It's one of the best foods you're probably not eating but definitely should be. Here's why and how much you need to gag down.
If any food is a true superfood, it's sauerkraut. Yes, it's smelly and most people don't like it, but if any food can change your overall health, it's sauerkraut.
Probiotic and Prebiotic
Sauerkraut is both a probiotic and prebiotic. In other words, it plants beneficial bacteria in your gut and then simultaneously feeds them with sugars that, while indigestible to us humans, are pure manna from heaven to bacteria.
Having a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut is important for a variety of reasons:
- They can send chemicals to the brain that cause serotonin to be released, thereby creating calmness.
- They can actually prevent insulin insensitivity and keep you lean.
- They can thwart inflammation and, as a result, prevent a vast proportion of the inflammatory diseases that affect man.
This last point is particularly important. All kinds of human activities and habits affect your immune system, including diet, medications, infections, stress, and wayward hormone levels. All of these things affect the health of the intestines by creating a limited or incomplete population of bacteria in your gut.
Without a proper balance of bacteria, the bad diet, medications, etc. cause the intestinal lining to become more permeable so that invaders – whether they be bacteria, viruses, or even organic or inorganic particles – can enter the bloodstream and cause any one of hundreds of conditions or disease states.
What's needed is a food that will start to set things right, a food like sauerkraut. It's probably the reason why millions of sauerkraut-eating Germans haven't collapsed in the streets from their obsessive taste for different types of cancer-causing sausages.
Granted, the normal gut of any human contains thousands of different types of bacteria, and sauerkraut generally only contains four (leuconostoc mesenteroides, lactobacillus brevis, pediococcus pentosaceus, and lactobacillus plantarum). However, research suggests that these four good bacterial horsemen create an environment conducive to the growth of other bacteria. In other words, the rising bacterial tide lifts all bacterial boats.
The Sauerkraut Rules
- Only buy sauerkraut from the refrigerator section of the grocery store. If a sauerkraut product's been on the shelf for any length of time, chances are the bacteria are inviable or dead.
- If the package reads, "pasteurized," express your annoyance by throwing it against the wall.
- Store sauerkraut in the refrigerator when you bring it home, too. (While it appears sauerkraut can be frozen for up to 4 months or so, the survival rate of its bacteria in frozen conditions probably depends on a whole host of factors that are difficult to predict.)
- Don't cook your sauerkraut because cooking kills the bacteria. You can, however, warm it gently.
How Much Do I Have to Eat?
Try eating 3-4 ounces a few times a week, but even a few tablespoons will have some positive effect. If you have trouble dealing with the acidic taste, many people eat it with sliced up apples, or a spritz or two of apple cider vinegar. You can also add chopped up bacon to it, as bacon would make even a dead rodent palatable.