Most people are familiar with the custom of eating sauerkraut on New Year's Day because it is believed to bring good luck or fortune in the upcoming year. I'm not certain about how true this is unless you include good or improved health as being good luck and fortune. By emulating the practices and customs of our ancestors we can prevent illness naturally without piling up doctor's bills. How can eating sauerkraut boost your immune system, you ask? We only have to look to traditional cultures and the diets that kept them in robust health despite having few resources. One of those practices involves obtaining probiotics through the consumption of homemade sauerkraut. Probiotics are "good bacteria" that are important for maintaining health and preventing disease by boosting your immune system.
In times of economic insecurity, global conflict and extreme changing weather patterns it has become more important than ever to stay healthy. When we are constantly being bombarded with bad news, calamities or our own personal issues and struggles, we experience increased anxiety and more restless or sleepless nights. So much stress can wreak havoc on your immune system to the point of being overly vulnerable to infections and colds just at the most inopportune times when we can't afford to miss work, look for a job or take care of an elderly relative. The idea that good health begins in your gut is catching on with doctors and nutritionists and that beneficial bacteria such as acidophilus, one of the probiotics in homemade sauerkraut, among others, are important for maintaining health and preventing disease. On probiotics, The Health Professional Guide to Dietary Supplements states, "By displacing other bacteria and yeast, acidophilus and other lactic acid bacteria may also play an important role in immune function and prevention of gastrointestinal problems, including cancer." The food and supplement industries are heeding the advice of these doctors and nutritionists alike by lining the shelves of our grocery stores with yogurt, juices, and pills that all promise extraordinary health benefits from probiotics. Unfortunately, many of these products are laden with sugar (a big immunity system detractor), are overly expensive and fail to contain the promised probiotics when subjected to testing.
So how can a frugal person obtain these probiotic super bugs without wasting money and time? The best and cheapest way to get your daily dose is to make your very own homemade sauerkraut. Sauerkraut, a traditional German food is extremely easy and economical to make and will go a long way towards boosting your immunity for the price of a few of heads of cabbage. Even cheaper for those who grow them in their garden. Then the cost is even much less. A couple of tablespoons to a half cup of this tangy condiment with your meals will deliver a mega dose of probiotics as well as easily absorbed vitamins. Homemade sauerkraut is made by a process known as lacto-fermentation.
This process provides an environment for the beneficial bacteria to reproduce and is responsible for actually increasing the level of nutrients (such as vitamin C) in the cabbage. Do not confuse homemade sauerkraut with the canned or bagged product on your grocer's shelves. These products are made with vinegar and do not provide any beneficial bacteria. True fermented sauerkraut involves no heating and uses salt to control the fermentation process. Besides being an excellent source of probiotics, traditional homemade sauerkraut also serves as a digestive tonic. It is as a stomach acid regulator, so those with heartburn or acid reflux can throw away those antacids and eat sauerkraut to cool the burning. Be aware that sauerkraut is a strong natural medicine and introducing too much into your diet too quickly may cause gastrointestinal distress as the good bacteria are introduced. It is best to start with a tablespoon a day and slowly work your way up to larger servings.
The ingredients required for a traditional batch of lacto-fermented sauerkraut are 5 pounds of cabbage heads, 3 tablespoons of canning salt, several wide mouthed canning jars with lids, a mallet and a large bowl. Simply mix the salt and the shredded cabbage in the bowl while tamping it down with the mallet to produce its own juices to cover the cabbage as you place it in the jars and seal them for storage in a cool place.
Don and Sandy Landers are owners of Dream Garden Hydroponics, LLC.