Home > Blog > Food > Sauerkraut: How To Make The Fermented Superfood That Can Heal Your Gut

Sauerkraut: How To Make The Fermented Superfood That Can Heal Your Gut

An image of someone scooping sauerkraut out of a glass jar with a wooden spoonSauerkraut is a raw cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria. Fermentation is an ancient method of food preservation that has been used since 400 BC. Not only does fermentation prolong the shelf life of food, but it also makes it more nutritious.

Fermentation is a natural process that occurs when microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, start digesting the carbs in food. The production of not only sauerkraut, but also of beer, wine, cheese, yogurt, and many other products revolves around this metabolic process.

The Origins of Sauerkraut

Although usually associated with German cuisine, sauerkraut originated in China. It was introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages either by the Mongols or the Tatars.

The only ingredients that go into sauerkraut are salt and water, although the Chinese originally made it with ice wine. One of the reasons pickled cabbage is such healthy food is that neither heating nor chemical preservatives are involved in the process of pickling. The entire preservation process is based on natural lactic acid fermentation.

There are many ways of making sauerkraut. Although the process is more or less the same, unique flavor is achieved by using different types of cabbage or adding certain spices, fruits, or vegetables.

Lacto-fermentation of cabbage involves submerging whole cabbage in a brine solution made of salt and water. This method consists of two stages:

  1. In stage one, vegetables are kept in a brine solution that is salty enough to destroy harmful bacteria. The Lactobacillus survives because it is salt-tolerant.
  2. In stage two, the Lactobacillus organisms begin converting sugars present in the cabbage into lactic acid. This creates an acidic environment that preserves the vegetables and gives them a distinctive flavor.

Although not everyone enjoys its taste and smell, this simple food is packed with probiotics your gut needs to stay healthy. Even as little as 20 grams of sauerkraut a day can help you restore balance in your gut microbiome, boost your immune system, and detoxify your body.

What Makes Sauerkraut So Healthy?

Fermentation by Lactobacillus is a natural process of food preservation. These microorganisms convert sugars naturally present in fruit or vegetables into lactic acid. This way, both the flavor and texture of food are preserved naturally.

Foods that contain live Lactobacillus bacteria can do more than improve your digestive system. The anti-inflammatory properties of fermented foods are useful in preventing certain kinds of cancer and reducing your risk for other inflammation-related illnesses. They also help you recover from yeast infections.

It is what happens during the fermentation process that makes fermented vegetables so healthy. Fermentation increases the bioavailability of nutrients and this makes sauerkraut even more nutritious than the raw cabbage.

7 Key Benefits of Sauerkraut

  1. It's rich in vitamins C and K.
  2. It's a good source of minerals: calcium, magnesium, folate, iron, potassium, copper, and manganese.
  3. It contains dietary fiber which improves digestion and promotes the growth of friendly gut bacteria.
  4. Raw sauerkraut that is uncooked and unpasteurized, contains live Lactobacilli and is rich in enzymes.
  5. It improves oral health by helping heal canker sores.
  6. Enzymes found in sauerkraut may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
  7. It's high in the antioxidant lutein and zeaxanthin which are necessary for good eye health.

The only possible disadvantage of sauerkraut is that people with a sensitive digestive system may experience bloating and flatulence. This happens if your small intestine is unable to break down trisaccharide raffinose, a compound found in some foods. Because of this, if you know you have a sensitive digestive system, it's best to start with only small portions of sauerkraut. However, those with a higher tolerance to fermented foods may not experience any side effects.

How to Make Homemade Sauerkraut

There are many ways to make sauerkraut but they all boil down to two key techniques, using either whole cabbage heads or shredded cabbage.

8 Steps to Shredded Sauerkraut

  1. An image of someone slicing purple cabbage to make sauerkrautShred some cabbage.
  2. Weigh it and add about 2% of salt for each kilo of cabbage. So, for 2 kg of shredded cabbage, you'll need about 40 gr of salt.
  3. Knead the cabbage until it's coated with salt and is beginning to feel wet. Let it stand for 10 minutes.
  4. Clean and disinfect the glass jars where you plant to keep the sauerkraut.
  5. Pound the cabbage energetically until it begins to drip liquid. You can use a potato masher for this.
  6. Add spice, if using any.
  7. Fill the jars. Pack the cabbage tightly. Leave about 2 inches of space at the top. Place a weight on top of the cabbage. This can be a stone you have sterilized by boiling it for ten minutes and cooling it before use.
  8. Seal the jars and keep them in a cool and dark place for 3-4 weeks. In warm weather, cabbage may ferment sooner.

Fermenting whole cabbage heads requires suitable space for storing the barrel (if you are making a large quantity) but the process is much less time-consuming.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Barrel-Cured Sauerkraut

  1. Wash the cabbage and remove outer leaves.
  2. Place the cabbage in a plastic or wooden barrel.
  3. 2% brine seems to work best. This means you will need about 20 grams of salt per kg of cabbage. For a medium-sized head of cabbage, this is 2-3 tablespoons of salt.
  4. Once the cabbage is in the barrel, dilute the required amount of salt in hot water. Let it cool. Pour the diluted salt over the cabbage and fill up with plain cold water until all the heads are submerged. To make sure they stay underwater (this is key), press the cabbage with something heavy, eg a brick wrapped in aluminum foil, or sterilized stones.
  5. Depending on the weather and storage facilities, sauerkraut will be ready in about six weeks.

In addition to these, there are many ways to ferment sauerkraut, which is one of the reasons it has been so popular for centuries.

Probiotics and Your Microbiome

Many types of fermented foods are used throughout the world. Some of the best-known ones besides sauerkraut are yogurt, kefir, cheese, kombucha, kimchi, and miso.

Laboratory analyses show that fermented vegetables contain trillions of bacteria. This means that a small portion of sauerkraut, about 50 grams, has more probiotics than a jar of probiotic capsules.

However, there are different methods of vegetable pickling. This means that the number and type of bacteria present will depend on many things. This includes the fermentation method, the length of fermentation, the amount of salt used, and fermentation temperature, as well as other factors. All affect the flavor.

And it's not just the quantity of bacteria that's important. It's also the diversity that matters.

Probiotics are the end result of a fermentation process, which is why fermented foods benefit one's immune, cognitive, digestive, and endocrine functions.

The system that benefits the most from probiotics found in sauerkraut is the digestive tract. This is important because the health of the immune system depends on the health of the gut.

Microbial imbalance of intestinal flora can cause many health problems. Irritable bowel syndrome, gluten intolerance, Crohn's disease, allergies, and many other conditions are all manifestations of an intestinal flora imbalance. Fortunately, these are easy to prevent or correct with a probiotic diet.

What Happens to Your Gut When You Eat Sauerkraut?

An image of a small saucer with white and purple sauerkrautWhen it comes to the health of your digestive system, there are very few foods that are as beneficial for your gut as sauerkraut.

It's rich in probiotics that promote healthy gut flora and prevent yeast overgrowth. Besides, probiotics help reduce inflammation throughout the body, improve digestive disorders, protect you against H. pylori infection, etc.

Probiotics are essential for good digestive health. They help "install" some of the beneficial microorganisms they contain in your intestinal walls. So when you regularly eat probiotic-rich foods, some of the friendly bacteria will settle inside your intestines becoming "permanent residents". You are lucky if that happens because these microorganisms are the best protection against inflammation of any kind.

Likewise, the friendly bacteria in sauerkraut protect you from harmful bacteria and toxins. We might become exposed to these through environmental pollutants, excessive use of antibiotics, or immunosuppressive therapy.

It can't be stressed enough that a healthy digestive tract means a healthy immune system. Many people don't realize that almost 80% of their immune tissue is located in the digestive system. Therefore, your gut flora is essential for your overall immunity. It protects you from pathogens and directly affects your metabolism, mood, energy levels, and hormone production.

So next time you eat sauerkraut, think about all the beneficial bacteria you are introducing to your gut. And feel the microbial equilibrium spreading all over your body.

How Probiotics Reduce Inflammation

We know that inflammation is the root cause of almost all diseases. Therefore, to prevent disease or to heal, one needs to prevent or reduce inflammatory processes.

The so-called Natural Killer cells (NK) are a type of white blood cell that is an important part of the immune system. They search for and identify potential pathogens and destroy them. In other words, they are the first line of defense against any disease.

A simple and 100% natural way of boosting your NK cells is to eat sauerkraut, which contains friendly bacteria known to boost the number of NK cells.

One of the main reasons inflammation is becoming such a big problem is that the modern diet revolves around inflammatory foods. To nourish your gut, you should eat some Lacto-fermented foods every day. These foods will support your NK cells, which in turn take care of inflammatory processes.

Another common reason for inflammation is autoimmune disorders. They are hard to diagnose and many people waste years before they find out what they are up against. Most of these conditions are caused by inflammatory processes that people often live with for years before seeking help.

However, inflammation is not necessarily bad. Acute inflammation is simply a natural process of self-repair and usually resolves within days. However, chronic inflammation frequently does not go away on its own. It often gets worse over time, often leading to degenerative conditions.

Helping your gut with probiotic-rich foods is an essential step in resolving many of these inflammations or imbalances.

Inflammation and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS)

An inflammatory response is a normal reaction to stress. To help you cope with the stress that had caused the inflammation, your adrenals release the anti-stress hormone, cortisol.

For a minor (i.e. acute) inflammation, small amounts of cortisol will do the trick and help you get better. In the case of chronic inflammatory processes, however, you will need high levels of cortisol to deal with the condition. This is what leads to the depletion of adrenals and the onset of adrenal fatigue.

Although inflammation can occur anywhere in the body, your gut is the most likely place for this to happen. This explains why eating probiotic-rich foods as well as anti-inflammatory foods can have such a beneficial effect on your overall health.

However, although both stress and food are common inflammatory triggers, the underlying cause of inflammation is usually a malfunctioning immune system. If it's weak, it's unable to protect you from illness. If it's too strong, it may start eliminating the healthy tissue. In either case, if the immune system is out of balance, you may experience different health problems. Fortunately, many of them can be prevented with a probiotic-rich diet.

There are natural solutions to help you get the inflammation under control. One of them is correcting nutritional deficiencies. However, you may become malnourished even if you eat healthily. Certain intestinal inflammation conditions prevent your body from absorbing nutrients from your food.

In this case, before you can even begin to heal, you need to develop a strong, healthy gut. To boost yours, include probiotic-rich foods, such as raw sauerkraut, in your diet and eat it as often as you can.


In conclusion, this simple fermented food could be a natural solution for many of chronic issues.

An image of sauerkraut in a brown bowel with raw cabbage in the backgroundBeing high in nutrients and enzymes, unpasteurized sauerkraut can boost your immune system, improve your digestion, and even reduce the risk of certain cancers. Certain organic compounds it contains act as powerful anti-inflammatory agents. If taken regularly, sauerkraut may also help reduce the pain and stiffness of your joints and muscles.

As we learn more about the benefits of the live cultures that fermented foods are rich in, we begin to understand why sauerkraut is a superfood.

© Copyright 2020 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam's Key Question

Sauerkraut is rich in probiotics that promote healthy gut flora, reduce inflammation, and prevent yeast overgrowth. It contains microorganisms that protect you from harmful bacteria and toxins. 80% of your immune tissue is located in your gut. Maintaining a balanced gut flora is vital for a healthy immune system.

Ready to Start Your
Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Journey?
Dr. Lam Coaching is rated 4.7 / 5 average from 70+ reviews on Google