Can diabetics eat sauerkraut

5 Fermented Foods to Control Weight and Blood Sugar in Diabetes

The pursuit of a healthy gut is a popular goal right now, and you may hear many people touting the benefits of fermented foods, like sauerkraut, miso, or kombucha. In these foods, bacteria ferment sugars or carbohydrates, delivering a unique flavor to that food — and perhaps health benefits for people with diabetes, too.

It all has to do with the gut microbiome, the environment of bacteria that live in your gut, which potentially affects your immune system, your weight, and your risk for certain chronic diseases, according to a review published in January 2016 in the journal Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. Meanwhile, other studies, like those explored in a review published in January 2015 in the journal Diabetes Care, have found that changes in the gut microbiome may play a particular role in individuals’ risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Maintaining this collection of natural bacteria can help us stay healthy and potentially increase our longevity, research suggests, whereas other factors, such as not finishing a prescribed round of antibiotics, possessing certain dietary habits, and having impaired bowel function, can have an impact on this balance.

The idea has inspired dozens of books on achieving and maintaining a healthy gut — with the majority of them offering dietary advice to help people lose unwanted weight. And at the center of it all? Fermented foods.

Not only can these eats help promote gastrointestinal (GI) health and wellness — and potentially even your mood, some research suggests — but they’re also often rich with fiber, a component of food that can promote feelings of fullness, thereby promoting a healthy weight, and help stabilize blood sugar if you have type 2 diabetes. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, most Americans eat only half the amount of recommended fiber per day, which is between 20 to 35 grams (g).

While “there’s no one miracle food, especially in terms of diabetes,” says Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, fermented foods can be a good choice for people with diabetes for those very reasons.

Still, says Cipullo, more research is needed.

Hannah El-Amin, a diabetes educator with Nutrition That Fits in Chicago, recommends incorporating a source of fermented foods into your daily diabetes diet, considering the potential benefits you may be able to reap. “It’s worth it to give fermented foods a try,” she says, adding that they may also produce compounds that lower blood sugar directly and stimulate your liver to absorb more glucose.

That said, every person is different, so make sure you monitor how your blood sugar responds after eating these foods. And if fermented foods aren’t your thing — as they tend to have an acquired, sour taste — you don’t need them to be healthy as someone with diabetes, says Cipullo.

If you’re looking to incorporate them into your diet, consider giving these five fermented foods to try.

Pickled Foods

Pickling is an ancient technique of food preservation and flavoring that remains popular, and delicious, to this day.

The art of pickling likely originated in India, more than 4,000 years ago. Pickling utilizes the natural process of fermentation, and almost always calls for some combination of vinegar and/or oil, salt and spices.

While most people in the United States will envision some variety of pickled cucumber (kosher dill and gherkin, for example) when they hear the word “pickle,” a large variety of fruits, vegetables and meats can be pickled, both to keep the whole food from spoiling, and for adding a wide range of flavors.

As with many other fermented foods, such as yogurt, pickled foods like kimchi and sauerkraut promote gut-health through probiotic properties. These “good,” or healthy bacteria, are also what help preserve fermented foods such as pickles.

Additionally, pickling is known to preserve the natural antioxidant properties of the fresh whole fruit or vegetable, though many other phytonutrients can be potentially lost in the process. With that said, the loss of specific phytonutrients is highly dependent upon the pickling process used and the food being pickled. Certain pickles, such as dill cucumber pickles, are also known to be particularly high in sodium, which is harmful if consumed in excess.

When foods are pickled in vinegar, there may be some benefit for diabetics, as several studies have indicated vinegar as being helpful in controlling blood-glucose levels and increasing insulin sensitivity in diabetics.

Ultimately, since there are so many foods that can be pickled, and so many forms of pickling, the nutritional benefit or harm that one can expect to experience from consuming pickled foods is highly variable. From a cultural and culinary standpoint, pickles are a wonderful way to experience different kinds of flavors and foods that may be difficult to find locally and freshly grown.

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Sauerkraut may not be the best food in the world for health, but your neighbor is right about fresh sauerkraut being very good for you. The friendly lactobacilli created in the fermenting process by which cabbage is transformed into sauerkraut aid digestion, increase vitamin levels, produce a variety of beneficial enzymes and promote the growth of healthy flora throughout the digestive tract. And in a study published in the October 23, 2002 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry Finnish researchers reported that fermenting cabbage produces compounds known as isothiocyanates, shown in laboratory studies (in test tubes and animals) to prevent the growth of cancer. There’s no evidence, yet, that these compounds have the same effect in humans, but we do know that isothiocyanates occur naturally in broccoli and brussel sprouts, vegetables which appear to be protective against cancer.

From a nutritional point of view sauerkraut is a great food choice. One cup amounts to only 44 calories, provides eight grams of fiber and plenty of vitamin C. The downside to sauerkraut is its salt content. To make sauerkraut you shred cabbage, add salt and wait for it to ferment. The salt draws out the cabbage juice, which contains sugar. The juice and sugar ferment forming lactic acid, which creates sauerkraut’s tangy flavor. But sauerkraut is one of the saltiest foods available, containing much too much sodium for people with high blood pressure and heart disease. If you rinse and soak sauerkraut in cold water before you eat it, you can lower the sodium content considerably.

Many peoples in the world, including Germans, Japanese and Chinese, consider it important to include fermented foods in their diets. Natural pickles, Korean Kimchi, tempeh and miso (made from soy) as well as high quality yogurt are all sources of the friendly cultures found in sauerkraut. Unfortunately, most of today’s commercially available sauerkraut is pasteurized and “dead” – that is, it lacks the beneficial bacterial cultures that make it so good for us. Instead, all you get is a lot of salt. To get the health benefits, look for fresh sauerkraut in the refrigerated sections of natural food stores and in barrels in delicatessens that still make their own. Or, even better, make it yourself – it’s not that difficult.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

How Kombucha helps Diabetics

What is Kombucha?

In a sugared tea, yeast and bacteria are placed and they form kombucha. Proponents believe it to be a good range of vitamins, minerals and acids, helpful in the regulation of blood sugar levels, cholesterol level and control of blood pressure.

It is usually mistaken as mushroom because the mix of bacteria and yeast results in the formation of flat structure that mimics a mushroom cap. For several days, this bacteria-yeast mix is left in a cup of sugar-sweetened tea. After a few days, fermentation process starts and results in kombucha tea, which contains B vitamins and vinegar. During fermentation, the bacteria and yeast absorb the sugar present in the tea and small nub-like growths are formed. This can be used later for preparing kombucha tea. The non-sterile fermentation and unhygienic growing practices are the main reasons behind concerns related to kombucha.

Health Benefits of Kombucha for Diabetics

  • Kombucha, which is sour in taste, is beneficial for moderating the blood sugar level and keeps it within normal range.
  • It works to relieve some diabetic complications, such as high blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels.
  • Kombucha improves metabolism, energy levels and works to make digestion process better. However, there is little scientific evidence to support this.
  • In an article published in the “Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology”, it was stated that Kombucha is helpful in preventing and curing periodontal disease, of which diabetics are at an increased risk compared to non-diabetics.
  • Scientists have also suggested that changes in the bacteria in the gut can halt the process of absorption of carbohydrates, which is significant for blood sugar control.

Concerns Related to Kombucha

  • Consumption of kombucha can lead to development of allergic reactions and stomach problems.
  • Brewing kombucha tea can produce toxic reactions with components in the teapot, which may affect your health.
  • Using poorly farmed kombucha may result in serious health complications.
  • In April 1995, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention of the US reported one Iowa woman’s death due to unexplained severe illness. Doctors suggested that her illness could be related to her daily consumption of kombucha tea.

Other than diabetes, kombucha tea has been considered as an alternative therapy for a wide range of conditions including baldness, insomnia, intestinal disorders, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and cancer.

Consult your healthcare provider before you begin using kombucha. Your doctor will help you in evaluating the level of risk associated with trying this new herb.

Image courtesy: Getty Images

Read more on Diabetes.

These Fermented Foods Improve Health and Blood Sugar

Fermented foods – they are becoming more common in the U.S. as recipe ingredients, and as health foods.

What does it mean to ferment a food? The process of fermentation occurs when sugars are converted into alcohol or organic acids by either bacteria or yeast. That’s right- the process that creates your favorite beer also produces foods like kimchi, olives, even cheese!

Have you heard whispers of fermented foods being good for you? Well, the food world is definitely talking; fermented foods were one of Whole Foods Top 5 food trend predictions last year!

Kimchi is one of the most well-known fermented foods. Kimchi originated in Korea, where winters are cold and fertile farm land is not widely available. Koreans salted what vegetables they had in order to preserve them. This salting and preservation process caused the vegetables to ferment.

Sauerkraut is also a popular fermented food. Not just to enjoy on hot dogs, sauerkraut is a treasured ingredient in many cultures. Although thought of as a German creation, builders of the Great Wall of China enjoyed sauerkraut often and it likely spread to Europe through the plundering travels of Ghengis Khan.

Along with kimchi and sauerkraut, some of the most popular fermented foods are yogurt, kombucha (a fermented sweet tea), kefir (a fermented milk beverage), and tempeh (fermented soybeans.)

All of these, and other fermented foods, contain healthy probiotic bacteria. When you include fermented foods in your diet, they work with your body to help optimize the digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Research has also shown that fermenting foods can make them more nutritious. For example, some foods developed Vitamin B nutrients that they did not contain before they were fermented.

So exactly what do fermented foods do to benefit the body?

All the action happens in the gut. The home of an estimated 100 trillion organisms, your gut is the “second brain” of your body. The gut does everything from transforming food into fuel for the body, to protecting your immune health, to lowering blood sugar.

In your gut, there is a naturally-occurring compound called butyrate. Research has shown that butyrate may have a positive impact on insulin sensitivity. When insulin sensitivity is improved, the body does a better job of regulating blood sugar and is able to keep blood sugar levels lower.

When your gut works better, your body works better. Check out this information on the power of your gut and the benefits of probiotics for diabetics.

There are even more reasons to add fermented foods to your diet. Yogurt has been shown to reduce risk for heart disease, and kimchi to reduce risk of diabetes complications and obesity.

If you do choose to begin including fermented foods in your diet, start slowly. As the bacteria in your gut respond, you may experience gas, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. These symptoms should last no more than a couple of weeks as your gut adjusts to the new balance of bacteria.

So how many servings of fermented foods should we eat per day? If you experience an increase in the above symptoms or have stomach discomfort after enjoying a second serving of fermented foods, perhaps stick with one serving per day for a while until you acclimate. If two servings a day is working well for you, keep with it. Listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs.

You can find a wide variety of fermented foods in your local supermarket. Yogurt, kefir, and cheese are all fermented foods that can be found in the dairy section. Always be sure to choose full-fat yogurt, kefir, and cheese to reap the most benefit from dairy products. (The less fat a dairy product contains, the more sugar has been added for taste!)

In large chain stores, you will likely find kombucha and tempeh in the refrigerated section near the produce department. In this same section, also look for kimchi and sauerkraut.

The last two may only be available in cans, but strive to find them fresh. Canned or jarred foods have been processed with heat, which kills most (if not all) of the beneficial bacteria inside. Food labels should tell you which items contain “live organisms.” These are the winners!

You can also experiment by making your own fermented foods. Online resources are plentiful, and food tastes better when you make it yourself! Just check out these these 10 foods you can ferment at home.

While fermented foods may feel like a step outside of your comfort zone, you could reap some seriously delicious health benefits by giving them a try!


Basic meal planning

Meal plan

You need to eat and drink at least 12 carbohydrate choices each day. Most women need 14 carbohydrate choices each day to maintain the desired weight gain of one-half pound each week. If you follow a vegetarian diet, you need 15 to 16 carbohydrate choices each day to get enough nutrients.

Breakfast tips

Blood glucose is hard to control in the morning when the hormones that boost your blood glucose levels are released. To help, follow these breakfast tips:

  • Eat a small breakfast.
  • Eat whole-grain bread products.
  • Eat a food that has protein.
  • Do not eat cereal or fruit.
  • Do not drink fruit juice at breakfast or any other time of the day. Fruit juice raises your blood glucose very quickly.

Completing a meal plan


Most vegetables do not raise blood glucose. Vegetables supply many nutrients for both you and your baby. Try to eat at least four servings of vegetables each day.

Make sure you measure out your servings of vegetables that can raise your blood glucose. One-half cup of the following vegetables is equal to 15 grams of carbohydrate (one carbohydrate choice):

  • beans
  • corn
  • peas
  • potatoes
  • yams

All other vegetables are “free” foods:

You can have as many of these vegetables as you like.
  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • alfalfa sprouts
  • bean sprouts
  • beans (green, Italian, waxed)
  • beets
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • collard greens
  • cucumber
  • edamame
  • eggplant
  • endive
  • greens
  • jicama
  • kohlrabi
  • leeks
  • lettuce
  • mushrooms
  • mustard greens
  • okra
  • onions
  • parsnips
  • pea pods
  • peppers
  • pumpkin
  • radishes
  • rhubarb
  • rutabaga
  • sauerkraut
  • soybeans
  • spinach
  • squash: crookneck, crushaw, spaghetti, summer, zucchini
  • swiss chard
  • tomatoes
  • turnips
  • zucchini

Protein is important for you and your baby. Protein helps build cells, helps with growth and healing, and helps hormones work. Most pregnant women need six to eight ounces of protein each day.

Dried beans and lentils contain protein but they must be counted as carbohydrates. Examples of protein foods are:


  • Beef or veal
  • Canned fish
  • Cheese
  • Chicken
  • Cottage cheese
  • Egg
  • Egg substitute
  • Fish and seafood
  • Game
  • Hot dogs
  • Lamb
  • Luncheon meat (choose lean cuts such as turkey breast, chicken breast or roast beef)
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Pork
  • Soy or veggie burgers
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu
  • Turkey


Fat contains calories to help supply energy to you and your baby. Fat helps your body absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat also gives you essential fatty acids, which help your baby’s brain and nervous system develop.

It is important to focus on eating healthful fats. The following foods are good sources of healthful fats:

  • most nuts and seeds
  • peanut butter (natural or trans fat-free)
  • cooking oils (olive, canola, peanut or flaxseed)
  • avocados
  • fatty fish (salmon or trout)

Artificial sweeteners

Avoid saccharin (Sweet’N Low® or Sugar Twin®).

It’s OK to eat two or three servings a day of foods that are sweetened with these artificial sweeteners:

  • aspartame (NutraSweet® or Equal®)
  • sucralose (Splenda®)
  • acesulfame-K (Sweet One®, Sweet & Safe®, Sunette®)

Many artificially sweetened foods contain more than one of the above listed sweeteners. They are safe for pregnancy, but do not eat too much. Ask your health care provider how much you can eat if you are not sure.

Tips to remember:

  • If you are hungry, add vegetables or a protein food to your carbohydrate snacks.
  • Focus on eating healthful fats.
  • If your blood glucose is high when you wake up, have a bedtime snack that includes both protein and carbohydrates. This will help keep your blood glucose in check during the night.
  • Don’t drink alcohol.
  • Follow your health care provider’s guidelines about caffeine.

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