Sauerkraut vs. Kefir

Sauerkraut vs. Kefir: Which Is Healthier?

Sauerkraut and kefir are both known for their wide range of health benefits and beneficial gut bacteria. They couldn’t be different in taste and texture but which actually has more probiotic effects? And which is healthier?

Kefir has more Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A per serving than sauerkraut. Sauerkraut, on the other hand, provides your body with more dietary fiber and a boost in Vitamin C. Overall, kefir does offer a more varied micronutrient profile but both fermented foods can have a substantially positive effect on your body.

Introduction

In this post, I’ll compare sauerkraut and kefir in terms of their nutritional makeup, their preparation method, and their health benefits. We’ll look at all of these different factors to determine which of the two is the healthier fermented food: sauerkraut or kefir?

I set up a batch of each at home (see picture above) in order to compare them side-by-side. Disclaimer: I love sauerkraut and kefir and consume both on a regular basis 😉

Sauerkraut vs. Kefir: Nutrition

Sauerkraut and kefir are both packed with vital nutrients. However, there is also nutritional value in foods besides only their micronutrient profile such as vitamins and minerals. The number of good bacteria, probiotic effects, and dietary fiber is not necessarily included in the traditional nutritional profile.

Of course, these kinds of nutrients are difficult to measure and extrapolate from since they vary widely by preparation method and individual batch.

Sauerkraut Nutrition Facts

First, let’s look at some of the basic nutrient value that 100g of sauerkaut provide:

Amount Per 100 grams
Calories 19
Sauerkraut – Nutrition

With only 19 calories per 100 grams, you can include sauerkraut in pretty much any diet. A large part of the cabbage and the resulting sauerkraut is in fact just water. The remainder is mostly dietary fiber with the following nutrients:

Total Fat 0.1 g0%
Saturated fat 0 g0%
Polyunsaturated fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg0%
Sodium 661 mg27%
Potassium 170 mg4%
Total Carbohydrate 4.3 g1%
Dietary fiber 2.9 g11%
Sugar 1.8 g
Protein 0.9 g1%
Sauerkraut – % Daily Value

Sauerkraut is quite high in sodium at 27% daily value per 100 grams. This means that a few spoons of this delicious covers your sodium needs for the day. Sodium is essentially salt, and since proper fermentation of sauerkraut requires salt to keep out the bad bacteria, the resulting brine is high in sodium.

However, this does not necessarily make sauerkraut unhealthy. When making your own batches of sauerkraut you will be able to determine just how much salt you are going to use. Plus, you can also choose the type and quality of salt you are going to use: raw sea salt or cheap table salt.

With 2.9g per 100g, Sauerkraut also provides a good amount of dietary fiber. This equates to 11% of your daily required intake. Surely, fiber is something we could all use a little more in our modern-day diets.

Lastly, I wanted to point out that 100g of sauerkraut actually also includes about 170mg of potassium. Again, this amount will slightly vary by batch but should give you about 4% of your daily value.

Vitamin A0%Vitamin C24%
Calcium3%Iron8%
Vitamin D0%Vitamin B-65%
Cobalamin0%Magnesium3%
Sauerkraut – Micronutrient Profile

The micronutrient profile of sauerkraut shows us how which of these valuable vitamins and minerals can be found in 100g of fermented cabbage.

At 24% of your daily value, Vitamin C is plentiful in sauerkraut. Just a couple of spoons of sauerkraut should cover your daily minimum intake of this essential vitamin!

Furthermore, sauerkraut is high in iron covering about 8% of your daily value. This can be especially beneficial for vegetarians or vegans looking to replace some of the lack of iron that would usually be derived from red meat.

Vitamin B-6, magnesium, and calcium all make up smaller amounts of the total micronutrient profile but are nonetheless clearly present in sauerkraut.

Kefir Nutrition Facts

Kefir is a powerhouse of nutrients and bacteria strains. We’ll compare the same nutritional profile as with sauerkraut for 100 grams of kefir:

Amount Per 100 grams
Calories 61
Kefir – Nutrition

Kefir has significantly more calories than sauerkraut at 61 calories per 100 grams. This is due to the increased fat content in milk.

Total Fat 3.3 g5%
Saturated fat 1.9 g9%
Polyunsaturated fat 0.2 g
Monounsaturated fat 0.8 g
Cholesterol 10 mg3%
Sodium 43 mg1%
Potassium 132 mg3%
Total Carbohydrate 4.8 g1%
Dietary fiber 0 g0%
Sugar 5 g
Protein 3.2 g6%
Kefir – % Daily Value

The above fact is reflected in the macronutrient profile of kefir with 5% total fat daily value and 9% saturated fats. This means that only a couple of glasses of kefir per day will cover your body’s saturated fat needs.

Kefir is also much higher in protein than sauerkraut. With a 100ml glass of kefir, you’ll cover about 6% of your protein daily value. The protein in kefir will be equal to the protein content of the milk you used.

Cholesterol, sodium and potassium are found in much smaller quantities in kefir. Especially, the difference in sodium content between kefir and sauerkraut is striking. Perhaps this illustrates quite nicely that varying your fermented foods can be very beneficial to increase diversity in nutrient intake.

Vitamin A3%Vitamin C0%
Calcium11%Iron0%
Vitamin D12%Vitamin B-60%
Cobalamin8%Magnesium2%
Vitamin B-128%Phosphorus9%
Kefir – Micronutrient Profile

Kefir’s micronutrient profile is something sauerkraut can simply not compete with. 100 grams of kefir gets your body 12% Vitamin, 8% Vitamin B-12, 6% Vitamin B-2 and about 3% Vitamin A.

Compared to milk, the B-Vitamins especially are increased manyfold during the fermentation process. Again, the high amount of B-12 Vitamins present in kefir can be especially interesting for diets excluding other animal products.

In terms of mineral, calcium, cobalamin and phosphorus are plentiful present in kefir. Especially, phosphorus is a vital mineral that is not commonly found in other household foods.

Verdict

Sauerkraut has more dietary fiber than kefir, and kefir has more fat. But while sauerkraut also provides plenty of nutrients it simply cannot compete with the micronutrient profile of kefir.

In a way, both of these fermented foods complement each other very well. Consuming both on a regular basis can help provide your body with all the essential nutrients it needs to function.

Sauerkraut vs. Kefir: Preparation

SauerkrautKefir
Time> 3 weeks1-2 days
MaintenanceEasyEasy
StorageRefrigeratorRefrigerator
EquipmentJar, CabbageGlass, Milk, Strainer
Sauerkraut vs. Kefir – Preparation

In terms of preparation sauerkraut and kefir vary quite a bit. Not only the time it takes to prepare each fermented food differs but also the equipment that is used and the complexity of making each at home.

Time

Sauerkraut typically takes more than 3 weeks for the entire fermentation process to be completed. This is because the lactic acid-producing bacteria require time to proliferate through the cabbage and product Lactobacilli.

Making kefir at home is a much fast – even daily – process. Typically just one day at room temperature will be enough for the kefir grains to have eaten themselves through all the lactose.

Equipment

To get started making sauerkraut all you need is a big enough jar and cabbage. Okay, maybe a knife to cut the cabbage but that’s really it!

Kefir is made just as simply. You’ll need a (smaller) jar, the kefir grains (duh), and milk. However, to separate the kefir grains from the liquid once fermented, make sure to have a plastic strainer and a wooden spoon handy.

Maintenance

Maintaining your batch of home-made sauerkraut could not be more simple. Once the jar is filled with water and salt all you have to do is wait. Occasionally, make sure that the cabbage is still completely submerged in water to prevent the formation of mold. Perhaps you’ll also have to add some water every now and then.

With the kefir the only maintenance aspect that you have to concern yourself with is the cleaning of the kefir jar used for fermentation. While some people advocate not cleaning the jar at all I have found that just rinsing it out at least once a week helps with the smell of rotten milk in the house.

Storage

Sauerkraut is easily stored in the fridge once the fermentation process is completed. This way it will be edible for years thanks to the beneficial bacteria cultures that have proliferated through the cabbage.

Once kefir is done fermented you can opt to leave it outside the fridge for another 24 hours to do a second fermentation. After that, I’d recommend storing kefir in a cooler place to avoid it becoming too sour.

Conclusion

Sauerkraut and kefir provide are packed with nutrients and gut-friendly bacteria. Kefir has a slight edge over sauerkraut when it comes to the number of vitamins per 100 grams. You just won’t get that much Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D from sauerkraut.

Other than that, sauerkraut and kefir are both incredibly easy to prepare and to maintain. Perhaps you’ll have a bit more flexibility when making kefir since the entire process only takes about a day.

But why chose between two goods things when you can have both. I regularly have my sauerkraut ferment over longer periods of time while adding new kefir every one or two days.

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