Sauerkraut isn't just a stellar hot dog topper — it's also good for you. Think: fiber, probiotics, vitamin C and vitamin K, all packed into one low-calorie food (only 27 calories per cup, according to the USDA).
Yes, the sodium count is on the higher side (the two main ingredients are cabbage and salt, after all), but sauerkraut also contains a good dose of potassium, which can help counter sodium's blood pressure-raising effects, according to the American Heart Association. (The AHA recommends sticking to no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.)
Here's more on why kraut should have a place in your weight-loss diet, along with three creative ways to eat this fabulous fermented veggie.
Why Sauerkraut Can Help With Weight Loss
1. It’s Fiber-Packed
There are just over 4 grams of fiber in a 1-cup serving of sauerkraut, according to the USDA. Fiber can help with weight loss because it helps keep you feeling full after a meal or snack, and that can help you eat less, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Indeed, simply aiming to eat 30 grams of fiber each day (and making no other diet changes) can help you lose weight, per a February 2015 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. A cup of sauerkraut is 13 percent of that 30-gram target.
2. It’s Low in Calories
In that same-sized serving of sauerkraut, you only get 27 calories, according to USDA. And we all know that when we cut back on the number of calories we eat (and, of course, keep up with the number that we burn), that calorie deficit is how you lose weight.
Another reason that going lower-calorie helps with weight loss: Research shows that when you dial back your portions at one meal, you don't necessarily eat more later on. For instance, in a February 2020 study in in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity when a small group of adults cut down their main meal portions to "smaller than normal," they didn't end up eating more (and making up for those calories lost) at other meals or snacks.
3. It Has Probiotics
A growing body of research suggests that eating good-for-you probiotics (and having a healthy gut microbiome) may prevent weight gain and even encourage weight loss.
In an October 2015 Obesity study, when a small group of men were fed a high-calorie, high-fat diet for a month, the men who also took a probiotic supplement gained less weight and less body fat. And some of the probiotic strains in the supplement are also naturally found in sauerkraut, according to an August 2019 review in Nutrients.
But — and this is a big but — to reap the probiotic benefits, you need to buy unpasteurized, refrigerated sauerkraut, not the canned variety. That's because the canning process kills probiotics. Heating refrigerated sauerkraut will also kill those good gut bugs.
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So, now that you know about sauerkraut's weight-loss powers, how can you eat more of it? You know, beyond eating it as a straight-up side dish — because that is a delicious way to enjoy it.
3 Creative Ways to Add Sauerkraut to Your Diet
1. Toss It into Slaw
Use this recipe for Sweet Slaw — which calls for carrots, red cabbage and almonds — as your base.
"Dress the slaw with just a simple vinegar and oil combination. The tang and funk and softer crunch of sauerkraut is nice," says Ann Taylor Pittman, an independent food writer in Birmingham, Alabama.
Serve it alongside a healthy, lean protein, like grilled chicken or salmon.
2. Add It to a (Healthier) Reuben Sandwich
Try a twist on the traditional with this Vegetarian Reuben Sandwich.
"This healthier riff on the classic — made with yogurt-based Russian dressing and frozen veggie patties — is every bit as hearty, and comes together in just 20 minutes," says recipe creator Jamie Vespa, RD, who blogs at Dishing Out Health.
3. Top Your Sheet-Pan Dinner
"The next time you make a sausage, potato and root vegetable sheet-pan meal, top it with sauerkraut once it comes out of the oven and serve it with a side of spicy mustard," suggests Shannon Garcia, MDS, RD, with KISS in the Kitchen.
Or try this Spicy Potato, Red Pepper and Chicken Skillet for Two and serve it topped with chopped sauerkraut.
- FDA: "Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels"
- USDA FoodData: "Sauerkraut, canned, solids and liquids"
- Annals of Internal Medicine: "Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Should I be eating more fiber?"
- International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: "Reductions to main meal portion sizes reduce daily energy intake regardless of perceived normality of portion size: a 5 day cross-over laboratory experiment"
- Obesity: "Probiotic supplementation attenuates increases in body mass and fat mass during high‐fat diet in healthy young adults"
- Nutrients: "Fermented Foods: Definitions and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal Health and Disease"
- American Heart Association: "How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure"
- American Heart Association: "How much sodium should I eat per day?"