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11 Health Benefits of Sauerkraut

You might already have heard how fermented food can be incredibly helpful, and how incorporating those foods into your diet (like sauerkraut) benefits the body in multiple different ways. 

But what are the health benefits of sauerkraut, and how can you make the most of them?

While it's long been considered a polarising food because of its distinctive flavour, the surprising health benefits of sauerkraut can often frame the dish in a different light, especially as it can be easily paired with a variety of meals.

Whether you’re curious about unpasteurised sauerkraut benefits, or you’re looking to examine fresh sauerkraut benefits, our article will explore everything you need to know about sauerkraut, plus any sauerkraut side effects you should be aware of.

Contents:

However, if you’re already confident on what you need to include as part of an ideal diet, then perhaps it’s time to take that knowledge to the next level.

OriGym’s industry leading sports nutrition course gives you the grounding to become a fully qualified nutritionist, with 7 days a week expert guidance, a library of bespoke online resources, ultra-flexible payment plans, and free examination resits.

If you’re still unsure, download our completely FREE prospectus to explore everything we offer, and see how it could be ideal for you.

What Is Sauerkraut?

While this article will primarily focus on sauerkraut benefits and side effects, it’s equally important to fully understand what sauerkraut is, especially if you’re new to fermented foods in general.

Sauerkraut is an incredibly simple recipe, made with thinly sliced cabbage and a small pinch of salt. It’s a staple dish in Germany, but the wide range of sauerkraut benefits have meant it’s grown in popularity all across the world. It’s often suggested as a healthier alternative to foods like coleslaw, which also uses cabbage.

If you’re interested in healthier options when it comes to sweet treats, check out our guide to the best healthy ice creams.

As we’ve just briefly touched upon, sauerkraut undergoes a process called fermentation, where a food is left to ferment in brine (a salty liquid). 

You may already be familiar with other fermented foods (like kimchi, or pickled cucumbers) but what sets sauerkraut apart is that the brine comes from the cabbage itself, and it’s what provides sauerkraut with its distinctive and often divisive flavour.

We’ll explore exactly how to make sauerkraut a little later in this article, as it’s important to get the recipe right in order to make the most of the health benefits of sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut Health Benefits 

 

#1 - Contains High Levels Of Vitamin C

One of the main health benefits of sauerkraut is it’s immensely high Vitamin C content. In fact, the main ingredient of sauerkraut (usually white cabbage, but red cabbage can also be used) contains up to 30mg of Vitamin C even before it’s fermented.

The fermentation process seals in that Vitamin C (one of the best vitamins for tiredness and fatigue), and ensures that we’re able to reap the benefits of Vitamin C, as well as all the other sauerkraut benefits.

Vitamin C is a crucial nutrient that we need to get from our foods, and finding a source like sauerkraut benefits us massively. 

The body uses this key vitamin in order to strengthen our body’s cells, ensuring they can continue to function properly and effectively, maintaining key elements of the body like the skin and blood vessels, and promoting good healing and blood clotting. 

Finding a good source of Vitamin C is vital, especially as it’s a compound that our body doesn’t produce naturally, and combining this abundance of Vitamin C with a range of other health benefits of sauerkraut can revolutionise the way we view this dish.

#2 - Boosts The Body’s Levels Of Probiotics

Perhaps one of the most well-documented sauerkraut benefits is the significant boost it gives to our body's levels of probiotics. Let’s explore in more detail.

Probiotics, often referred to as “good” bacteria, are live bacteria and bacterial cultures that form a key part of the fermentation process that sauerkraut undergoes. They’re also often found in yoghurts, particularly those that are designed to be beneficial (like high protein yoghurts), which is why you might have had these as part of your diet.

However, one of the main benefits of sauerkraut is its probiotics positively affect us much more, and allows us to experience the advantages of receiving a healthy dose of this “good” bacteria.

For instance, probiotics have been proven to improve our digestive and stomach health, and studies have even discovered that they go some way towards preventing diseases or issues that can occur in the stomach.

Sauerkraut is one of the best sources of probiotics, and given the other health benefits of sauerkraut, gaining a substantial boost to your probiotic intake can seriously help those other advantages take root.

#3 - Helps Significantly With Digestion

Leading on from our previous entry on this list of sauerkraut benefits, eating this fermented food can seriously aid with your gut health, specifically when it comes to digestion.

Digestion is the process our food goes through once it reaches our stomach, where all the essential nutrients are extracted before it gets processed through our intestinal tract. One of the main benefits of eating sauerkraut is that it can significantly aid this process.

Studies have found that, due to its significant quantity of probiotics, sauerkraut benefits the digestive process, and reduces the risk of developing inflammation, which can lead to more serious problems, like certain cancers, or stomach issues.

Sauerkraut is also a fantastic source of fibre which promotes regularity and consistency with bowel movements, as well as ensuring that all gut bacteria function effectively, which is compounded when combined with the high quantity of probiotics.

These probiotics are also incredibly beneficial for your immune system - explore more options in our comprehensive report on immunity boosting foods.

#4 - Aids With Weight Loss

One of the more understated health benefits of eating sauerkraut is its surprising effectiveness when it comes to losing weight, and keeping that weight off.

As we’ve just highlighted, sauerkraut is an incredibly fibrous food - it contains approximately 4 grams of fibre in each serving, and the daily recommended intake (RDI) is 30g, meaning a single serving of sauerkraut can provide up 13% of your RDI.

Fibre is an incredibly important part of our diet. We’ve already mentioned how it promotes excellent digestive health, but having a diet that’s rich in fibre can also help you to lose weight more naturally.

Highly fibrous foods like sauerkraut promote feelings of fullness (also referred to as satiety), and ensure we aren’t tempted to snack or eat when we aren’t hungry. By leaving us feeling fuller for longer, sauerkraut benefits our weight loss journey, and helps us stick more rigidly to our diet plans.

Gaining this fibre, in conjunction with all the other nutritional benefits of sauerkraut, means we’ll also be able to plan our meals more effectively in order to achieve a balanced lifestyle, including the right protein sources and healthy high fat foods.

#5 - Reduces Chances Of Low Mood

It’s long been theorised that there’s a vital connection between the gut and the brain, and recent developments point more definitely towards a link between the two. One of the health benefits of sauerkraut is that it can have a substantial positive effect on your mental health.

One of the benefits of sauerkraut’s probiotics is that, while they’re already incredibly beneficial, they actually perform another function that stimulates the growth of “gut flora”, which are healthy bacteria that line the walls of our stomach and guts.

This production of healthy gut flora creates a connection to the brain, which has been proven to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as more serious conditions like OCD.

A recent scientific study discovered this relationship, and found that eating sauerkraut benefits the brain by reducing the chances of developing those issues, and helps to regulate mood in a more effective manner.

Including this food as part of our diet will not only help to improve mood, but it can also compound the psychological benefits of exercise, too. Learn more in OriGym’s complete overview of the mental health benefits of running.

#6 - An Incredibly Dense Nutritional Profile

As we’ve seen with many of the previous entries on our list, one of the main sauerkraut health benefits is that it has an incredibly diverse nutritional profile, consisting of a wide array of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

We’ve outlined exactly what you can expect from a 1 cup serving (around 142g), and how you can easily experience all of the fresh sauerkraut benefits from this range of vitamins.

  • Calories - 27 calories, approximately 1% of RDI
  • Protein - 1.3g, 3% of RDI
  • Fibre - 4.1g, 15% of RDI
  • Fat - 0.2g, 0% of RDI
  • Carbohydrates - 6.1g, 2% of RDI
  • Vitamin C - 23% of RDI 
  • Vitamin K - 15% of RDI
  • Potassium - 5% of RDI
  • Calcium - 3% of RDI
  • Iron - 12% of RDI
  • Folate - 9% of RDI

Perhaps one of the more immediately noticeable components of this nutritional outline is its high Vitamin C content, which we often only associate with citrus fruits like oranges. 

Sauerkraut is also a very low calorie side dish that can often form a great accompaniment for your source of animal or plant protein, as well as vegetables to create a well-balanced dish.

#7 - Reduces Cancer Risk

One of perhaps the most surprising health benefits of sauerkraut is its ability to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, and mitigate against developing these issues.

As we’ve already examined, the main component of sauerkraut (cabbage) has an incredibly diverse nutritional profile - with a vast array of vitamins and nutrients, these characteristics form the cornerstone of many of the sauerkraut benefits we’ve looked at.

While we’ll examine each component of this profile in its own capacity, it’s important to give an overview of this nutritional information, and how these minerals all join together to create the sauerkraut benefits we look for in our meals.

These essential minerals have been proven to offer effective mitigation against specific types of cancer, including lung, stomach, colon, and rectal cancers, with recent studies establishing a distinctive link between lower cancer risks, and higher consumption of brassica vegetables such as cabbage.

Including sauerkraut as part of a well-balanced lifestyle that includes regular exercise will ensure you can fully reap these sauerkraut benefits. Explore more on the benefits of regular exercise in OriGym’s comprehensive exploration.

#8 - Improves Bone Health

Our skeletal health is crucially important in every aspect of daily life - whether that’s walking up the stairs at home, or something as simple as holding a mug of coffee, we rely on the free movement of our bones in order to complete these actions without pain or discomfort.

Looking after our skeleton is essential, and one of the nutritional benefits of sauerkraut is that it provides extra strengthening for our bones with its high Vitamin K content.

Vitamin K is often considered one of the most essential vitamins when it comes to skeletal health, especially as this vital nutrient provides the body with a way to help the blood to clot, as well as strengthen our overall bone structure. It’s also considered to be one of the essential vitamins for the immune system.

One of the main sauerkraut benefits when it comes to skeletal health is that it also contains a significant amount of calcium, too, which synergises well with the Vitamin K content we’ve already discussed, and goes a long way towards providing your bones with additional protection.

These crucial minerals can often mean that sauerkraut benefits the skeletal system in ways we often don’t notice, but that are no less important.

#9 - Strengthens The Immune System

As we examined earlier in our list of the best benefits of sauerkraut, the boost we receive to our level of probiotics (or good bacteria) from eating sauerkraut is one of its key benefits.

These probiotics provide our immune system with a substantial boost, strengthening our body’s natural defences against viruses, diseases, and illness which we come into contact with on a daily basis.

Our immune system is crucial - it forms the last line of defence between our vulnerable internal organs, and the harmful cells and compounds that can enter your bodies, whether that’s through illness or viral infection, or simply through others that are around us.

Finding ways to strengthen our immune system is crucial, and establishing a diet that includes those foods that strengthen the immune system can seriously help with improving our natural levels of immunity.

Sauerkraut benefits us by being one of those foods - it’s diverse nutritional profile, coupled with the substantial boost to our probiotic levels, ensures that we receive as much as possible of the beneficial effects for our immune system.

#10 - Can Help Prevent Certain Diseases

Another of the more surprising health benefits of sauerkraut is that it can help mitigate against our risks of developing certain diseases, including those that can have a severe negative and often long-term effect. 

This is often attributed to the high Vitamin K content we find in sauerkraut, which is responsible for providing significant mitigation against serious diseases.

Studies have discovered that consuming a larger amount of Vitamin K (such as the amount found in sauerkraut) has been irrefutably linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as promoting overall good cardiovascular health.

Of course, as we’ve already examined, Vitamin K is not the only key nutritional compound that’s found in sauerkraut, and by combining these disease-combatting effects with the rest of the vast array of sauerkraut benefits, we receive a much more diverse nutritional boost.

Combining these effects can also magnify the anti-disease properties of sauerkraut, especially as the probiotics can make all the difference to our digestive health, and even help to provide some protection against digestive and intestinal issues.

Maintaining good stomach health is vital, and augmenting that with the right healthy high fat foods and protein sources can have a huge positive effect on our bodies.

#11 - Boosts Cardiovascular Health

The heart is arguably the most important organ in our body - it pumps oxygenated blood around the body, providing vital red blood cells and oxygen to the other equally vital areas, including the lungs and brain.

Finding dishes that boost our cardiovascular health is vital, and one of the benefits of eating sauerkraut is that it’s been proven to aid in boosting our cardiovascular health, ensuring our bodies can function as effectively as possible. 

The diverse nutritional profile of sauerkraut provides multiple benefits for our heart health, providing a healthy dose of antioxidants (cabbage is among the best antioxidant foods), which help to keep not only the heart, but the rest of the body, free of inflammation, which leads to more serious issues.

Regular consumption of sauerkraut has also been discovered to be beneficial in preventing cardiovascular disease and illnesses, which ensures your heart is kept in as good a condition as possible.

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Possible Sauerkraut Side Effects

While there’s a wide range of sauerkraut benefits, it’s also equally important to be aware of any sauerkraut side effects so that you can continue to get the most out of sauerkraut.

 

#1 - Can Cause Stomach Discomfort

As we’ve already explained, sauerkraut is one of the most famous fermented foods available on the market. It brines in a salt-water solution for up to 4 weeks, which not only gives it its unique flavour profile, but it also allows for some of the sauerkraut benefits we’ve just examined to fully come to fruition.

However, this fermentation process can be to its detriment for some, especially as it can cause discomfort in the stomach, which is usually in the form of excess flatulence, stomach ache, or, in more serious cases, diarrhoea. 

Sauerkraut’s high fiber content, too, while a huge benefit, can also mean that it causes issues, especially for those with more sensitive stomachs.

The simple way to avoid these issues is to monitor your intake of sauerkraut, and avoid eating too much of the fermented foodstuff, especially if it is causing more severe issues such as diarrhoea or particularly bad stomach cramps.

Understanding your body, and what it needs to function effectively and efficiently is vital, especially for a balanced lifestyle. The same is true of exercise - explore more in our complete overview of cardio and aerobic exercise.

#2 - Can Trigger Allergic Reactions

Given its fermented nature, sauerkraut can often have a polarising flavour profile, and one that can cause issues for more sensitive stomachs. However, one of the possible sauerkraut side effects is that it can trigger allergic reactions.

We’re already well aware that sauerkraut is a fermented food (meaning it's steeped in its own brine for an extended period of time), but fermented foods can trigger allergic reactions.

While these are often mild, and what we’d commonly associate with hayfever or a pet allergy, they can be irritating, and they may be an unexpected and unwelcome addition to any sauerkraut side effects you could experience. They can also lead to more severe allergic symptoms (like asthma, low blood pressure, sleep disorders, or mood swings).

Of course, as with all sauerkraut side effects, this can be avoided by not ingesting too much sauerkraut, or building up your tolerance slowly over time (we’d suggest making notes in a dedicated fitness journal) if you’re struggling with allergic symptoms.

Sauerkraut is an unusual food, and one that there are very few parallels to in our average diet, so it’s important to adjust ourselves gently in order to get the most out of the fermented food.

How To Make Sauerkraut

Now that we’ve answered the question of “what are the benefits of sauerkraut”, as well as any potential sauerkraut benefits and side effects, let’s look at how you can include it into your diet.

One of the more understated sauerkraut benefits is that it’s an incredibly simple recipe that is both cost effective, and long lasting. The fermentation process can be time-consuming, but once it’s fully fermented, the finished product can last months when stored effectively.

Let’s look at exactly how to make it, and how you can experience some of the fresh sauerkraut benefits we’ve looked at previously.

Sauerkraut Recipe

You’ll first need a large head of cabbage (we’d suggest white, but red cabbage also works well), at least 4 tablespoons of salt, as well as any other seasonings you might want to include (from our research, many recipes suggest black peppercorns and caraway seeds). Our recipe is adapted from this BBC recipe.

First, chop up your cabbage into small pieces (we’d suggest thin strips, as this is a more typical sauerkraut shape), and add it all to a large mixing bowl. Massage the salt into the cabbage over the course of around 5 - 10 minutes, or until the cabbage has started to release its own brine. This brine is what we’ll be submerging our cabbage in, and that will form the base of our sauerkraut. 

Next, once you’ve got enough brine to completely cover the cabbage (you can mix more if your cabbage doesn’t produce enough - simply mix a litre of hot water with 1 ½ tablespoons of salt), you’ll need to ensure that the cabbage stays submerged in the brine, and therefore undergoes the fermentation process. 

In this scenario, we’d always suggest using cling film over the top of your bowl, and using a couple of heavy plates to weigh down your sauerkraut mixture. A sheet of cling film will keep the mixture fully protected, as well as keeping it firmly pressed down.

It’s vital that you ensure you keep the cabbage submerged in the brine, as this is an integral part of the fermentation process, and one that determines how successful your sauerkraut ultimately is.

Finally, after 4 - 7 days, you can remove the cling film, place your sauerkraut into individual jars or pots, and then store those in the fridge, where they’ll last for months. The longer you choose to leave your sauerkraut, the more developed the flavour will become.

After this, your sauerkraut is ready to eat, but allowing it to rest in the fridge for a few days more can both enhance the flavour, and the homemade sauerkraut health benefits (UK) we’ve just looked at. 

Having sauerkraut in the fridge is a great way to include it as part of your meal plans and preparation, too - explore more in OriGym’s comprehensive guide to the best meal prep containers on the market.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Is Sauerkraut Good For Weight Loss?

When we look at sauerkraut health benefits, we often want to focus on how it can help facilitate our goals, and for many this is weight loss. Fortunately, the answer to this question is a resounding yes - sauerkraut is an excellent food to implement into your weight loss journey.

Sauerkraut is high in fibre, which not only promotes good digestion and regularity with bowel movements, it also prompts feelings of fullness (also referred to as satiety), which means we’re much less likely to snack on things that are bad for us.

Of course, we might still want to snack, and so it's important to find healthier alternatives - explore more in OriGym’s thorough report on the best paleo snacks.

But ultimately, as a side dish, or as an accompaniment to a healthy protein source, sauerkraut benefits us in a wide variety of ways that not only improve our overall health, but there’s a multitude of sauerkraut benefits for weight loss.

Not to mention it’s a unique and tasty flavour, and one that you’re unlikely to replicate in the rest of your diet, which means you’re unlikely to become bored, or seek out ways to “spice” up your meals with preservatives or unhealthy ingredients.

Where Can I Buy Sauerkraut?

Sometimes, it isn’t always viable to make our own sauerkraut. Whether it’s time constraints, a lack of equipment, or struggling with the recipe itself, sauerkraut can often be difficult to make, and prevent us from experiencing the sauerkraut benefits we’ve discussed.

However, if we’re browsing for sauerkraut at the supermarket, we need to be conscious of what we’re looking for in order to fully reap the sauerkraut health benefits (UK) we’ve discussed. 

Firstly, most store-bought sauerkraut will contain preservatives (such as salt or chemicals), especially those that aren’t refrigerated. We’d strongly advise checking the labels of any sauerkraut products before you buy, as the best sauerkraut nutritional benefits come from the natural, raw form of the product.

While you can experience some good from pasteurized sauerkraut benefits, the majority of the advantages will come from eating it as fresh as possible. 

You can also buy fresh sauerkraut online, with options available from many online retailers that offer healthier, more sustainable options for your sauerkraut needs. We sourced this option from Amazon, which offers all the nutritional benefits of sauerkraut, while still being easily accessible if you don’t have the time to make your own.

Before You Go!

Incorporating a new food into your diet can often be daunting, but understanding how sauerkraut and its health benefits affect the body in a vast array of ways can make that transition much easier.

Whether you were looking for more information on fresh sauerkraut benefits, or you were curious about homemade sauerkraut health benefits, our guide aimed to answer any and all questions you may have had.

And whether you opt to experience pasteurised or unpasteurised sauerkraut health benefits, we hope you enjoy this diverse and delicious fermented foodstuff.

But if you’re supremely confident in what you eat, and how it affects your body, then perhaps it’s time to take that to the next level.

OriGym’s internationally recognised sports nutrition course offers the ultimate in nutritionist training, with 7 days a week expert support, a wealth of tailor made resources, free examination resits, and ultra-flexible, interest-free payment plans.

Download our FREE comprehensive prospectus to learn more about what we offer, and how it could be the perfect next step for you.

References

  1. Nancy Toedter Williams, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCNSP, Probiotics, American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, Volume 67, Issue 6, 15 March 2010, Pages 449–458
  2. Beena Divya, J., Kulangara Varsha, K., Madhavan Nampoothiri, K., Ismail, B., & Pandey, A. (2012). Probiotic fermented foods for health benefits. Engineering In Life Sciences, 12(4), 377-390. doi: 10.1002/elsc.201100179
  3. Wang H, Lee IS, Braun C, Enck P. Effect of Probiotics on Central Nervous System Functions in Animals and Humans: A Systematic Review. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2016 Oct 30;22(4):589-605. doi: 10.5056/jnm16018. PMID: 27413138; PMCID: PMC5056568.
  4. D T Verhoeven, R A Goldbohm, G van Poppel, H Verhagen and P A van den Brandt. Epidemiological studies on brassica vegetables and cancer risk.Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev September 1 1996 (5) (9) 733-748;
  5. Hartley  L, Clar  C, Ghannam  O, Flowers  N, Stranges  S, Rees  K. Vitamin K for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD011148. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD011148.pub2. Accessed 12 July 2021.

Written by Chris Allsobrook

Editor

Chris is a former English teacher, turned content editor. He holds a first-class honours degree in English Language and Creative Writing from the University of Central Lancashire, before going on to complete his teacher training, and obtain a PGCE at Liverpool John Moore’s.

Chris is a keen runner and is currently undertaking both his fitness instructing and personal training qualifications here at OriGym. 

Outside of fitness, you’ll often find him gaming, watching the football, cooking, or spending time with his family.

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