances and unleashes the power of the immune system against it, resulting in systemic inflammation.

The probiotics in sauerkraut fight against this tendency toward inflammation, taking on the white blood cells that are triggering the overactive immune response. As a result, unwanted symptoms, including allergic symptoms, can go away. Asthma attacks are also often reduced thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties of sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut Is Full of Beneficial Minerals

Yes, sauerkraut is packed with great vitamins that your body needs, but it doesn't stop there. You can also find a wide range of minerals necessary for good health in sauerkraut, including calcium (for strong bones), iron (for healthy blood), magnesium (for muscle and nerve function), manganese (for blood sugar and metabolism regulation), phosphorus (for bone health and energy production), and potassium (for heart health).

Sauerkraut Boosts Your Energy Levels

All that iron in sauerkraut helps increase oxygenation of your cells and organs. The result? Greater production of energy at the cellular level, which you experience through your entire body. All that iron also helps fight menstrual cramps, as well as the headaches that can be associated with low iron levels in the blood.

Sauerkraut's Probiotics Are Also Beneficial for Mental Health

Your body's physical health isn't all that's being helped when you eat sauerkraut. Because the digestive system is connected to your brain via your vagus nerve, what you eat and the health of your gut can also affect your brain. Those probiotics help boost your memory and show other positive effects on your brain's health.

All these amazing health benefits are waiting for you in our Colonel Klink's Sauerkrauts, which we named as a tribute to the German character in the retro TV show "Hogan's Heroes." Check out our sauerkraut to enjoy fabulous flavor (with a touch of pure Vermont maple syrup) plus incredible health benefits.

The History of Sauerkraut

When you think of sauerkraut, chances are that you think of German food. And yes, sauerkraut is important in the history of German cuisine. But actually, before sauerkraut came to Germany and other Eastern European countries where it's also enjoyed today, it appears to have originated in China.

According to the University of Witten's Institute for Integrative Medicine, sauerkraut counts as one of the oldest ways to preserve vegetables in history, with evidence for the tasty fermented vegetables going back to about 400 B.C.

In fact, before making its way to Europe during the days of the Roman Empire, a version of fermented cabbage, the main ingredient in sauerkraut, was eaten by the builders of the Great Wall of China. During the summer, the workers ate rice and cabbage to sustain themselves. But during the winter, cabbage wasn't available to harvest. So the workers preserved shredded cabbage in rice wine. As the cabbage fermented in the wine, it turned into what we know today as sauerkraut.

Fast forward a few centuries, and the Tartars carried the fermented cabbage to Europe from China. During these years, people began to pickle their cabbage using salt instead of the Chinese rice wine.

The pungent, puckery vegetable, which we think of as essentially German, was actually carried from China to Europe by the Tartars, who went on to create a new improved version of the pickled cabbage, fermenting it with salt, rather than rice wine. The salt pulls out the juice of the vegetable, freeing it to become the basis of the liquid that's part of sauerkraut preparations today.

Sauerkraut continued to spread across Europe through the Jewish and Dutch populations. Jewish cuisine tended to feature sauerkraut served with duck or goose, and these preparations were carried north through Europe and across the ocean to America. Dutch seafarers adopted sauerkraut on their trading ships as a preventative for scurvy that didn't require any refrigeration. Sauerkraut is still popular today, especially in Dutch and German cuisine.

At Vermont Fermenters, we tip our hat to both the German and Asian roots of sauerkraut. As Verasians (Vermonters who identify as Asians), we start with the classic German recipe using caraway seeds and juniper berries — but we don't leave it there. We add a bit of pure Vermont maple syrup to honor the state we love, with a dash of Japanese Togarashi pepper to add an Asian twist. Give our Colonel Klink's sauerkraut a try.


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