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? 

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