Live-cultured, probiotic-rich sauerkraut is a superfood. And if you have $1.50 and 7 days, you can make your own, at home.
Note: While I am a medical professional, I am writing this post sister-to-sister, as a fellow woman, and friend. If you have any medical questions specific to your own body, please consult your healthcare provider.
Sauerkraut …. the majority of cultures with ancient culinary traditions have some version of it. Sauerkraut = Polish/German, Kimchi = Korean, Curtido = Latin-American. The sauerkraut I’m talking about is not the version in the middle of the grocery store pantry aisles, cured with vinegar inside of a jar.
The sauerkraut we are speaking of is ALIVE. It is rich with lactobacillus and other probiotic cultures, a perfect blend of good bacteria that blankets the length of your digestive tract, protecting your gut from foreign invaders and enhancing your ability to digest your food.
Sauerkraut, simply, is cabbage, chopped thin (with various accoutrement … purple onion, jalapeño, and lime), massaged with sea salt (or pink Himalayan), topped with distilled water, and allowed to “cook” at room-temperature for seven days.
Whole foods, Sprouts and other health food stores sell live (probiotic) rather than dead (vinegared) krauts and pickles. (Bubbies is one national brand.) But why spend $7 a jar when you can make it yourself for less than two dollars? Having a crock is nice, but unnecessary. All you need is a clean glass jar (the bigger the better) some clean breathable fabric or cheesecloth, a rubber band and time.
Q. What does sauerkraut (and other live cultured foods) do within your body?
It is estimated that 80% of our immune system resides in our guts … within a structure called the Peyer’s Patch. Our digestive tract allows our internal bodies contact with potentially pathogenic organisms (bad bacteria) from the food we consume. The Peyer’s Patch is a cluster of lymphatic tissue that helps trap foreign micro-organisms (bad bacteria, viruses and other particles that make us sick), screen them, and destroy the invaders.
WHY DOES OUR BODY’S MICROBIOME (bacterial ecosystem) NEED HELP?
The problem with the typical American diet is that we consume a large amount of foods that inflame our digestive tract. Our digestive tract is the main gateway through which we gain nutrients and nourishment, but it also exposes us to harmful pathogens. Processed foods, refined flours and concentrated sugars become particles and large molecules that pass into our bloodstream and distract our bodies’ immune response.
In addition, in the typical western diet we consume large amounts of food/drink that has been BLEACHED or chlorinated (flours, salt, tap water) and ultra-pasteurized (dairy products). Residual chemicals remain in food from the bleaching process and kill off all kinds of bacteria, including good bacteria. Meanwhile, ultra-pasteurization allows degraded milk proteins to invade our bodies, which can cause local inflammation (pain, bloating, indigestion.)
Sauerkraut is full of delicious, tummy loving lactobacillus … the same GOOD bacteria found in yogurt and over-the- counter probiotics.
What makes sauerkraut a probiotic SUPERFOOD?
Unlike yogurt, which contains milk proteins (which some are sensitive to) sauerkraut can be eaten by everyone, following any diet type. Expensive over-the-counter probiotics (in capsule form) are mostly dissolved by digestive enzymes long before they can pass through the entire length of the GI tract. Meanwhile the probiotics in sauerkraut, which is rich in vegetable fiber, remains intact, planting good bacteria throughout the length of your digestive system.
BENEFITS OF PROBIOTIC FOODS.
Sauerkraut and other probiotic foods reduce inflammation not only in our GI tract, but throughout your body. This is especially helpful for those of us with yeast overgrowth (symptoms include constant vaginal yeast infections) or overgrowth of bad bacteria (recurrent bacterial vaginitis.) I would argue that probiotic foods are necessary to replenish good bacteria after a course of antibiotics, and helpful for people with autoimmune conditions (which include everything from asthma, to many thyroid conditions, to food allergies.)
A BASIC RECIPE
- A head of cabbage (I prefer purple, it’s prettier)
- A purple onion
- Juice of one lime
- Two heaping tablespoons of salt.
Chop the cabbage and onion into slaw size. Place slaw into a large bowl and squeeze / pour the lime all over. Sprinkle salt throughout. Massage with your hands. One cabbage will fill 2 quart-size mason jars. Pack the kraut mix down into the jars as tightly as you can. Pour distilled water (or tap water pre-boiled and cooled) till fluid covers the surface of the vegetables. Weigh down with a clean rock, cover with fabric or cheesecloth held taut with a rubberband.
Wait seven days.
*When you remove the fabric you will probably notice some mold growing around any bits of cabbage that have floated to the surface. Just scoop these out and discard.
Stir well, cover with lid and place into your fridge, indefinitely.