Why Sauerkraut?

Before canning, before refrigeration, before industrialized food processing, before chemical preservatives, there were few ways to preserve the harvest. Fermentation, drying, freezing, smoking, salting and sugaring foods were the methods our ancestors used to keep food and survive when there were seasonal shortages.

This is why every culture the world over ferments at least one kind of food. France is known for wine and cheese, Japan for tamari, Indonesia for tempeh, Hawaii and Polynesia for poi, the Middle East for sourdough, India for chutney and dosa, Korea for kimchi, and of course every country in Eastern Europe has its own special sauerkraut.

It has been observed that many health benefits accompany the delicious taste of sauerkraut. This is due primarily to the healthy bacteria that grow during the fermentation process. During fermentation, bacteria multiply and produce enzymes until there is less starch and sugar. At the end of the fermentation process, when the vegetables are ready to be eaten there are an estimated 100 million bacteria per gram of sauerkraut. When you compare this to the cost of a bottle of probiotics, you can see that eating sauerkraut is a more affordable and tasty way to support beneficial intestinal bacteria (not to mention the nutrients, minerals and fiber that are also present in live sauerkraut).

melanie garden-3The sour flavour produced by the fermentation has its own health benefits and is one that people don’t usually include in their daily diet and so, initially, the taste of sauerkraut may be very strong. A combination of sweet, salty, spicy, sour and bitter is known by many cultures to enhance health and vitality. If sour is new to you, try a little bit at a time and see how your desire for this taste develops. You will become a more well-rounded individual because of it! If you are interested to learn more about the benefits of taste combinations in your diet, please read Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods.

The sour flavour in sauerkraut is from lactic acid, which is a byproduct of the digestion of starches and sugars by the bacteria. It is what preserves the vegetables, and according to Annelies Schoneck in Des Crudites Tout L’Annee, “Lacto fermented foods normalize the acidity of the stomach. If stomach acidity is too insufficient, it stimulates the acid producing glands of the stomach, and in cases where acidity is too high, it has the inverse effect. Lactic acid breaks down proteins and thus aids in the assimilation by the body”.

Lacto fermentation preserves both nutrients, and minerals as well as adding enzymes, bacteria and lactic acid, all of which help our bodies absorb and assimilate nutrients. The process of fermenting grains also releases many minerals that we are otherwise unable to digest. This is why fermentation stands out as a superior way to preserve food. In all other types of preservation, some of the nutrients are lost, and beneficial bacteria and enzymes are lacking.Jars