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Is Sauerkraut Ok on The Candida Diet?

Posted 2/16/2021

Written by Dr. Brittany Buysschaert, PhD


Sour and salty, sauerkraut is a fermented product made made from white cabbage (Brassica oleracea). Traditional sauerkraut is fermented using the native lactic acid bacteria present on the cabbage. The lactic acid produced during fermentation is what gives sauerkraut its signature sour taste. To naturally ferment cabbage, salt is added to fresh cabbage leaves. These fermenting salted leaves can be sealed into a container and kept for several months at temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit without spoiling. Today, commercially sold sauerkraut generally undergoes a controlled fermentation. Natural fermentations can produce lesser quality products compared to controlled fermentations due to possible proliferation of yeasts. If yeasts are present during fermentation or if temperature is not properly controlled, the product is a usually a soft, off-tasting sauerkraut. Some of the common microorganisms found in sauerkraut are Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus brevis, and Leuconostoc mesenteroides. It is thought that the Lactobacillus plantarum bacteria found in sauerkraut may have probiotic effects.

The word sauerkraut is German, but similar types of fermented cabbage dishes are popular around the world. Most European and Asian countries have their own traditional fermented cabbage dishes. Sauerkraut is especially popular in Central and Eastern Europe where it is often consumed on a regular basis. Regional varieties of sauerkraut contain many different added ingredients including beets, carrots, turnips, peppers, apples, and cranberries. Kimchi is essentially the Korean version of sauerkraut. It is thought that fermented cabbages dishes originated in China and traveled west to Europe in the 1800s. The popularity of sauerkraut in many countries is partially due to the historic need for storing foods without refrigeration, especially in the winter when fresh crops are limited. Making sauerkraut was an easy way for families to store cabbage for winter consumption. It could be used to prevent scurvy in times and seasons when fresh vegetables and fruits were scarce.


Nutrient Profile of Sauerkraut

One 1 oz serving of sauerkraut contains 12 calories. Sauerkraut is not a significant source of any macronutrient, vitamins, or minerals. This is mainly due to the small serving size of sauerkraut as defined by the FDA; sauerkraut is known to be a good source of fiber and several micronutrients including Vitamin C and Vitamin K when consumed as a ½ cup side dish. However, the information below will cover the nutrient profile of sauerkraut as a single 1 cup serving as defined by the FDA.


Carbohydrates

Sauerkraut is not a significant source of carbohydrates, containing approximately 6 grams per 1 cup serving. It is also not a significant source of sugar, containing 2.5 grams per serving.


Fibers

Sauerkraut is not a significant source of fiber, containing less than 4.5 gram per serving.


Protein

Sauerkraut is not a source of protein, containing less than 1.3 grams per serving.


Fats

Sauerkraut is not a significant source of fat, containing less than 1 gram per serving.


Vitamins & Minerals

Sauerkraut is not a significant source of any vitamins or minerals.


Antioxidants in Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut contains antioxidants at a higher level than unfermented cabbage (1). It contains phenolic compounds including sinapic acid, ferulic acid, and p-coumaric acid which all have antioxidant properties. Sinapic and p-coumaric acids also have anti-inflammatory and cancer preventive effects. Ferulic acid is beneficial for skin health.


Health Benefits of Sauerkraut

Gastrointestinal Benefits

One of the benefits sauerkraut provides is a large content of live microorganisms which are viable in the human gut after consumption (2). Consumption of sauerkraut and other fermented foods is thought to increase the microbial intake of Westerners by 10,000 times what is usually found in the Western diet (3). This exposure to microorganisms not normally seen in the average person’s gut can help with immune system development (4). The Lactobacillus species in sauerkraut may confer probiotic activity similar to related probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, and thus should be considered probiotic bacteria (1). Studies have shown that Lactobacillus plantarum, which is the main microorganism present in sauerkraut, has immune and gastrointestinal effects similar to L. acidophilus. Sauerkraut has positive gastrointestinal effects for individuals with inflammatory bowel syndrome, or IBS. Individuals who consumed sauerkraut in a clinical trial for six weeks had a significant reduction in the severity of their IBS symptoms (5).


Cancer Preventive Effects

Sauerkraut also contains glucosinolates, which are bioactive compounds with potential cancer preventive properties (6). This chemoprevention is mainly due to the breakdown of glucosinolates during fermentation into products such as ascorbigen, which is known to kill cancer cells (7). Men who consume cabbage of any kind, including sauerkraut, have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer compared to men who do not consume cabbage (8). Women who consumed more than three servings of cabbage or sauerkraut per week throughout their lives had a 72% lower chance of developing breast cancer than women who consumed 1.5 servings of cabbage or sauerkraut per week or less (9). Consumption of the isothiocyanates found in cabbage products including sauerkraut has been shown to lower the incidence of cancers including colon, lung, and breast cancers (6). Based on the amount of isothiocyanates found in sauerkraut, consuming one small one ounce serving of sauerkraut per day would show cancer preventative effects (6).


Anti-inflammatory Effects

Consuming sauerkraut can reduce inflammation. Sauerkraut is superior at reducing inflammation compared to unfermented cabbage (10).


Negative Health Effects of Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is high in sodium and should be consumed in moderation. One serving of sauerkraut is 1 oz and contains 200 mg of sodium, which is approximately 10% of the FDA recommended maximum value. Once ounce is approximately the amount which would be eaten on a sandwich or as a condiment. If eaten as a 1 cup side dish, that amount of sauerkraut would contain 40% of the FDA recommended maximum sodium intake value.

Sauerkraut has possible interactions with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). These are a commonly prescribed class of drugs which includes treatments for anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and others. It is possible that the tyramine content of sauerkraut could interact with these drugs (11). It is recommended to consult your physician before consuming sauerkraut if you are currently prescribed MAOIs.

Sauerkraut contains high levels of histamine, a compound which some individuals have an intolerance to. Intolerant individuals will experience symptoms similar to allergies such as itching, hives, or a runny nose. Histamine intolerant individuals can normally consume sauerkraut in small amounts.


Sauerkraut on The Candida Diet

USDA nutritional value for 1 cup of sauerkraut.

Calories 27 kcal

Carbohydrate 6.1 g

Fiber 4.1 g  

Sugars 2.5 g

Fat 0.2 g

Protein 1.3 g

6 grams of carbs for 1 cup of sauerkraut is insignificant on the Candida Diet. The glycemic index of 32 is low and results in a glycemic load of 1.9 which is also very low. With low carbohydrate levels like these sauerkraut is not a food source for Candida yeast and is fine to eat. The pactic acid bacteria in sauerkraut will also be helpful for combating Candida yeast infections.

However, most people do not test themselves for Candida and are just assuming that that is what their problem is based on symptoms. In our clinical findings, at least half of these people actually have bacterial problems and not Candida at all. Many of these cases will be SIBO and in these cases, sauerkraut should be avoided until the excess bacteria numbers are brought under control.


Back to Candida Diet Questions


If you have any questions about the Candida diet or yeast infections, please feel free to contact us from the contact page of this website or talk to your doctor.


Medical References


1. Ciska, E., Karamac, M., & Kosiñska, A. (2005). Antioxidant activity of extracts of white cabbage and sauerkraut. Polish Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences, 14(4), 367.
2. Derrien, M., & van Hylckama Vlieg, J. E. (2015). Fate, activity, and impact of ingested bacteria within the human gut microbiota. Trends in Microbiology, 23(6), 354-366.
3.Lang, J. M., Eisen, J. A., & Zivkovic, A. M. (2014). The microbes we eat: abundance and taxonomy of microbes consumed in a day’s worth of meals for three diet types. PeerJ, 2, e659.
4. Stefka, A. T., Feehley, T., Tripathi, P., Qiu, J., McCoy, K., Mazmanian, S. K., ... & Nagler, C. R. (2014). Commensal bacteria protect against food allergen sensitization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(36), 13145-13150.
5. Nielsen, E. S., Garnås, E., Jensen, K. J., Hansen, L. H., Olsen, P. S., Ritz, C., ... & Nielsen, D. S. (2018). Lacto-fermented sauerkraut improves symptoms in IBS patients independent of product pasteurisation–a pilot study. Food & Function, 9(10), 5323-5335.
6. Peñas, E., Martinez-Villaluenga, C., & Frias, J. (2017). Sauerkraut: Production, composition, and health benefits. In Fermented foods in health and disease prevention (pp. 557-576). Academic Press.
7. Wagner, A. E., Huebbe, P., Konishi, T., Rahman, M. M., Nakahara, M., Matsugo, S., & Rimbach, G. (2008). Free radical scavenging and antioxidant activity of ascorbigen versus ascorbic acid: studies in vitro and in cultured human keratinocytes. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56(24), 11694-11699.
8. Kristal, A. R., & Lampe, J. W. (2002). Brassica vegetables and prostate cancer risk: a review of the epidemiological evidence. Nutrition and Cancer, 42(1), 1-9.
9. Larsson, S. C., Håkansson, N., Näslund, I., Bergkvist, L., & Wolk, A. (2006). Fruit and vegetable consumption in relation to pancreatic cancer risk: a prospective study. Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers, 15(2), 301-305.
10. Martinez-Villaluenga, C., Peñas, E., Sidro, B., Ullate, M., Frías, J., & Vidal-Valverde, C. (2012). White cabbage fermentation improves ascorbigen content, antioxidant and nitric oxide production inhibitory activity in LPS-induced macrophages. LWT-Food Science and Technology, 46(1), 77-83.
11. Walker, S. E., Shulman, K. I., Tailor, S. A., & Gardner, D. (1996). Tyramine content of previously restricted foods in monoamine oxidase inhibitor diets. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 16(5), 383-388.



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