As a child, I could never understand why anyone would want to eat sauerkraut. I grew up in a small Midwestern town where a canning company each year would process and pack the vegetable — and the smell in that community was enough to turn me off for life.
Or so I thought!
Fast forward a few years, and I came to love one of the meals my parents made on a fairly weekly basis: pork chops, potatoes, and sauerkraut in the pressure cooker. On weekends, tailgating before a major league baseball, football, or college football game meant kraut piled high on your brat.
While it’s been a food staple for generations, only recently have we begun to understand how and why sauerkraut may actually serve a higher purpose.
Sauerkraut’s Surprising Health Benefits
Fermented foods like sauerkraut contain live microorganisms, known as probiotics, which are made through the process of fermentation. They decrease food sensitivities and the systemic inflammation that contributes to autoimmune problems and a number of diseases, according to Nick Angelis, an author, speaker, and integrative medicine specialist from Pensacola, Florida.
A healthy level of bacteria in your gut helps reduce cravings for sugar and carbs and can relieve stress.
“‘Probiotic’ is the new ‘natural’ in food labeling,” Angelis told LifeZette. “But studies have shown most of the healthy germs are dead by the time we eat them, or they are ill-prepared to survive stomach acid. However, sauerkraut without vinegar and similar examples from the grocery store do provide essential probiotics — as those strains live on the cabbage and make it to the gut.”
A healthy level of bacteria in the gut, he said, helps reduce cravings for sugar and carbs and can relieve stress. Consumer Reports noted recently that “sauerkraut is also an excellent source of immune-protecting vitamin C. Kimchi, popular in Korean cuisine, is a similar fermented food. It’s made with cabbage, but also contains other ingredients and is typically spicy.”
Angelis recommends a tablespoon or two of sauerkraut each day as a relish on your dinner. Other healthy sources of probiotics include yogurt or kefir, tempeh, kombucha, pickles, or a supplement.
Here are four other foods you might also benefit from eating a little of each day:
Magnesium is known as the anti-stress, anti-anxiety mineral, according to Dr. Carolyn Dean, a Maui-based physician and stress management expert. “Numerous studies have shown its effectiveness in boosting mood, lowering anxiety and depression, and reducing stress levels as well as helping with deeper more restful sleep,” Dean said.
Most Americans are magnesium-deficient, she added, because the mineral has been depleted from our soils and foods. “Over 75 percent of Americans do not get their recommended daily allowance of this mineral, which is a co-factor in 700 to 800 enzyme reactions in the body.” Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale as well seeds and nuts such as pumpkin seeds and almonds are good sources of magnesium.
Fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, and anchovies help ensure we’re getting enough omega-3 fatty acids to reduce diet-induced inflammation, according to Dr. Barry Sears, author of “The Zone Diet” and president of the nonprofit Inflammation Research Foundation.
“Excess inflammation makes us fat, makes us sick, and makes us age faster,” said one biochemist.
Sears told The Epoch Times, “Excess inflammation makes us fat, makes us sick, and makes us age faster,” and recommends the choice of small, oily fish that are at the bottom of the food chain. If that doesn’t sound appealing, opt for a high-quality fish oil supplement.
Having just one tablespoon of cold-pressed olive oil, raw, on a daily basis gives you a healthy dose of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) that will help you both internally and externally, said Stella Metsovas, a California-based clinical nutritionist.
MUFAs might help lower the risk for heart disease, and benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control. “Studies are now showing the olive oil is also great for your gut,” she added.
A Whole Egg, Yolk Included
With protein, healthy fats, and 13 vitamins and minerals — including choline and vitamin D — eggs are now recognized as a healthy addition to our diet. The most recent dietary guidelines have lifted cholesterol restrictions, Courtney Ferreira, a nutritionist with the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, told LifeZette. “Enjoy an egg in the morning with a piece of fruit or healthy whole grain for optimal energy, blood sugar control, and satiety. Eat the yolk, skip the cereal, and say hello to a healthier and tastier morning!”