After the LONGEST month of the year do you need a pick me up?
Do you miss fresh foods?
Lots of friends?
TONS of Vitamin C?
Is your diet lacking in fiber (both kinds) and greens?
Sulfur, Iron, and Vitamin K?
What would you say if I told you there’s a recipe you can make with things you already have in your kitchen, that packs all this goodness into one tasty dish? Would you be shocked if I told you it has only TWO ingredients?
Once you know about the benefits of this dish, AND how to make it fresh and season it to your personal taste, you’ll never relegate it to the category of hot dog condiment again (hot dogs, really?).
Read on for some fun facts and a recipe!
“But you’re an herbalist, why are we talking about food?”
The best medicine is food that your body can readily digest, and there aren’t any herbs that will make lasting improvement if we don’t also address the root cause of an illness. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was the first to say “all disease begins in the gut” and if there is a problem with digestion underlying a current condition of yours then digestive health will be one of the first things we focus on improving. Fermented foods made to traditional recipes, including sauerkraut, are part of the whole foods nutritional approach I use as a foundation of my practice. If you want some answers about digestion or any other issue, or if you’re ready to try a new approach to your health, make an appointment!
Here’s why sauerkraut is awesome for nearly everyone:
- Friends you eat! Sauerkraut, raw, unpasteurized and homemade, contains lactic acid and a living culture of probiotics, which if you’ve never heard the term means beneficial bacteria. Humans have evolved to live with 100 trillion bacteria in the intestines alone– that’s ten times the number of cells in the human body. By taking up the real estate, your gut flora keep unwelcome pathogens from moving into the neighborhood. These friends do a lot for us, producing vitamin B12, Vitamin K and butyric acid, which is so important it is used by our intestinal lining as a main form of energy for absorption! These beneficial bacteria keep you from getting sick and help you absorb food. Eat your friends!
- Sauerkraut contains a lot of Vitamin C—a third of your daily C in a single cup of sauerkraut. Sailors would bring barrels of sauerkraut with them on long sea voyages to avoid getting scurvy. You can do the same! Winter can seem like a long sea voyage, monotonous and stormy by turns while you wait for fresh greens and fruit to become available in season again and give the questionable produce from Bolivia the shifty eye in the grocery store. Good thing that Lactobacillus bacteria digest cabbage in a way that makes Vitamin C available for humans to absorb! You need Vitamin C for things like making collagen, making neurotransmitters, turning cholesterol into bile, supporting immune function, so, just a few things.
- Sulfur, an important trace element for collagen synthesis, is found in the brassica family of vegetables, including cabbage. Collagen makes up the structure of your body, in bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage, organs, skin and hair. Fermenting cabbage makes the sulfur more bioavailable, breaking down glucosinolates into a form the body can absorb. These compounds are antioxidants as well, fighting cancer and aging at the cellular level. So young looking skin is the least important reason to include sulfur in your diet in the form of sauerkraut!
- Vitamin K is a factor responsible for blood clotting, and vitamin K2, the form found in cabbage and sauerkraut, has many other jobs including distributing calcium to the bones, preventing heart disease, forming strong bones, healthy skin and supporting growth, development and brain function. I have nothing funny to say about Vitamin K.
- Fiber is not created equal! Cabbage is high in insoluble fiber, the rough and indigestible substance that acts like a pipe cleaner: scraping your intestines and speeding up transit time. Fermenting cabbage into sauerkraut increases the amount of soluble fiber present, which acts more like a gel, coating the intestines, delaying digestion and allowing more absorption to occur along the way. Soluble fiber is the preferred food of our beneficial bacteria and is called “prebiotic” because without their favorite food, all the probiotics in the world won’t restore flourishing gut bacteria for long. Instead of buying expensive supplements whose results are short-lived, ferment your own raw sauerkraut and keep your existing work crew happy!
Not every body is alike, and some people have an intolerance even to the fibers present in sauerkraut (FODMAP intolerance). If this is you, don’t worry! Look forward to an upcoming post on bitters, and request an appointment. We’ll discuss other dietary and herbal strategies for getting your digestion back on track.