Is there anything better at a summer barbecue than a hot dog with sauerkraut tucked inside the bun? Not much. And beyond the taste, there also are plenty of healthy reasons to add this fermented cabbage to your diet — not only during the summer, but all year long. Here are just five of them.
1. Sauerkraut packs a punch when it comes to vitamins.
Popular throughout Central Europe for centuries, sauerkraut is a great source of vitamin C. And vitamin C — a superstar antioxidant — helps protect the body from stress and free radical damage. Other healthy nutrients in sauerkraut include vitamin K, known for its role in blood clotting, as well as calcium, potassium and phosphorus. An added bonus is that fermentation makes these nutrients easier for your body to absorb.
2. Sauerkraut boosts your digestive system.
Sauerkraut is ripe with probiotic power, or beneficial bacteria that wards off toxins and not-so-beneficial bacteria. In short, probiotics actually feed the good bacteria in your gut, which leads to better digestive health. Probiotics also have been shown to lessen gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
3. Sauerkraut could help you lose weight.
Like most vegetables, sauerkraut is a low-calorie food with a lot of fiber. As such, it can make you feel fuller for longer, which could help with weight loss. With only 15 calories in two-thirds of a cup, sauerkraut is the perfect snack when you get hungry between meals.
4. Sauerkraut may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Study after study shows a connection between the health of the gut and the health of the brain. Indeed, recent research out of Lund University in Sweden found that unhealthy intestinal flora could speed up the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, research performed on mice demonstrates that probiotics can positively affect one’s memory.
5. Sauerkraut is good for your heart.
Researchers have found that sauerkraut can reduce cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels while significantly boosting levels of superoxide dismutase and glutathione — two beneficial antioxidants. These antioxidants help get rid of harmful free radicals that can damage heart and blood vessels. In addition, the fiber in sauerkraut will help get rid of the cholesterol on the walls of arteries and blood vessels by binding with the fats and cholesterol and carrying them out of the body. The result: less cholesterol absorbed in the bloodstream.
Despite all of the above, one caveat: Since sauerkraut is fermented with salt, it’s high in sodium. So you don’t want to overdo it. Buying a low-sodium brand will help. If you’d like to make your own, here’s an easy recipe for you.