You can easily make raw sauerkraut using shredded cabbage and salt. This fresh sauerkraut can be healthier than the canned variety, supplying vitamins, minerals, fiber and beneficial probiotics to your diet. This does take some time, however, and must include the proper ratio of cabbage to salt to prevent spoiling or contamination with pathogens.
Raw sauerkraut contains lactobacilli bacteria, one of the better-studied types of probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that may help improve digestive function, lower your risk for antibiotic-associated diarrhea and possibly help with lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, according to the University of Florida Extension. These probiotics may also help prevent cancer, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
A 1/2-cup serving of sauerkraut has about 20 calories, 1 gram of protein and 5 grams of carbohydrates, including 3 grams of fiber, or 13 percent of the daily value. It also provides about 10 percent of the DV for iron and 25 percent of the DV for vitamin C, as well as significant amounts of vitamin K. Fiber helps lower your cholesterol and blood sugar levels and decreases your risk for constipation and other digestive issues. You need iron for forming red blood cells, vitamin C for wound healing and vitamin K for blood clotting.
Raw vs. Canned
The canning process uses high heat, which can lower the amount of nutrients in your sauerkraut and may also kill off many of the beneficial probiotics along with any potentially dangerous bacteria. Vitamin C is particularly susceptible to losses due to heat, with a whole cup of canned sauerkraut only providing 35 percent of the DV for this nutrient, compared to about 50 percent of the DV in a cup of raw sauerkraut.
To safely make raw sauerkraut, you need about 3 tablespoons of salt for every 5 pounds of raw cabbage. Too much salt will interfere with fermentation, and too little salt won't kill off all the bad bacteria and the cabbage will spoil. This makes the finished product quite high in sodium, with each 1/2-cup serving providing 740 milligrams, or 31 percent of the DV. Most Americans already get too much sodium in their diet, which can increase their risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.
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- Mother Earth News: Got Cabbage? Try Homemade Sauerkraut!
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: The Benefits of Fermenting Fruits and Vegetables
- University of Illinois Extension: Cabbage
- North Dakota State University Extension: Sauerkraut: From Garden to Table
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sodium: The Facts
- Weber State University: Vegetable Fermentations
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.