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Sauerkraut Health Benefits

December 10, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

As a general rule, I avoid writing columns solely inspired by anecdotal evidence. After all, one of the objectives of my work on this site is to present information that is supported by verifiable, scientific evidence. So, when a client of mine reported success using sauerkraut for his heartburn symptoms, I acknowledged it with interest, but had no plan to write about it. On that same day, while updating my database on probiotics, I happened upon some intriguing research on … You guessed it – sauerkraut. Whether a coincidence or not, I took it as an opportunity to look into fermented cabbage aka sauerkraut, an important and underutilized “super food”.

Some people really enjoy the tangy bite of fresh sauerkraut. Others find it overpowering and avoid it irrespective of any potential health benefits. For the latter group, allow me to offer a painless way to incorporate sauerkraut into your diet: Instead of eating it as a side dish or a topping on a hot dog, you can simply add a few forkfuls to blended vegetable drinks. In our household, I include sauerkraut in my own version of a “V8”. Specifically, I add a handful of organic spinach, avocado, bell pepper, flax seeds, fresh ginger root, parsley and purified water into my NutriBullet and liquify. However, virtually any combination of vegetables will provide a healthful base to which you can add sauerkraut. In addition, since blending does not involve high heat, all of the beneficial bacteria and enzymes naturally present in sauerkraut remain unaltered.

If you’re wondering what makes sauerkraut so special, please read on. As I touched on earlier, sauerkraut is a concentrated source of probiotics, including Lactobacillus plantarum, that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and control the growth of harmful bacteria such as H. pylori, a pathogen implicated in an increased risk of certain cancers, GERD and ulcers. In addition, homemade and refrigerated forms of sauerkraut also provide meaningful amounts of fiber, Vitamin C and a host of phytochemicals (Isothiocyanates, indole-3-carbinol) that assist the kidneys and liver in processing dietary and environmental toxins that might otherwise contribute to cancer formation.

The one point of controversy involving sauerkraut has to do with how it’s made. Traditionally, salt, shredded cabbage and water are combined and allow to ferment for at least several days. Some health experts have expressed concern about the resulting high sodium content of many commercially available and homemade versions of “sour cabbage”. However, in recent years some manufacturers have been experimenting with different starter solutions which result in lower sodium versions of this classic condiment and side dish. In addition, if you’re so inclined, there are numerous low-salt sauerkraut recipes available on the ‘net and in cookbooks geared towards health conscious consumers. Otherwise, there are a few 100% natural, raw sauerkraut products, by manufacturers such as Rejuvenative Foods, that use no added salt in the fermentation process. Such products are typically sold in the refrigerated sections of health food stores or natural food markets. Both are good options and provide yet another healthful way to include more probiotic rich foods in your wellness routine.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Evaluation of Probiotic Properties of Lactobacillus Plantarum Strains (link)

Study 2 – Plant-Derived Biomolecules in Fermented Cabbage (link)

Study 3 – In Vitro Growth Inhibition of H. Pylori by Lactobacilli Belonging(link)

Study 4 – Modulation of Carcinogen Metabolizing Cytochromes P450 in Rat Liver (link)

Study 5 – Influence of Fermentation Conditions on Glucosinolates, Ascorbigen (link)

Study 6 – Improved Sauerkraut Production w/ Probiotic Strain Lactobacillus (link)

Study 7 – Chemical Evaluation and Sensory Quality of Sauerkrauts Obtained by (link)

Study 8 – Effects of Leuconostoc Mesenteroides Starter Culture on Fermentation (link)

Study 9 – Dr. Andrew Weil’s Question & Answer Library: “Sold on Sauerkraut? (link)

Study 10 – Rejuvenative Foods’ Salt Free Cabbage and Dill Sauerkraut … (link)

Sauerkraut May Support Conventional H. Pylori Treatment

Source: Letters in Applied Microbiology Volume 43, November 2006 (link)

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Posted in Food and Drink, Heart Health, Nutrition

5 Comments & Updates to “Sauerkraut Health Benefits”

  1. rob Says:

    Love me some sauerkraut, great side dish

  2. JP Says:

    I’m with you, Rob! A favorite of mine. Tasty and therapeutic!

    Be Well and Happy Holidays!


  3. William Says:

    Good coverage of this “real” food topic. Pro-biotic therapy is a huge topic that’s starting to get recognized in traditional medical fields…Interesting link along the same lines.


  4. JP Says:

    Thank you, William. I’ll check out the link!

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 09/27/18:


    Food Funct. 2018 Sep 26.

    Lacto-fermented sauerkraut improves symptoms in IBS patients independent of product pasteurisation – a pilot study.

    Lacto-fermented sauerkraut contains a natural variety of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and has not previously been studied in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients. The present study investigated the effect of a daily lacto-fermented sauerkraut supplement in relation to IBS patients’ gastrointestinal symptoms and gut microbiota composition. A randomized double-blinded intervention was conducted with 34 Norwegian IBS patients. The patients were consuming either pasteurized sauerkraut (PS; n = 15) or unpasteurized sauerkraut (UPS; n = 19) as a supplement to their daily diet for 6 weeks. The differences in change of symptoms were assessed using the questionnaire IBS-Symptom Severity Score (IBS-SSS) measured at the baseline, and at weeks 2, 4, 6 and 8 (follow-up). The gut microbiota composition was analysed using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing of faecal samples from the baseline and week 6. The mean change in IBS-SSS was -38.57 ± 17.08 PS vs. -56.99 ± 16.92 UPS and was significantly improved in both groups (P < 0.04), while the improvement in symptoms was not different between the intervention groups. The sauerkraut intervention (pasteurized or not) also led to significant gut microbiota compositional changes as determined by 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing (un-weighted UniFrac: P = 0.001, weighted UniFrac: P = 0.001). Sauerkraut related LAB in feces (Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus brevis) were significantly more often present in the UPS-group. In conclusion lacto-fermented sauerkraut had an effect on IBS patients' symptoms and gut microbiota even though the study was underpowered. Our results indicate that the observed effect to a larger extent can be attributed to the potential prebiotics in lacto-fermented sauerkraut rather than the viable LAB. Future studies with greater statistical power are needed to clarify the possible effects of LAB from lacto-fermented sauerkraut in the treatment of IBS patients. Be well! JP

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