Sauerkraut and kimchi are two varieties of fermented cabbage. While there is variation due to ethnic and regional tastes, there are some common features to these fermented forms of cabbage:
- Sauerkraut and kimchi contain both forms of vitamin K: K1 and K2. Sauerkraut, for instance, contains 22.4 mcg K1 per 100 grams and 5.5 mcg K2 per 100 grams. Vitamin K2 is a product of microbial fermentation that adds to the K2 you obtain via human microbiome conversion of K1 to K2, as well as that obtained from other foods containing K2 such as cheeses, meats, fish, and organs such as liver.
- Sauerkraut and kimchi usually contain the fermenting microbe, Pediococcus pentosaceous, as this species often dwells on the exterior of cabbage plants, proceeding with fermentation when given the opportunity. Emerging science suggests that this species of Pediococcus substantially reduces endotoxemia, i.e., the entry of bacterial breakdown products into the bloodstream that drives body-wide inflammation and insulin resistance. It suggests that consuming foods containing this species may help manage blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, and inflammatory conditions. (Pediococcus pentosaceous can also be obtained from fermented meats such as traditionally-fermented salami and sopressata, as well as Paleovalley grass-fed beef sticks—listen to my interview with Paleovalley co-founder, Autumn Smith, in my Defiant Health podcast).
- Sauerkraut and kimchi also often contain the microbe, Leuconostoc mesenteroides. Martha Carlin and microbiologist Dr. Raul Cano of the BiotiQuest probiotic company, as well as the research BioCollective, have brought me up-to-speed with their evidence that this microbe is a producer of the sugar, mannitol, that, in turn, reduces blood sugar and may even dissolve the alpha-synuclein that accumulates in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease. (For these reasons, Leuconostoc mesenteroides is one of the species in the BiotiQuest Sugar Shift probiotic that, in limited experiences, reduces blood sugar in most people and, Martha tells me, has anecdotally slowed and partially reversed the symptoms of her husband’s and a few others’ Parkinson’s disease.)
Vitamins K1 and K2, reduced endotoxemia and body-wide inflammation by Pediococcus pentosaceous, reduced blood sugar and potentially reduced potential for Parkinson’s disease—all from consuming a little fermented sauerkraut or kimchi every day? That’s pretty powerful.
Note that most store-bought sauerkraut is not fermented, just bottled in brine and vinegar. There are an increasing number of commercially available sauerkrauts that are fermented, as well as a variety of kimchi. While making kimchi is a bit more elaborate, making fermented sauerkraut is very simple:
1 head cabbage, thinly sliced and discarding the core
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons non-iodized salt per quart of water
Sufficient water (filtered, spring, or distilled) to cover the cabbage
You will need a vessel (a large jar with a wide mouth works well or a ceramic crock) that allows you to place something on top to keep cabbage submerged (e.g., large plate with a weight on top, a glass). You can purchase fermenting vessels with a vapor lock, also, but you can do just fine with a homemade setup. I use drinking glass that fits into the mouth of a large jar enough to keep the cabbage below the air-water interface.
Ferment for 3 weeks, longer for larger volumes. Store in refrigerator to stop fermentation when the kraut achieves the flavor you like. (If you are impatient to enjoy your kraut, you can accelerate fermentation by adding a starter culture such as the vegetable starter culture from Cutting Edge Cultures that contains Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Pediococcus acidilactici, and Lactobacillus plantarum. You will only need about one week to get a tasty sauerkraut.)
Consider adding other ingredients during fermentation: sliced red peppers or jalapeños, peppercorns, fresh dill, caraway seeds, garlic cloves, etc. You can also start with red cabbage or other cabbage varieties.