What do the armies of Genghis Kahn, Colonial Era navies, and those who labored on the Great Wall of China have in common? The consumption of sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut is made by pickling cabbage in a process called lacto-fermentation. The process is a fairly simple one. To start the fermentation process, one only has to add salt to shredded cabbage.
The finished product, sauerkraut, can last for months unrefrigerated, which is probably one reason the armies of Genghis Kahn, Colonial Era navies, and those who labored on the Great Wall of China ate it regularly.
Scurvy, caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C, was a huge problem for colonial era navies and explorers. It was a problem largely solved by carrying plenty of sauerkraut on long voyages. Not only could sauerkraut keep for months at varying temperatures, but it also contained significant amounts of vitamin C, which helped colonial era navies and explorers stay out at sea for longer periods of time.
However, a long shelf life and significant levels of vitamin C were only the most obvious benefits.
Sauerkraut is loaded with healthy bacteria called probiotics, a result of lacto-fermentation. It’s also loaded with enzymes that aid digestion and promote nutrient assimilation.
When you are eating a poor diet like the ones sailors, laborers, and soldiers ate in times past, a fermented food like sauerkraut could literally be a lifesaver.
While we don’t have to worry about scurvy today, many people suffer from poor digestive health. Whether it’s a poor diet, a lack of contact with beneficial bacteria, or both, many people today lack healthy gut flora and suffer from a whole host of digestive issues.
Article from Nathan Young’s Blog, August 1, 2014, by Nathan Young.