Health or Hype: Why is Everyone Eating Sauerkraut?

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Cara Faus

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Cara Faus

Let’s talk sauerkraut. While some eat it for pleasure, forkfuls are being shoveled down with a purpose. This lacto fermented food is in the spotlight – but is it all it’s claimed to be?

Lacto Fermentation: What is It?

Sauerkraut, other than being tangy, crunchy and delicious, is a lacto fermented food. Additional lacto fermented foods include kimchee and sour pickles.

What lacto fermented means is when the natural sugars found in the food (in the case of sauerkraut, cabbage) are soaked in brine for a prolonged amount of time, they cultivate a specific type of bacteria — specifically, lactobacillus. This bacteria gets to work building lactic acid, with two consequences being:

  1. The quality (texture, taste, etc.) of the food changes
  2. The cabbage becomes rich in probiotics (healthy bacteria)

Why Are People Going Crazy Over It?

Why do we want foods full of bacteria? Because as it turns out, bacteria is a crucial piece of the puzzle in our overall health, and is the breeding ground –literally–for what impacts mental, digestive, and physical health.

Consider this: The small intestine of your body is what breaks down food and absorbs much of its nutrients. Inside your small intestine is a combination of good and potentially harmful bacteria. We’re talking about 5 lbs. of bacteria that reside in your intestine – in fact, your digestive system is filled with them.

In a healthy gut, the goal is for these these types of bacteria to be in balance.

Many different factors can throw off this good/bad bacteria balance, from antibiotics to an excess of sugary/processed foods.

Lacto Fermentation: Health or Hype?

Are the bacteria and fiber found in sauerkraut and pickled vegetables/lacto fermented foods beneficial? Yes. Even during these early stages of researching and understanding the microbiome, research points to the introduction of lacto fermented foods as being more advantageous than not.

The Mayo Clinic offers that “these microorganisms may help with digestion and offer protection from harmful bacteria, just as the existing “good” bacteria in your body already do.”

Rob Knight, a microbiome researcher, details to NPR, “when we do keep our bacteria well fed, they, in turn, give off nutrients that nourish the cells that line our guts.” Lining your gut protects and reinforces it from being punctured or permeated easily, keeping toxins out of your blood stream. Fiber, Knight says, “is thought to be good for your gut health over all.”

While there is no silver bullet to optimal health, as much as food marketing would have you believe, probiotics can be considered part of the big picture of health. Consider probiotics a health hack, to help compliment physical activity, movement throughout the day, regularly including nutrient-dense foods in your nutrition, and minimizing processed foods in your diet.

Want more? Check out our 4 Steps to Promote a Healthy Gut.

Bottom Line

Educating yourself on what’s in your food will help you become autonomous in your food choices and give you the tools to make an informed decision, no matter where you are.

How to Get Some Sauerkraut of Your Own

We’ve made our own kombucha , so we’re no stranger to DIY. Our Lead Designer, Jeff French, makes this simple recipe often, pulled from Wild Fermentation. Other than the bucket to hold it all in, all you need is cabbage + salt + time. It’s so easy that you could do in your own kitchen/office kitchen. You could also do this mason jar recipe.

Occasionally, we’ll make some fermented foods ourselves – our pickled carrot slaw is a favorite of our medical director’s.

You could also just buy some in the store. We keep this brand – Farmhouse Culture – stocked in our fridge and add it to salads, sandwiches and even canned fish.

To read more about gut health, check out our recent post, “Why Everyone is Talking About Your Gut.”

How WellnessFX Can Help

Early literature points to how gut health is tied to your immunity, cholesterol, inflammation and even vitamin D levels. If you’d like to see where these biomarkers sit and know your health risks, the best way is to get a blood test. Once you know where you are on the risk scale, you’ll know what lifestyle changes you should incorporate. If you re-test after approximately four months, the time it takes for blood cells to regenerate, you’ll better understand if your changes have been working. Talk with your doctor, or a WellnessFX practitioner. A WellnessFX practitioner can provide you with a customized action plan based on your health profile.

Get a blood test

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The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.