Sauerkraut is a type of fermented cabbage. Evidence suggests this tangy, nutritious food may help support gut health and have other health benefits.

Sauerkraut has long been part of the human diet. Its name means “sour cabbage” or “sour vegetable” in German.

Eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut may be good for digestive health, and sauerkraut may also have additional positive effects on health.

This article outlines the potential health benefits of eating sauerkraut.

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Sauerkraut is a source of lactic acid bacteria, which may help support the immune system and reduce inflammation.

One small 2018 clinical trial tested the effects of pasteurized or unpasteurized sauerkraut on the gut microbiota of 34 people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The gut microbiota are the trillions of microbes that live in the gut.

People in both groups experienced a significant reduction in the severity of their IBS symptoms. However, only those who consumed the unpasteurized sauerkraut saw changes to their gut microbiota.

Therefore, the positive impact of sauerkraut on gut health and IBS improvement may be attributed to the prebiotics naturally present in cabbage as much as if not more so than the bacterial cultures associated with the fermentation process.

Learn more about healthy snacks for IBS.

One 2021 review concluded that fermented foods such as sauerkraut could help promote greater gut bacteria diversity and protect against inflammation.

Some animal research suggests that sauerkraut’s anti-inflammatory effect may be due to reduced nitric oxide production.

Other compounds that may play a role in sauerkraut’s ability to prevent inflammation include:

Learn more about inflammation.

Sauerkraut can affect the immune system and help regulate immune function in various ways. Microbes and compounds in sauerkraut can activate different aspects of immunity within the body. Some believe this may be due to how the fermentation process enhances the sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut is rich in the antioxidant vitamins C and E. It also contains the plant compound kaempferol.

In lab-based studies, researchers have found that kaempferol can protect against oxidative damage by removing free radicals, which are unstable and highly reactive molecules that can cause inflammation.

Certain lactic acid bacteria in sauerkraut produce conjugated linoleic acid. Animal studies suggest this bacteria may help protect against cancer and atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis happens when the arteries narrow and harden due to plaque buildup.

Additionally, a 2021 case-control study among 284 Polish females living in the United States found an association between consuming higher amounts of raw cabbage and sauerkraut during adolescence or adulthood and a significantly lower risk of breast cancer.

Sauerkraut is generally safe to consume. However, it can cause a reaction in some people.

Histamine intolerance can cause allergy-like symptoms in some people. Sauerkraut is high in histamines. During hay fever season, people with pollen allergies who eat sauerkraut may experience worse symptoms due to the extra histamine load.

People who take certain types of antidepressants, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, may want to speak with a healthcare professional before adding sauerkraut to their diet. This kind of medication may interact with sauerkraut.

A study from 2018 offers a guideline for how much sauerkraut to eat for maximum health benefits. Participants consumed 75 grams of sauerkraut per day.

People can start by eating 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of sauerkraut daily and working up to slightly larger amounts.

A person can buy sauerkraut from a regular supermarket or health food shop, or they can make their own.

Instructions for homemade sauerkraut

To make sauerkraut, a person will need salt and a medium white, green, pointed, or Savoy cabbage. This equates to about 2–3 pounds (lbs).

They can follow the steps below:

  1. Slice the cabbage into thin strips.
  2. Weigh the shredded cabbage.
  3. Add 1.5 or 2 tbsps salt, depending on the size of your cabbage. (For a smaller or larger cabbage, use 1.5 tsps of salt per lb of cabbage.)
  4. Massage the salt into the cabbage strips until the cabbage starts to release liquid.
  5. Place the cabbage and its juice into a sterile jar, ideally with a rubber seal.
  6. Place baking parchment or a whole cabbage leaf with a small weight on top to submerge the cabbage.
  7. Seal the jar and leave it for 3–7 days at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
  8. If the jar has a screw top, open it daily to release the gasses.

The following are some common questions people ask about sauerkraut.

Does sauerkraut cause gas?

Some people may experience gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas and bloating, after eating sauerkraut.

How often should you eat sauerkraut?

It is safe to eat sauerkraut every day, but different people may tolerate or enjoy different amounts. Some people may prefer to eat smaller portions of various fermented foods.

Is store-bought sauerkraut good for you?

Pasteurized sauerkraut may offer gut health benefits due to the prebiotics naturally present in cabbage. However, one should consider that versions that have been pasteurized will not contain live bacterial cultures, since the heating process destroys the bacteria produced by fermentation.

Those seeking this attribute in their sauerkraut should look for unpasteurized products in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, or make their own.

Nutrition resources

For more science-backed resources on nutrition, visit our dedicated hub.

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Sauerkraut may provide various health benefits, such as effects on immune health and inflammation. It may also contain antioxidants and substances with anticancer properties.

Most people can safely consume sauerkraut. However, it may cause people with histamine intolerance to develop allergy-like symptoms.