Hi all. I just purchased a jar of sauerkraut because it was fairly cheap and I've been wanting to experiment with fermented foods. I've heard they're especially good for improving one's digestion. I have never tried sauerkraut before and I have a few questions:
What are the main benefits one can hope to reap from sauerkraut?
Is there a recommended "way" to eat sauerkraut? Is it recommended to eat it on its own? Is it recommended to eat sauerkraut in combination with certain food groups, and are there any combinations one should avoid?
How much sauerkraut should one eat per day? Or on a weekly basis? I just ate about 300g on its own.
This is the brand I got: http://www.biona.co.uk/product-334-4.html
As you can see, it is infused with juniper berries so perhaps not ideal. It is also pasteurized, however it is organic and doesn't have any added preservatives like vinegar/sugar so it can't be that bad.
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Sauerkraut, and fermented veggies in general, are great! They definitely help keep your gut flora in a happy state. They're also acidic from the lactic acid, which is good for many people's tummies. Especially on Paleo, because most acidic foods are crap - like soda with its phosphoric acid - and so aren't eaten on the Paleo/Primal diet. As far as the benefits, that would depend on what kind of problems you have, if any. I think fermented, bacteria-laden food is a good equalizer. In addition to eating all-round healthy, it can help keep your digestive system where it is supposed to be - not too fast, not too slow, not too dry, not too wet. Fermented veggies don't have that many bacteria strains in general, compared to a commercial probiotic, but I think regular doses of pill probiotics might be a little much for a person starting at a healthy/somewhat healthy point of digestion.
On the other hand, because your sauerkraut is pasteurized, it no longer has live bacteria to help with your gut flora. It isn't bad at all, but the benefit of it being fermented is lost when it's pasteurized. It's now pretty much like just eating cabbage with vinegar, maybe a little more broken down from when the bacteria were still alive.
Sauerkraut is delicious! I've loved it as long as I can remember. I always eat it with pork or sausage of some sort (or I gobble it out of the jar by itself, sometimes still standing in front of the refrigerator). A fatty meat complements it well. However, I know that you're not down with the swine or other such land animals, so I'm really not sure what to suggest instead. Hopefully someone else will have a great suggestion. Since your sauerkraut is already pasteurized, it doesn't matter whether you eat it hot or cold. With live-bacteria sauerkraut, though, to get the best benefits you'd want to avoid heating it up too much and killing the bacteria.
As to how much to eat, if it is pasteurized, you're not going to have to worry about die-off, but it's still pretty acidic so don't go too much too fast or it could upset your tummy. I generally eat about 3-4oz of fermented veggies at a time, a few times a week, unless I have a crazy craving. It works for me. Because I make all my own ferments, though, it is hard to gauge against a store-bought, more consistent product. I think it could also vary a lot from person to person, depending on their needs, the rest of their diet, and their current state of digestive health and what gut flora they are already working with. I think it's safe to say, though, that if it doesn't cause you obvious digestive distress, it isn't doing any hidden damage.
In the US there is a brand of sauerkraut and pickles called Bubbies that is not complete pasteurized. They heat treat it enough to slow the bacteria down but not kill them off completely; it is still a live culture, but the jars won't explode or leak during shipping or on the shelf. You can feel a "fizz" in your mouth eating Bubbies from the CO gas the lacto-bacteria produce. It's generally available in health food stores.
- a big dose of gut-friendly probiotic bacteria
- vitamins -- C and I think also lots of B vitamins. Captain Cook used sauerkraut to prevent scurvy on his voyage around the wold.
Making your own is the best way to go, and not hard at all. You can get started with a head of cabbage, some sea salt, some pure water, and a mason jar. http://www.wildfermentation.com/ has lots of info on both benefits and how to get started.
All I could find in the UK was pasteurised too. Which means that the beneficial bacteria are now dead.
So I bought a Harsch crock (not cheap but very good) and started making my own sauerkraut. It is SO easy - just cabbage, salt (about 3 tablespoons salt to 5 pounds cabbage. I use pink Himalayan salt) and I use some caraway seeds and juniper berries. I DO NOT use whey...!!
It takes about 3 weeks in my Harsch crock then I bottle it up and store in the fridge. Make SURE that the kraut is below the level of the brine... otherwise it will spoil.
I think mine is a 5 litre crock. I'd like a smaller one too!
Eat it out of a bowl (or the jar) on its own, or with meat, etc at a side. Pasturized will not have good bacteria in it, but if it is fermented I suspect it would still have K2. I am considering trying to make my own soon. The only ingredients are cabbage and salt.
I like it warmed up when we eat Sausages, or cold as a side dish/salad replacement or anywhere you'd eat pickles. You can add the juice to soups and sauces to bump up the flavor, too.
You might want to go easy on it at first or you may experience some GI distress. 300 grams your first time all at once may be a bit much--if you experience some distress, don't give up, but get into it in more slowly from here on.
If you like it, it's incredibly easy to make, and a whole lot cheaper to make yourself. All you need is an organic cabbage, some salt, and a jar. California allows the sale of live cultured kraut, but the price is shocking $6 for a tiny 2 serving container when I can make a two quart jarful for about $1.50.
I just discovered EATProbiotics, that makes 100% organic raw sauerkraut and is packed with probiotics.
As a child, our German immigrant family made real, delicious sauerkraut in the basement of our home. Now, finally I have found another source of REAL raw traditional sauerkraut as good as what we made 60 years ago. Also, I love drinking the juice.