Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Your friend with health benefits: Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut: I feel like you either love it or hate it. Either way, it loves you. If you can make it your friend, it automatically comes with health benefits.

Some thoughts of food for your daily food for thought:
"Fermented foods and drinks are quite literally alive with flavor and nutrition. Their flavors tend to be strong and pronounced. Think of stinky aged cheeses, tangy sauerkraut, rich earthy miso, smooth sublime wines... One major benefit of fermentation is that it preserves food... Captain James Cook, the eighteenth-century English explorer who extended the far reaches of the British Empire, was recognized by the Royal Society for having conquered scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) among his crew by sailing with large quantities of sauerkraut." (Sandor Katz, Wild Fermentation)

So what's the deal, my "friend with health benefits"?* The friends I'm talking about are microorganisms, gut-friendly bacteria that have fermented the cabbage into what we know as Sauerkraut, creating a food with many amazing benefits for your body:
  • Aids your digestion by adding its own helpful bacteria into the process - your belly will love it.
  • Contains cancer-fighting compounds called isothiocyanates (whoa!) - which are produced through its fermentation process. We all have free radicals causing damage in our bodies - get your inner repair going on.
  • Has an alkalizing and cleansing effect on your body, meaning it brings you back to a balanced state. It's one of my top recommended foods for keeping sweet cravings at bay. Sometimes when I'm craving dessert foods, I put a few spoonfuls of sauerkraut into a small cup and munch - amazingly satisfying. No more cravings.
I recently brought home a jar of Wildbrine Sauerkraut Salad - Arame (sea vegetable) and Ginger. I've been trying to find ways to get more sea vegetables into my diet and this is definitely it. Delicious (Meaning I can't really taste the arame)! The ginger is an amazing touch. If you're not sure you like sauerkraut, some of these flavored or "salad" varieties might be a good place to start. One of my favorites is a Lemon Garlic Dill and one of my clients can't get enough of the varieties with beets, carrots and spices. Make sure you are buying RAW sauerkraut from the refrigerated section, otherwise it's been processed and pasteurized. Your friends with health benefits have been long killed off in that case.

Plus, if you can't get enough, it is super simple to make at home. Check out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz (quoted above) or get your search on online! The book even has its own associated Wild Fermentation website.

Sauerkraut and fermented veggies are having a sort of revival. I see raw sauerkraut in lots of markets like Whole Foods, Rainbow Grocery and lots of other health food stores. Give it a try... what kinds, brands and flavors do you like? What is your favorite way to eat it? ( I love stirring a few spoonfuls into hearty soups like turkey, chicken or mushroom barley.)

*I totally lifted this amazing phrasing from the Wildbrine sauerkraut label I was eating!

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