Hello my friends! You know what I’ve been really into lately? Sauerkraut. File this under “sounds weird, tastes awesome” – I made a big salad for lunch yesterday with greens, brown rice, canned tuna (mixed with some dijon mustard), and a big ole serving of sauerkraut. Topped with balsamic vinaigrette (homemade – olive oil + lemon juice + dijon mustard + balsamic).
Why is sauerkraut awesome, besides being delicious (in my opinion)? It’s full of probiotics! Probiotics are living organisms, like bacteria or yeast, that are believed to improve health. The body is a natural home to these organisms; the digestive system alone boasts a large quantity of many types of bacteria, which help keep the intestines healthy and aid in digesting food. These healthy bacteria also help to protect us from pathogens (harmful bacteria), to detoxify harmful compounds (like alcohol or drugs), and more.
Normally, our body has a healthy plethora of gut microorganisms, but sometimes, due to reasons like stress, intestinal damage, infection, excessive antibiotic use, or poor diet, the bacterial ratio can become imbalanced. This can lead to a host of issues involving our immunity, and can also cause gastrointestinal problems like gas, bloating, and diarrhea, along with poor nutrient absorption.
Food-based sources of probiotics include foods and beverages (like yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, and kombucha) that have been fermented, but not pasteurized, as pasteurization kills bacteria. For that reason, not all mass-produced sauerkraut contains probiotics, so look for one that is refrigerated and labeled as containing live cultures.
I found a couple varieties of local sauerkraut at Mom’s Organic Market last week and we’ve enjoyed eating our way through them! I know this salad sounds bizarre, but give it a shot.
Another fave way to eat sauerkraut is, of course, with sausages. It was one of my fave meals when I lived in Europe! (See also: my throwback post about Teaching English in Prague.) On Monday night, Matt and I threw together an easy and veggie-packed dinner of sausage with sautéed peppers and onions and a ton of sauerkraut. I had part of mine on a piece of toasted bread as a make-shift bun. Plus extra dijon mustard! Messy and delicious.
Plus some extra veggie power on the side! This is a good example of how you can make any meal satisfying (and nutritious) with the addition of a lot of veggie volume. We could have just had sausage + bread, but that wouldn’t have been as tasty or filling (or as nutrient-packed)!
Are you a sauerkraut fan? Have you ever tried to make your own at home? I figure I’ll just support the experienced sauerkraut-making professionals, but I know it’s probably not that hard to make yourself!
Want more on this topic? See also: Health Benefits of Fermented Foods (guest post from a fellow dietitian).