Most people know that garlic, beans, and whole grains offer many heart health benefits. But there’s a surprising food that ranks right up there with those heart-healthy foods: sauerkraut. There are five ways that this overlooked superfood can boost your heart health.
Research in the medical journal Food and Function found that unpasteurized sauerkraut contained a potent probiotic known as wild lactobacillus plantarum FC225, to which many of sauerkraut’s heart-healing abilities could be attributed. Upon investigation, the scientists conducting the study found that the probiotic-rich sauerkraut helped in the following ways:
- reduced cholesterol levels
- reduced triglyceride levels
- significantly increased levels of two powerful antioxidants known as superoxide disumutase (SOD) and glutathione
- decreased the degradation of fats in the body (a process known as lipid peroxidation)
Antioxidants like SOD and glutathione eliminate harmful free radicals–charged molecules that damage tissues and cells in the body, including the heart and blood vessels.
When cabbage or other ingredients are turned into sauerkraut through the brining and fermentation process, the numbers and varieties of beneficial microbes significantly increases. Additionally, many of the nutrients found in the cabbage or other vegetables become more absorbable to the body. The process also allows the food to last much longer than it would without fermentation.
Unfortunately most of the sauerkraut sold in grocery stores has been pasteurized thereby killing all of the beneficial microbes in the process and offering little nutritional value. More stores are starting to offer non-pasteurized sauerkraut, which are usually kept in the refrigerator section. Be sure that the product you select contains “live cultures” as indicated on the label otherwise it is unlikely that it contains any probiotics at all. Some of the brands that indicate that their products contain live cultures include: Noona’s, Pickled Planet and Wild Brine.
Of course, the best way to ensure your sauerkraut is full of active microbes is to make your own. While you may have heard that it is a difficult process, it is actually quite easy. You can find step-by-step directions here. Once you’ve made your first batch of sauerkraut you’ll find it simple to do it again. It is easy to create different flavor combinations simply by adding different ingredients. Apple cabbage is excellent. Garlic and chili are also great additions to cabbage for a delicious spicy sauerkraut. The options really are endless.
If you’re not a fan of the traditional-tasting store-bought sauerkraut, there are many other commercial alternatives with unique and delicious flavor combinations, such as curry cauliflower, beet and red cabbage, seaweed and ginger, to name a few.