Gut health is arguably the most exciting topic in the nutrition world. According to a study published in PLoS Biology, the human body contains as many microbes as human cells. Collectively, these microbes make up the human microbiome and dramatically impact many aspects of health, from digestion to immunity.

As research uncovers how probiotics, live, healthy bacteria found in certain foods and supplements, can influence the microbiome, probiotic-rich foods are becoming increasingly popular. For centuries, if not millennia, people have depended on their diet to provide and nourish their microbiome. One way to do this was to eat lacto-fermented foods.

What are the advantages of lacto-fermentation?

Fermentation was first used as a method of food preservation around 6,000 BC. Many of the most popular foods in cultures around the world are fermented, including yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and miso. Not only does fermentation add a distinctive flavor to each of these foods, which is culinary important, but it also provides a healthy dose of probiotics.

During fermentation, bacteria naturally break down food and form lactic acid as a by-product, which helps control pathogenic bacteria. Based on research, lactic acid also appears to have health benefits. Although more studies are needed to determine the exact effects of certain bacterial strains, some studies have found links between a healthy microbiome and better immunity, as well as a decreased risk of irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and of certain types of cancer.

Researchers have only scratched the surface of what they will discover over the next 20 years in this field of study. This belief can lead to including as many fermented foods as possible in your diet.

How to ferment food at home

The first time you make sauerkraut at home, you realize how easy it was (as long as you follow all the safety rules) and how delicious it was!

Try making your own sauerkraut. Not only is it very easy and delicious, but it’s also an economical way to eat more cruciferous vegetables (the family of vegetables that includes cabbage, broccoli and kale). Cruciferous vegetables may decrease inflammation in the body and reduce the risk of certain cancers.

One of the benefits of making sauerkraut at home is that you know it hasn’t been pasteurized to eliminate beneficial microbes. Besides, you have something to brag about! Research shows that raw sauerkraut is a rich source of probiotics such as lactobacilli. Eating more fermented foods could be good for your health! Most store-bought sauerkraut is pasteurized (which kills good bacteria). To find sauerkraut that hasn’t been pasteurized, look for sauerkraut in the refrigerated section that says the product is “raw.” As a bonus, research indicates that eating more fermented foods may have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Serve your sauerkraut with tuna salad, pork chops or on avocado toast.

When fermenting sauerkraut at home, cleanliness is crucial. This is because cabbage ferments at room temperature and you need to make sure that you don’t introduce dangerous microbes into the process. To do this, thoroughly wash and dry all the utensils you will use, including the glass jar and the lid. Boiling the jar in clean water for 10 minutes and letting it air dry will kill any pests.

Homemade sauerkraut

Homemade sauerkraut is a delicious side dish or sandwich filling and it’s surprisingly easy to make. As sauerkraut is fermented in the presence of salt, it is a high sodium food, so keeping an eye on portion sizes is key.

For 8 people (portion: ½ cup)


1 medium sized cabbage
1 ½ tsp. coarse salt
1 C. caraway seeds (optional)


Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage and rinse the entire head thoroughly. Quarter the cabbage and remove the core with a sharp knife. Cut the cabbage into thin strips widthwise.

Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Use your hands to massage and squeeze the cabbage, to evenly distribute the salt. Continue massaging the cabbage until it becomes soft and produces liquid, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add caraway seeds, if desired.

Pack the sauerkraut in a clean quart-sized jar. Keep tamping to remove all the air from the jar.

To weight the cabbage, use a fermentation weight or several clean marbles, making sure that all the cabbage is submerged in the salty liquid. Over the next 24 hours, continue to pack the cabbage, if necessary, to remove the air produced and submerge all parts of the cabbage.

Place the jar in a dry place at average room temperature, away from direct sunlight. Let the cabbage mixture ferment for 3-10 days (depending on how tart you like it), checking daily and pressing if necessary. If mold appears, discard the mixture and try again.

Nutritional value per serving: 28 calories, 0.1g total fat (0g saturated fat), 1g protein, 7g carbohydrates, 2.8g fiber, 3.6g sugar (0g added sugar), 650 mg of sodium.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.