Unless you live in Korea where there are over 100 known varieties of Kimchi – a Korean style of sauerkraut – that are consumed daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you may not know how much of the stuff to eat, let alone how to add this traditional food to your diet.
Sauerkraut – or pickles and fermented foods – has been in the news and is listed under Top Food Trends for 2017, and
This growing movement of fermented foods excites me because I firmly believe in the power of food to heal, with fermented foods being especially powerful, and sauerkraut being super powerful.
So, if you are looking for gut-friendly foods to help with irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, immunity or low energy, give a sauerkraut a try.
Sauerkraut is the number one fermented food that I recommend when looking for probiotic-rich foods to add to your diet:
- Got cabbage, salt and jar? Make Sauerkraut! Sauerkraut is easy to make requiring just a few ingredients.
- Not just caraway and juniper berries. Sauerkraut can be made in a delicious variety of flavors. No boredom here.
- The WOW! Factor. Adding sauerkraut to any meal effortlessly heightens flavors and awakens taste buds.
- The ultimate fast food. A jar of sauerkraut waits for you in your fridge, ready at a moment’s notice to add to any meal.
- Delivers a Probiotic Punch. Sauerkraut will not only aid in digestion, but it will help heal your gut and make sure you are extracting all the nutrition out of the foods you eat.
Need more reasons to enjoy sauerkraut’s probiotics-rich goodness? Some playful. Some practical. Others unusual. 😉
How to Make Sauerkraut
Learn how to make sauerkraut with my photo-rich teaching recipe.It contains many tips along with a PDF recipe:
Sauerkraut does not have to be made with just cabbage, salt and caraway seeds. I have a full range of recipes in my eBook: SureFire Sauerkraut Recipe Collection. Or, try one of these recipes available on my website:
Sweet Garlic Sauerkraut Recipe [Kid Friendly]
Ginger Carrot Sauerkraut Recipe [A Mellowed Sweet & Spicy Bite!]
Passion Pink Sauerkraut Recipe [A Love of Beets!]
Dilly Delight Sauerkraut Recipe [SIMPLE]
Kimchi Style Sauerkraut Recipe [A SPICY DEPTH OF FLAVOR!]
Baseball Sauerkraut Recipe [HOME RUN FLAVOR HIT]
Ways to Eat Sauerkraut
In the infographic, I show you not only how much sauerkraut to eat, but 3 easy ways to eat sauerkraut (as a condiment, in a salad and on a hot dog), but there’s more… many more.
How Much Sauerkraut to Eat Daily?
When recommending how much sauerkraut to eat on a daily basis, I’ve recently come to the realization that there are three factors to consider. Your digestive health, your thyroid health and whether you’ve been put on a salt-restrictive diet.
Do You Have Compromised Digestion?
When first starting to consume sauerkraut, start slow and pay attention to any digestive symptoms, especially if this is the first time for you to eat sauerkraut. If there are rumblings in your tummy, you know you’ve eaten too much. Sauerkraut – and other fermented foods – are very powerful and can do wonders for healing digestion, improving your immune system, clearing your skin and making your mind sharp, among other things.
However, give your body – and the trillions of Mighty Microbes that live there – time to get used to this new food you’re sending their way.
Tips for Avoiding Digestive Issues when First Eating Sauerkraut
- Start slow. Try just a forkful with one meal and see how your body reacts. Slowly, taking a month or so, work your way up to 2-3 forkfuls with 2-3 meals daily.
- Drink just the brine. If you have compromised digestion or difficulty digesting fiber, start first with just the brine. Most likely, you will not have enough brine from your own jar of fermented sauerkraut and may need to buy a couple bottles of brine to slowly get your gut used to the goodness.
Companies are selling fermented sauerkraut brine – Gut Shots. And I’m in the process of developing a recipe for Gut Shots which can be found at the end of this post.
- Go for variety. Mix up the daily diet with yogurt, pickles, fermented carrot sticks, Kombucha, fermented coconut water, kefir or even fermented garlic to feed your microbes with a wide range of beneficial bacteria. Also see Fermented Foods ULTIMATE Guide: How to Buy or Make, Ways to Eat; Wonderful Benefits for more ideas and recipe suggestions.
- Think moderation, perhaps. Some feel that “excessive consumption of fermented vegetables may destabilize the gut microbiota, hindering the development of a stable, resilient ecosystem.” Food-for-thought. See Last Words at the end of this article.
Should I Eat Sauerkraut If I’m Worried About My Thyroid Health?
Those with autoimmune thyroid disorders and those with low-thyroid function are often advised to avoid consumption of cruciferous vegetables. What, no sauerkraut??? 🙁 Hold on, it’s not that simple. There is a lot of debate over this on the internet.
Cabbage and other cruciferous raw vegetables (arugula, broccoli, kale, maca root, cauliflower, turnip, collard greens, bok choy, Brussel sprouts, rutabaga and watercress) along with spinach, radishes, peaches and strawberries contain chemicals – goitrogenic substances – that affect the thyroid’s uptake of iodine, thereby interfering with the function of the gland. Thyroid hormones have essential roles in metabolism and even in the regulation of the immune system, so supporting optimal thyroid function in everyone is important for healing and for general health. But avoidance of these foods is actually not well justified.
Some of the vegetables that are classified as goitrogens also happen to be very nutritious foods and have qualities that would make us want to go out of our way to include them in our diets. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and kale are known for their anti-cancer and antioxidant properties. Root vegetables like sweet potatoes, turnips, and rutabaga provide a rich source of complex carbohydrate, which can be difficult to obtain on a grain-free diet. Cruciferous vegetables as well as sweet potatoes and strawberries contain carotenoids, which are precursors to vitamin A. In addition, a lot of the fruits and vegetables on this list are a good source of the B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and sulfur. By avoiding these foods, you may be setting yourself up for nutritional deficiencies. – Mickey Trescott, Busting the Goitrogen Myth
Another thing to be aware of is it’s commonly believed that cooking or fermenting reduces the goitrogenic effect, but again, it’s a little more nuanced when you look at the details.
Fermenting cabbage into sauerkraut actually increases the goitrogens that it contains, but it reduces the amount of nitriles, which is another type of chemical that’s present in some foods like cabbage that has a toxic effect on the thyroid, and in fact, it’s even a more harmful effect that goitrogens. And unlike goitrogens, the effects of nitriles can’t be offset by iodine intake or iodine supplementation. So with fermentation, you do have an increase in goitrogens, but you have the nitriles, which are even more harmful and not offset by iodine, cut in half. So we might say that the net effect of the fermentation of cabbage and probably other goitrogenic foods is either neutral or even positive because of the reduction of nitriles. – Chris Kresser, How to Balance Goitrogens in Your Diet
Most forms of cooking do reduce goitrogens, but they don’t eliminate them entirely, and it depends on the cooking methods.
Also important to consider in this equation is your intake of iodine. When cruciferous vegetables are digested by intestinal bacteria, the goitrogens they release increase the need for iodine. An increased dietary intake of iodine compensates for the consumption of moderate amounts of crucifers but cannot reverse the effects of large amounts of crucifers.
“When foods like sauerkraut are consumed as condiments, however, the small amount of goitrogens within them is not harmful if one’s diet is adequate in iodine. So, while goitrogens may be harmful in large quantities, as long as your diet is adequate in iodine, fermented cruciferous vegetables are fine to eat in condiment-sized portions.”- Christopher Masterjohn, Bearers of the Cross: Crucifers in the Context of Traditional Diets and Modern Science
So in practical terms, even if you have a thyroid condition, if you enjoy sauerkraut as a condiment, like one or two tablespoons with meals, you should not be impacting the health of your thyroid.
Are You on a Salt-Restrictive Diet?
Many write to me wanting to know how to make a low-salt sauerkraut, or if rinsing the salty brine off their sauerkraut removes the beneficial probiotics.
If you’re on a low-salt diet, Dr. Google recommends restricting salt intake to 1,500 mg of sodium. I don’t necessarily agree with the science behind this and will eventually publish a post on whether research indicates that eating less salt will lower your blood pressure. BUT, I am not your doctor! If you want to delve into this topic, you might find The (Political) Science of Salt, by Gary Taubes worth a read.
Until then, let’s figure out how much sodium one is consuming when eating sauerkraut.
First off, how much salt is in a serving of sauerkraut?
For this discussion, I put a serving size at 2-3 forkfuls of sauerkraut or 1 ounce (30 grams). Not a heaping pile of sauerkraut, but still enough to work wonders on your gut health.
Let’s calculate how much sodium is in that serving.
One tablespoon of salt contains 6,976 mg of sodium. (This is the amount of salt used to make a 1-quart (liter) batch of sauerkraut at a 2% salinity.)
There are approximately 28, 1-ounce (30 grams) servings in 1-quart (liter) of homemade sauerkraut.
6,796 divided by 28 = 242.71, This means, there is
243 mg of salt in a 1-ounce (30 grams) serving of sauerkraut fermented with 2.0% salt.
(This does not take into account the negligible amount of naturally occurring sodium in the cabbage and other ingredients.)
What if we reduce the amount of salt used to make your sauerkraut to 1.5% salinity?
5097 divided by 28 = 182.04
182 mg of salt in a 1-ounce (30 grams) serving of sauerkraut fermented with 1.5% salt.
How does this compare to other foods we eat?
Sodium Content of Common Foods
850 mg of sodium in a 1/2 cup (125 ml) serving of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. Sorry, childhood memories.
246 mg of sodium in 1/2 cup (125 ml) of pizza sauce
216-240 mg of sodium in a 3/4 cup (175 ml) serving of instant oatmeal
736-970 mg of sodium in a 1 cup (250 ml) serving of cottage cheese
Are you able to include 1-2 servings of sauerkraut (180-360 mg sodium) on a salt-restricted diet? I would think so, but again, I am not a doctor.
Tips for Eating Sauerkraut While on a Salt-Restrictive Diet
- Restrict serving size. You will still garner the probiotic benefits with a small serving of sauerkraut.
- Rinse off your sauerkraut. If you would like to reduce sodium intake even further, give your sauerkraut a quick rinse before serving. This will wash off some, but not all of the beneficial bacteria. Towards the end of fermentation, the nutrient-rich brine is pulled back into the cabbage cells, where it’s safe from being rinsed off.
- Make your own sauerkraut using less salt. The recipes on my site use 2% salt. Research indicates that you can go as low as 1.5% salinity and still provide the safe home for the beneficial bacteria to proliferate and prevent the growth of molds and yeasts.
See my post, Salt by Weight for Delicious Sauerkraut… Batch after Batch for help reducing the amount of salt used.
Some also promote the use of starters, seaweeds and even garlic to ferment with even lower concentrations of salt. However, research showed best results still to be with a minimum of 1.5% salinity.
After all is said and done, there is no reason to not enjoy a serving of sauerkraut. Some of you may be able to eat to the bottom of your jar in one day, others may need to restrict their serving size. 🙂