Like other fermented foods, sauerkraut contains hefty amounts of beneficial bacteria -- and those bacteria ferment the fiber you eat to produce butyrate, a powerful fatty acid.
Butyrate "exerts a potent anti-microbial action against bacteria, viruses and toxins," said Dr. Roberto Berni Canani in an email interview. Canani is an MD, PhD with the European Laboratory for the Investigation of Food Induced Diseases at the University of Naples in Italy.
According to his and other studies, butyrate protects against colon cancer.
How so? Butyrate exerts several positive effects on colon cells. He explains:
• It regulates cell growth and differentiation. (Cancer cells that are well differentiated, or low grade, behave more like normal cells; they grow more slowly and are less likely to spread than poorly differentiated ones.)
• It stimulates the growth of normal healthy cells, and inhibits the growth of abnormal, potentially cancerous ones.
• And it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacities.
And there's more, plenty more. Butyrate heals the lining of the colon and can lessen the side effects of chemo, said Dr. Jeanne Wallace in an email interview. Wallace, a PhD in nutrition, runs a consulting company for people with cancer.
Plus, by promoting good colon health, butyrate can protect you against other kinds of cancers -- including estrogenic ones, she says. Sound like an odd connection?
Your liver breaks down estrogens and other toxins and then dumps them into your gut, where fibre binds them and moves them out your body -- or so you hope. If your colon doesn't function well -- your transit time is slow, you don't have enough fiber or good intestinal bacteria -- all those bad bacteria thriving in your gut can reabsorb the hormones and carcinogens and put them back into your system.
For that reason, nutrition consultants often recommend fibre, fermented foods, plus a good brand of probiotics, which also contain lots of healthy bacteria.
Sauerkraut has firepower -- butyrate, fiber and is from the cruciferous family of veggies, which contain several compounds that fight cancer. Few foods can boast all that.
Trouble is: many people don't like its strong taste. To soften the bite, add some mustard, peppercorns, juniper berries and grape tomatoes, and warm up the mixture. Then, toss some caraway seeds on top to neutralize the incendiary after-effects.
And P.S. -- Please hold the hot dog!