If you really want to be hardcore about your gut health, it may be time to start chugging sauerkraut juice, like I recently did every day for a week. After giving up dairy, I needed a new way to add more good bacteria into my system to help with morning queasiness and semi-frequent heartburn. I could just switch to vegan yogurt, sure, but what if there was a way to get my probiotics without having to actually eat a meal? This prospect appealed to me, as I’m not a huge fan of yogurt. It turns out there was something I already had in my fridge that could do just the trick — sauerkraut.
Fermented sauerkraut and its brine are full of probiotics, which are a by-product of the fermentation process when occurring bacteria on the cabbage converts the sugars in cabbage into lactic acid. The lactic acid gives the sauerkraut its tangy flavor, and its creation also releases beneficial enzymes that help make the nutrients in your foods more available and easier to digest. While most yogurts in stores are purposefully inoculated with strains of bacteria that will make the milk turn into yogurt, sauerkraut is typically wild-fermented. That means that, while there are probiotics present, it’s harder to gauge just how many are in each batch, as it varies.
In order to get any probiotic benefits, look for kraut that hasn’t been heat processed, meaning the shelf-stable kind is out. Check the section of your grocery store that has refrigerated pickles or go to a natural food store. The only ingredients in your kraut should be salt, water, and cabbage — the fermentation of those ingredients is what creates the lactic acid and healthy bacteria that can help your gut. I chose Bubbie’s but there are other brands available.
I drank my kraut juice in the mornings. I’ve taken apple cider vinegar shots in the morning before, and this experience had a similar weirdly refreshing effect. Unlike apple cider vinegar, it never gave me heartburn or made me feel like I was accidentally boring a hole in my stomach, and I didn’t have to worry about my tooth enamel getting damaged. Its taste hovers somewhere between pickle juice and kimchi liquid with a salty, funky, and cabbagey flavor, though it’s milder than either of those.
In terms of gut health, I have to be honest — I didn’t notice much of a change in the, er, goings-on of my digestive system since I’m a pretty regular gal to begin with. One thing I did notice was that I didn’t get heartburn after eating things that normally would cause it, including some salt-and-pepper fried oyster mushrooms and a big bowl of spicy vegan mac and cheese. Total win!
After my weeklong experiment, will I still be taking shots of kraut juice every day? Honestly… yes! The only downside to it I can see is the cost. The fancy sauerkraut I bought is pricey for something made from cabbages, salt, and water. But at about $8 for a 25-ounce jar, there was more than enough brine for my week-long experiment in the jar, and I ate the sauerkraut itself, so none of it went to waste. Sauerkraut is pretty easy to make at home for pennies on the dollar, so I’ll be trying that the next time I decide I’d rather by a fancy pint of vegan ice cream than a jar of fermented cabbage.
Hack your way to better health by checking out our fave nutritious foods on Pinterest.
(Photo via Justina Huddleston / Brit + Co)