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聽to add more聽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聽a meal? This prospect appealed to me, as I鈥檓 not a huge fan of yogurt. It turns out there was something I already had in my fridge that could do just the trick 鈥 sauerkraut.

Fermented sauerkraut聽and its brine are聽full of probiotics, which are a by-product of the fermentation process聽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鈥檚 harder to gauge just how many are in each batch, as it varies.

In order to get聽any probiotic benefits,聽look for kraut that hasn鈥檛 been heat processed, meaning聽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 鈥 the fermentation of those ingredients is what creates the lactic acid and healthy bacteria that can help your gut.聽I chose聽Bubbie鈥檚聽but there are other brands available.

I drank my kraut juice in the mornings. I鈥檝e 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鈥檛 have to worry about my tooth enamel getting damaged.聽Its taste hovers somewhere between pickle juice and kimchi liquid with a salty, funky, and聽cabbagey flavor, though it鈥檚 milder than either of those.

In terms of gut health, I have to be honest 鈥 I didn鈥檛 notice much of a change in the, er, goings-on of my digestive system since I鈥檓 a pretty regular gal to begin with. One thing I did notice was that I didn鈥檛 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鈥 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聽is pretty easy to make at home聽for pennies on the dollar, so I鈥檒l be trying that the next time I decide I鈥檇 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)