Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Eat Sauerkraut

Today, instead of daring you to cook a new food (although that's coming up, don't you worry!), I'm just going to dare you to eat a new food:

Sauerkraut

This is a food that I had nothing to do with growing up.  Never ate it.  Never wanted to.  Didn't quite know what it was.  Didn't care to look past its slimy appearance and pungent smell to give it a try.  No interest whatsoever.


In my paleo and general nutrition readings, podcasts, books, etc., I repeatedly find suggestions that Sauerkraut is one of the absolute healthiest things we should all be eating.
  • At Paleo FX (March 2012), a "Whole Foods vs. Supplements Mastermind Panel" of nutritional and digestive gurus (Chris Kresser, Amy Kubal, Diana Rodgers, Liz Wolf, Diane Sanfilippo, Dr. Dan Kalish, Joe Johnson) were all asked to name 3 foods or supplements they recommend.  Guess which food was essentially unanimously agreed upon?  (Hear discussion on that discussion in this Balanced Bites podcast episode.)
  • Presenters at the Real Food Summit were equally enthralled with fermented foods and the positive impact of probiotics.  Several mentioned the benefits of including fermented foods like sauerkraut in the diet, and Jenny McGruther even gave an entire presentation on Reviving the Tradition of Fermentation: How and Why Fermented Foods Heal.  She explained that fermentation is a process of microbial action, in which bacteria and yeasts consume carbs (in the food) and produce lactic acid, acetic acid, and alcohol.  As a result, the foods become richer in vitamins, food enzymes (to help us digest them), and become a source of beneficial bacteria to support digestion, the immune system, and overall health.  See a similar presentation on her website, The Nourished Kitchen.
  • Chris Kresser includes sauerkraut in his Top Fourteen Foods.
  • Mark Sisson sums it all up in his Definitive Guide to Fermented Foods

Fermented Foods. Sauerkraut, fermented carrots, kefir, kombucha, chocolate, kimchi, cheese, bread, lox... and more. 

Since when?  What are these things?  Who knew it was so good for you?  Is it ALL so good for you, or are some types, brands, jars, concoctions better than others?  I finally started to pay attention to this weird item: the what, why, when, and how.


What is sauerkraut?  

Sauerkraut is cabbage that has been finely shredded and fermented.  Yes, it seems weird at first, but if you get a quality product (see below), it actually can be somewhat tasty.  I find that I acquired a taste for it fairly quickly, once I got the good stuff.

Learn about different varieties here, and know that it can be prepared plain (just cabbage and salt) or can be spiced up with different flavors!  There are lots of recipes out there.


Why should we eat it? 

If the aforementioned benefits weren't enough for you, how about these?  In brief:

Note: The effect on digestion is potent. Real. No joke.  Don't go eating a whole cup of sauerkraut if you're not used to it. Start small (~1/4 cup) and be prepared for results.


Where can should we get it?

Sauerkraut as most people know it can be found in any regular supermarket, or even in the metal carts on the streets of New York, but is that really what we're talking about?  NO.  In the words of Mark Sisson, "Even when we do eat foods that are traditionally fermented, like sauerkraut or pickles, they’re usually bastardized versions produced quickly for mass consumption."  He and others claim that store-bought versions are less flavorful, more acidic, and less good-for-you.  This is because they're preserved in vinegar instead of the natural brine.  Why must commercial packaging processes always toss extra junk into our food to make it last longer?  Especially with fermented foods, which have a long shelf life all on their own?  

Look, who needs this extra stuff in the ingredients?  I don't want anything I can't pronounce or picture in my head. Let's keep it simple, raw, clean.



The best forms of sauerkraut won't have those extra foreign ingredients.  For example, Whole Foods' 365 Organic Sauerkraut has only 3 ingredients: organic cabbage, water, and sea salt.  Sounds good to me!



Even better, make your own.  (Gasp!) 
But that's for another post (Update: THIS ONE!). (If you want to get a head start, find instructions here or here.)  

For now, I dare you to start eating sauerkraut, just a little bit each day.  I really never ate it until this past month.  Now, I'm used to it!  Just give it a chance - it's worth it.

Do you eat sauerkraut regularly? 
Do you buy it (where from?) or make your own? 

26 comments:

  1. I've never tried it but this post totally makes me want to!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never had either, but if you get the non-vinegary version from WF or make your own, it's really pretty easy to start eating!

      Delete
  2. Hahaha I actually had no idea it was good for you! I've never tried it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. With my German background, I've spent pretty much my whole life eating sauerkraut with most of it being homemade by my mom and my grandma. I LOVE the stuff. (Of course, now I'm totally jonesin' for some and I have none in the house. Darn it. LOL)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha then you've been reaping the benefits for quite some time!!

      Delete
  4. Sauerkraut is one of my favorite foods! I've got a German/Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and sauerkruat is a staple. Now I really want some!

    ReplyDelete
  5. ooooof I don't know about this one, I have this problem--if I don't like the smell I can't eat it. BUT my fiance LOVES it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you want to give it another try, I find that the version from Whole Foods is not nearly as pungent as other varieties.

      Delete
  6. Hmmm this is something I haven't had in years. I actually don't even remember what it taste like! lol

    ReplyDelete
  7. Interesting. I'm not used to eating it, but I may pick some up and take the "dare" the next time I'm at Whole Foods. Thanks for the info.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I do have to say that I love this....however only have eaten it on hotdogs! Not really the point I know!! I'm sure it takes away the health benefits! I'll have to explore heather ways to use it...never knew it was so good for you!

    ReplyDelete
  9. my mom used to love to fix sauerkraut and hot dogs...kinda makes me wonder if that negates the benefits :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I REALLY want to try to make my own this winter!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm so glad I came over here today! I would never in a million years have thought of sauerkraut as a healthy food! Now I am inspired to give it a go.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I need to try sauerkraut with my "adult" taste buds. My memory is "blech" but I don't think I've had it since I was a kid. So, maybe, like brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and scores of other foods, I will love it. Maybe.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I LOVE sauerkraut on mashed potatoes. LOVE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good idea! I need to find more ways to make it PART of the meal; topping my sweet potatoes sounds good!

      Delete
  14. Who KNEW? I dont' know if I've ever even tried sauerkraut. It always looks gross to me and I certianly never considered it nutritious so you have nelightened me today!

    ReplyDelete
  15. We ate it as kids because we were from a German background, but not that often. I'd eat a little, but I didn't love it. We always had the stuff from the can. I haven't really had it until my adulthood. Then I want to a Polish joint downtown and ordered the Polish Sampler. The sauerkraut on the plate was the best I'd ever had. You could see the seasoning and tell that it was made fresh, not from a can. Sometimes, you just have to re-try things. ;-)
    Cheers~

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'd never eaten Sauerkraut in my life, but I started a few weeks ago after reading up on it and it's probiotic effects! I love adding it to salads.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I actually love the stuff and eat it every New Years with pork for money and luck. However it gives me a headache for some reason (as does regular cabbage) so I don't eat it very often. I never knew it was so beneficial.

    ReplyDelete
  18. LOVE me some sauerkraut! I went to Austria and ate it EVERY day... 3 + times a day. They sort of serve it to you there like you would get bread at a restaurant here... plus my family would order about 5 more dishes for the table!! It is prepared so much differently over there, and let me tell you, if you've never had it over there, you've never really had it! A lot of the bottled ones you can buy at the store are just plain sour... but over there oh my, they're savory and made with.. *GASP* ham hock (I don't eat pork AT ALL... but I definitely said SCREW IT and chowed down- hey, there weren't any pieces of pork in it, it was jsut stewed in a pork broth or something... you know what? I don't wanna know, LOL). Oh man, SO GOOD! :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. So easy to make. Sauerkraut is dummy proof. Nevertheless I bought myself a fancy German style crock for added ease of preparation. Making some this weekend. Eat it raw or cooked.raw has more of the good stuff! But beware.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I have just made a batch of sauerkraut,I have been eating a tiny amount each day for the past few days. I am afraid to eat any more as I used to find that probiotcs stopped going to the loo and I would need to take senna. I love the flavour and I use red cabbage for the added benefits.
    Should I carry on with just my tablespoon full a day or should I up it and how much is ok to eat?

    ReplyDelete

I would love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences below: