Sauerkraut is a symbol of German cuisine and is obtained by cutting the cabbage into thin slices and subjecting it to a fermentation process lasting a few months. Sauerkraut, however, has a very ancient origin that dates back to the Roman Empire when there was the need to have food supplies available in periods of time, such as winter, when fresh food was difficult to find. Fermentation preserves, or even improves, the nutritional values of cabbage and gives it a sour taste. Not for nothing it is called Sauerkraut, which, translated from German, means sour grass (Zabat et al, Foods, May 2018). Nowadays sauerkraut can be found ready to use and eat in every supermarket and can be added to preparations as a tasty and even healthy side dish. But let's understand better.
Sauerkraut is a low-calorie food, about 17 Kcal per 100 grams of product, contains vitamins, especially A, group B, such as B1, also called thiamine, important for the conversion of glucose into energy, C, although in smaller quantity than raw cabbage, and K, and mineral salts, such as iron, copper, potassium and manganese. Moreover, sauerkraut also provides amino acids and antioxidant substances such as kaempferol, isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol able to counteract degeneration and aging processes (Raak et al, Glob Adv Health Med, Nov 2014 - Zhang et al, Cancer Res, 1994 - Tolonen et al, J Agric Food Chem, 2002). But the strength of the sauerkraut is that this food, thanks to the fermentation process, contains a large variety of lactic bacteria, which are probiotic organisms able to stimulate the immune system, to protect digestion and to help in case of diarrhea (Colombo et al, BMC Microbiol, 2018). In addition, sauerkraut is also prebiotic, which means that it does not only introduce beneficial bacteria for the intestinal flora but also brings substances able to selectively stimulate the growth of good bacteria. Scientific studies have also observed that sauerkraut helps to improve symptoms in case of irritable bowel (Nielsen et al, Food Funct, 2018) and that one of the bacteria isolated in sauerkraut, Lactobacillus plantarum, is considered useful to counteract the action of Helicobacter pylori, one of the causes of ulcers and tumors affecting the gastric mucosa (Nair et al, Front Microbiol, 2016).
Sauerkraut, warnings and allergies
Sauerkraut, as we have seen, is certainly a beneficial food for the body. However, it is a good and healthy choice not to overdo its consumption and to include it in moderation in a varied and balanced diet. First of all, in fact, sauerkraut has high histamine values and this could worsen allergic symptoms such as rhinitis, itching, sneezing, headache and diarrhea in predisposed people. This factor should be taken into account especially in periods of seasonal allergies such as spring where the levels of histamine in allergic patients are already high (Raak et al, Glob Adv Health Med, Nov 2014). Also be careful in case of hypertension or if you should keep under control the amount of sodium in your diet as sauerkraut contains salt. Finally, when buying sauerkraut check that this food does not contain ingredients like added sugars.