The Benefits of Sauerkraut, where to buy it, and how to make it

When we suffer with digestive issues, anxiety, depression, brain fog, fatigue, or hormonal issues, nutrition should be one of our first lines of defense.

Sauerkraut is a fermented, probiotic food that contains cabbage and sea salt and is quite easy to make.

Don’t allow the simplicity to deceive you though. Sauerkraut contains multiple strains of Lactobacillus, a beneficial group of bacteria (probiotics) proven through research to be effective in treating mental health, fatigue, obesity, and aiding in digestion and nutrient absorption.

But this nutritious, probiotic superfood isn’t the same ‘sauerkraut’ we popularly find on supermarket shelves today, nor is it the one on our hotdog at the baseball game.

Read on to find out where raw, fermented sauerkraut comes from, what its specific physical and mental health benefits are, where to buy it, and how to make it.

Where Sauerkraut Originated

When we think of sauerkraut, we may picture a burly, middle-aged German lady telling her children, “Eat your sauerkraut so you will grow big and strong like your father Hanz and uncle Franz. Sauerkraut will pump you up!”

Well, turns out, we’re wrong. Sauerkraut did not originate in Germany.

Though Germany has certainly adopted the regular use of sauerkraut, this fermented cabbage was actually invented by the Chinese over 2,000 years ago during their construction of the Great Wall.

The Chinese made sauerkraut by fermenting cabbage using rice wine. It was the perfect way to eat a nutrient-dense food that was easily accessible, cheap, and lasted a relatively long period.

It was actually not until the 16th century that the Tartars carried sauerkraut from China to Europe. This resulted in Europeans, especially German and French, beginning to ferment cabbage using sea salt, rather than rice wine, giving rise to a flavorful sauerkraut more akin to the one we know today.

So is this the very same sauerkraut that we can find on store shelves?

What Sauerkraut is Best?

Unfortunately, the sauerkraut you find on your hotdog at the baseball game or what you buy in a typical American supermarket is not the same as this ancient superfood. Typical, conventional sauerkraut you find on the shelf or in a can at the grocery store is not fermented, nor is it probiotic. It is nutritious in a few ways, but it is no superfood.

The Problem with Regular Sauerkraut

The Use of Vinegar in Regular Sauerkraut

There are multiple strains of Lactobacillus in raw, fermented sauerkraut. Lactobacillus species of bacteria are beneficial and probiotic. These strains of beneficial bacteria engage in what is known as “Lacto-fermentation” of cabbage; they produce lactic acid which ferments nutrients and changes the nature of the vegetable, leading to powerful improvements in its nutritional content and physical and mental health benefits.

Unfortunately, when vinegar is added to sauerkraut, it stunts the production of lactic acid, thus stopping the lacto-fermentation of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients in the cabbage.


While the intention of pasteurization is good, it has unfortunately led to serious health problems throughout the world. Pasteurization is the heating of a food or beverage to destroy bacteria. This is meant to get rid of the bad bacteria that can potentially grow in food, but it unfortunately kills all the good stuff too.

Science and the study of beneficial microbiota have now revealed the great harms of pasteurization. Yes, pasteurization kills bad bacteria, which has been good in some ways. But, in the process, it knocks out Lactobacillus and other probiotics contained in sauerkraut, making this once powerful superfood totally dead and useless, save some beneficial vitamins and minerals that survive the intense heat of pasteurization.

The Best Sauerkraut

‘Raw’, ‘Unpasteurized’, and/or ‘Naturally Fermented’

When buying sauerkraut, ensure that it states at least one of the above key words on the packaging - raw, unpasteurized, and/or naturally fermented. This indicates that it still contains the live beneficial cultures.

In addition, when you purchase this type of sauerkraut, you’ll get a much larger helping of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients that are present due to fermentation. You’ll also get the naturally occurring enzymes that have not been denatured from pasteurization.

Located in the Refrigeration Section

Make sure the sauerkraut you purchase is located in the refrigeration section. This indicates care was taken to keep the sauerkraut at peak fermentation, stopping it from fermenting too quickly or going bad. Remember, fermented live sauerkraut, unlike conventional dead sauerkraut, naturally ages and spoils.

Organic Sauerkraut

It is best to purchase sauerkraut that is organic. The reason for this is that many fruits and vegetables that are GMO or conventionally grown are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides.

Pesticides and herbicides are antimicrobial - they kill bacteria. This is especially of glyphosate (commonly known as “round-up”), which is used in mass quantities in the U.S. and is a patented antibiotic.

Pesticides and herbicides are shown in many studies to be associated with the development of cancer and other serious physical and mental health conditions.

While unpasteurized sauerkraut that is not organic may be just great, it is a good idea to purchase organic if it is in the budget.

Where to Buy the Best Sauerkraut

There are multiple brands of sauerkraut that meet the above requirements. Here’s a raw, fermented sauerkraut I recommend that is organic, unpasteurized, and comes at a reasonable price: Hamptons Brine Sauerkraut.

Why Sauerkraut is Good for You

What are the benefits of sauerkraut?

Good bacteria, or probiotics, contained in sauerkraut are fundamental to our gut health. Our “gut” essentially includes our stomach, small and large intestine, colon, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. Though, when referring to gut health, especially ‘leaky gut’, the small intestine is typically the central focus for researchers.

Raw, fermented sauerkraut contains many live, beneficial bacteria (probiotics), particularly the group of bacteria known as Lactobacillus. These bacteria heal our gut, rebuild our gut wall, and decrease bad bacterial overgrowth. This heals what is known as increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”, which thousands of studies have linked to many physical and mental health conditions prevalent in the U.S. such as autoimmune, cancer, anxiety, depression, and skin conditions like eczema and acne.

Sauerkraut could be an excellent addition to our diet to help prevent these conditions and aid in their improvement.

Of the thousands of types of bacteria contained in fermented foods, the group Lactobacillus is abundant in raw sauerkraut. This group of bacteria has been studied at great length for the treatment of mental illness.

What Probiotics are in Raw Sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut contains the following strains of good bacteria:

  • Lactobacillus plantarum

  • Lactobacillus cervatus

  • Lactobacillus sakei

  • Lactobacillus brevis

  • Lactobacillus paraplantarum

  • Lactobacillus coryniformis

  • Pediococcus pentosaceus

  • Leuconostoc citreum

  • Leuco argentinum

  • Weissella sp.

  • Leuconostoc fallax

  • Leuconostoc mesenteroides

  • Lactococcus lactis

Probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus have been heavily linked to the prevention and treatment of mental illness. They also aid substantially in digestion, nutrient absorption, energy, and weight loss.

Other Benefits of Raw, Unpasteurized Sauerkraut

Cabbage is packed with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and micronutrients. The amazing thing about sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), is that these nutrients are increased through the fermentation process.


Because of the presence of Lactobacillus and other beneficial bacteria strains. These little ‘micro-buddies’ actually ferment the nutrients in cabbage, making many of the healthy vitamins, minerals, and enzymes more bioavailable and more plentiful.

Sauerkraut is filled with multiple B vitamins, which are crucial for energy, mental clarity, mood, and memory.

Sauerkraut contains a generous helping of vitamin C - one-third the recommended daily amount in each serving. Vitamin C is very important for immune system function. It also helps maintain healthy skin, blood vessels, bones, and other functions.

Sauerkraut also contains a large dose of vitamin K-2. This vitamin is crucial for bone health, as it directly combines and interacts with vitamin D3 and calcium. It is also highly beneficial for the heart.

Sauerkraut also contains iron, potassium, and magnesium. These minerals are instrumental in energy and hormone production. Our levels and absorption of these minerals directly impact our mood and mental health, as well as many physical health needs.

As if all this wasn’t fantastic enough, a study conducted by the University of New Mexico linked the consumption of sauerkraut to a 74% lower risk of breast cancer. These findings were confirmed by the American Association for Cancer Research.

Where to Buy Sauerkraut

You can purchase sauerkraut in many health food stores, or even your local farmer’s market. You can also buy it online.

As I stated earlier though, it is very important that the sauerkraut you buy meets multiple requirements (see the section above entitled “What the Best Sauerkraut Looks Like”). One sauerkraut I recommend that meets all of those qualifications is Hamptons Brine Sauerkraut.

Hampton’s Sauerkraut is raw, fermented, contains live probiotics, and is organic. It’s also not a bad price, which is a bonus.

How to Make Raw, Probiotic Sauerkraut

There is beneficial bacteria that lives on the surface of all organic fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, the use of glyphosate and other herbicides and pesticides in conventional produce, as well as irradiation, probably kills this beneficial bacteria. But, organic fruits and vegetables still have these live bacteria crawling around on them (creepy, huh?).

Cabbage is no different. Live beneficial bacteria live on the surface of organic cabbage. So, when fermented, this amazing bacteria multiplies and turns this healthy, cruciferous vegetable into a superfood.

Materials to Make Sauerkraut

  • Organic cabbage

  • Real Sea Salt

  • Mason jar

  • Food scale

  • Coffee filter

  • Wood spoon or other wood utensil

Steps to Make Sauerkraut

1. Slice the cabbage

  • Cut cabbage head in half

  • Cut in fourths

  • Cut out the core

  • Slice all cabbage into thin strands

2. Weigh cabbage and sea salt

  • Use a scale to weigh the amount of cabbage you want to use (grams)

  • Multiply that number by .02 (2%)

  • Use that amount of Real Sea Salt

3. Mix salt and cabbage together

  • Throw the cabbage and Real Sea Salt together in a large bowl

  • Use your hands to mix, knead, and squeeze the salt into the cabbage

  • Really KNEAD and SQUEEZE the cabbage. You want the liquid in the cabbage to release

  • Do this for 2-5 minutes

4. Place all of it inside a mason jar and smash it

  • Dump the cabbage that has now absorbed the salt into a mason jar (It should be mushy and liquidy)

  • Grab a wood utensil and smash the cabbage repeatedly

  • Continue until the liquid rises just above the cabbage and the cabbage is fully immersed.

5. Immerse the cabbage and close the jar with room to breathe

  • Place something small and heavy on top of the immersed cabbage, such as a plastic bag with small rocks inside (this is to ensure the cabbage remains immersed in the liquid).

  • Place a coffee filter on top of the mason jar and secure it either with a rubber band or the outer rim of a mason jar lid (Note: it needs to breathe. Do not put a lid over it.)

6. Let sauerkraut do its thing

  • Let the cabbage ferment for 2-3 weeks

  • Once fermentation is complete, place sauerkraut in the fridge to slow fermentation. It should last about a month or so in the fridge.

  • Enjoy!

Note: Do not use metal utensils while making probiotic foods. Prolonged exposure to metal can kill the good bacteria.

Thanks For Reading About Raw Sauerkraut

If you’d like to learn about benefits and how to make another incredible probiotic food, check out my article on Goat and Sheep Milk Kefir.

If you want to know more about why probiotics and gut health are so fundamental to mental health and overcoming mental illness, check out my article The Relationship Between Gut Microbiome and Mental Health, or my Youtube video “Humans Have 3 Brains”.

I wish you the best on your mental health journey!

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