Sauerkraut Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Sauerkraut

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Sauerkraut, meaning “sour cabbage” in German, is a tangy slaw of fermented cabbage. Though it’s known as a German national dish, the practice of fermenting cabbage dates back to ancient China. Sauerkraut can be used as a condiment on numerous foods, such as bratwurst, or eaten as a side dish in its own right.

With a simple recipe that often uses only shredded cabbage and salt, this zesty condiment is very low in calories and provides micronutrients including vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K, and iron. As a fermented food, it’s an excellent source of probiotics—the good bacteria that help your microbiome thrive.

Sauerkraut Nutrition Facts

A one-cup serving of sauerkraut (140g) provides 72 calories, 1.4g of protein, 18g of carbohydrates, and 0.2g of fat. Sauerkraut provides fiber and is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, and iron. This nutrition information is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 54.6
  • Fat: 3.5g
  • Sodium: 925mg
  • Carbohydrates: 5.8g
  • Fiber: 3.9g
  • Sugars: 2.4g
  • Protein: 1.3g
  • Vitamin C: 17.9mg
  • Vitamin K: 19.6mg
  • Vitamin B6: 0.23mg
  • Iron: 1.9mg

Carbs

The majority of calories in sauerkraut come from carbohydrates. Of the 5.8 grams of carbs in a one-cup serving, 3.9 grams are from fiber and 2.4 grams are from naturally occurring sugar.

Fats

Sauerkraut provides 3.5 gram of fat per serving. Of that, 1.65 grams is saturated fat, 1.0 grams is monounsaturated and 0.6 grams is polyunsaturated.

Protein 

Sauerkraut contains very little protein. Each serving provides approximately 1.3 grams.

Vitamins and Minerals

Sauerkraut provides significant amounts of vitamin C. A one-cup serving provides 17.9mg or 19.9% of the daily value (DV) established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It also provides 19.6mg of vitamin K or 16.3% of the DV. It has 0.23mg of vitamin B6 (13.5% DV), 1.9mg of iron (10.6% DV) and 231mg of potassium (4.9% DV).

At 925 milligrams per cup, sauerkraut is also quite high in sodium. People who need to limit sodium in their diet may want to eat sauerkraut sparingly.

Calories

There are just 54.6 calories in a one-cup serving of sauerkraut. Many people consume this food as a condiment, and as a result may consume far less than a full cup.

Summary

Sauerkraut is a low-calorie food comprised primarily of carbohydrates. It provides fiber and probiotics and is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, and iron. It also provides some potassium, but it is high in sodium.

Health Benefits

Research suggests that you may gain certain health benefits when you consume sauerkraut.

May Boost Gut Flora and Weight Loss

Since sauerkraut is so low in calories and carbohydrates, it can be a tasty, savory condiment compatible with weight loss efforts—especially if it replaces other higher-calorie foods. And this pickled cabbage’s high probiotic content might be another point in its favor for weight loss. Research has shown a link between the health of gut flora and a lower likelihood of obesity.  

May Boost Mental Health

Although more research is needed, some studies have raised the possibility that probiotics in fermented foods could help improve mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. This may be possible because of the connection between the gut and the brain.

May Boost Digestion

Due to the combination of sauerkraut’s friendly gut bacteria and its substantial fiber content, it could help smooth your digestion. Research has linked probiotic supplementation to improvements in both constipation and diarrhea.

One small Norwegian study particularly examined sauerkraut’s digestive effects. Researchers found that IBS patients who ate sauerkraut daily for six weeks had fewer symptoms.

May Reduce the Risk of Some Cancers 

Sauerkraut could play a role in keeping certain kinds of cancers at bay. Some research has indicated that raw or fermented cabbage might modulate the expression of certain genes related to cancers of the breast, pancreas, prostate, stomach, and lungs. However, the research was conducted on cells, so more research is needed to know if the effects occur in the human body.

Compatible With Many Diets

As a minimally processed food with a short ingredient list, sauerkraut is compatible with many special diets. People on a Paleo, keto, Whole30, vegan, and vegetarian diet can all include sauerkraut in their menu.

Allergies

Although sauerkraut’s simple ingredients—cabbage and salt—are not common allergens, it is possible to be allergic to this dish. Some people are allergic to sulfur-based compounds in sauerkraut called sulfites.

This is much more common for people who have asthma or other allergies—but even with these conditions, the risk of a sulfite allergy is relatively low. Studies report only 3% to 10% of people with asthma are sensitive to sulfites.

Adverse Effects

Most people will benefit from including sauerkraut in their diet, and adverse effects are unlikely. However, people with certain health conditions may need to be careful. If you have a histamine intolerance, for example, sauerkraut is a food to avoid. The bacteria that create its signature sour flavor also increase its histamine content.

Sauerkraut also contains tyramine, a substance that can spell trouble for people who are prone to migraines. Tyramine affects the neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for modulating pain. If you know high-tyramine foods are a trigger for your headaches, steer clear of sauerkraut.

Additionally, the tyramine in sauerkraut may interact with a class of medications known as MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors). These drugs are usually prescribed to treat depression or anxiety disorders. People who take them are usually advised to take high-tyramine foods like sauerkraut out of their diet.

Finally, people who need a low-sodium diet should use sauerkraut sparingly. Sauerkraut is quite high in sodium.

Varieties

The simple ingredients of sauerkraut provide a blank canvas for all sorts of additions. You can include extra shredded veggies like carrots, peppers, or onions for a unique flavor spin, or try various combinations of herbs, spices, or types of vinegar. Or make the spicy Korean variety known as kimchi.

Even fruit (especially apples) sometimes makes an appearance in sauerkraut recipes. Although you may not see multiple varieties on store shelves, in your own home kitchen, there’s no limit to the varieties of sauerkraut you can cook up.

When It’s Best 

When you purchase sauerkraut at the store, there’s no way of knowing when its cabbage was harvested—so there aren’t any rules for when it’s best. On the other hand, for making your own sauerkraut, late-season cabbage is recommended. Choose a cabbage head that’s firm, without signs of wilting or disease.

Storage and Food Safety

A sealed, unopened jar of sauerkraut should be stored in a cool, dry place. Once you open the jar, be sure to re-seal and refrigerate any leftovers.

Homemade sauerkraut comes with somewhat different instructions for food safety. While a mixture is in the fermentation stage—which can take up to three or four weeks—it should be stored at 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thereafter, you can keep it in the fridge for several months. Sauerkraut can also be frozen, but since it has such a long life when refrigerated, freezing may not be necessary.

How to Prepare

Making your own sauerkraut is surprisingly easy. Start by shredding a head of cabbage. Toss with sea salt (a good rule of thumb is 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt per pound of greens).

Let sit until cabbage begins to release some of its juices, which should take about 20 minutes. Squeeze the mixture with your hands or pound it to help it release even more juice.

Pack the mixture into a glass jar with a resealable lid, making sure the cabbage is submerged entirely in liquid. Seal and let ferment for up to one month.

Recipes

Healthy Sauerkraut Recipes to Try

Try sauerkraut as a tasty topping or side dish with any of these recipes:

·     Healthy Chicken Breakfast Sausage

·     Low Calorie Potato Skins

·     Roasted Carrots with Orange and Fresh Herbs

·     Kale and Potato Hash with Fried Egg and Tomato

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13 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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