Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale, bok choy, and broccoli are goitrogens. This means that they contain substances that can suppress thyroid function. According to the article Bearers of the Cross: Crucifers in the Context of Traditional Diets and Modern Science,
At low concentrations, the goitrogens in cabbage and other crucifers inhibit the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland; this effect can be overcome by an increased dietary intake of iodine. At high concentrations, however, these chemicals inhibit the incorporation of iodine into thyroid hormone. In this case, even the iodine that makes it into the thyroid gland cannot be used; dietary iodine therefore cannot overcome the effect of very large amounts of crucifers.In short, consuming large amounts of cruciferous vegetables can damage the thyroid gland. Cooking can reduce the goitrogenic effect of cruciferous veggies. For instance, steaming reduces the goitrogens in cabbage by about two/thirds, and boiling cabbage for 30 minutes reduces the goitrogens by 87% (according to the same article referenced above).
Fermentation does not reduce goitrogens. This means that consuming large amounts of sauerkraut could actually have negative effects on the thyroid. Fermented foods are wonderful in that they provide probiotics and great nutrients, but when it comes to fermented cruciferous vegetables like sauerkraut, moderation is the key. It is best to ensure that fermented cruciferous vegetables are consumed as condiments, not as large components of the diet.
Sauerkraut is a wonderful, healthy food when consumed in moderation. To counteract the goitrogens in cabbage, I like to add some iodine-rich seaweed to my sauerkraut. I always include dill in my sauerkraut as it lends such a fresh flavor to the finished product. I also recently tried adding ginger (as recommended by Chris at Lost Arts Kitchen), and was amazed at how refreshing and delicious the sauerkraut was.
Recipe: Iodine-Rich Ginger Dill Sauerkraut
1 medium cabbage
1 Tb minced ginger
1 Tb minced dill
1 Tb dried seaweed, such as wakame or nori
Filtered water to rehydrate seaweed
1 Tb celtic sea salt
2 Tb homemade whey
- Make sure your hands and all objects that will touch the sauerkraut are nice and clean. This will really help to ensure your vegetables ferment properly.
- In a small bowl, combine dried seaweed and a small amount of filtered water. Once the seaweed has become moist and soft, drain off any excess water and chop the seaweed into small pieces.
- Shred or chop the cabbage using a knife or food processor.
- Place the cabbage in a bowl and combine with all other ingredients.
- Using a kraut pounder, meat pounder, or some other relatively flat object, smash the ingredients for about 5-10 minutes, until a fair amount of juice starts to accumulate. If you have time, let the sauerkraut sit for 30-60 minutes to release more juices.
- Pack the sauerkraut into mason jar(s). It needs to be packed very well, so use a good bit of force to squish everything down hard in the jar. Juice should rise to the top, and this juice will help protect the kraut during the fermentation process. There should be at least one-inch of air space above the sauerkraut in the jar.
- Use a spoon to push down any little bits of cabbage/dill/seaweed stuck to the inside of the jar. Put a lid on the jar and let it sit on the counter for 3-9 days. The ferment time will depend greatly on the temperature in your house (it will take longer in the winter and less time in the summer).
NOTE: As the sauerkraut ferments, you will notice that the color will change from a nice, bright green to a dull green. To test for doneness, taste a small amount; if it is still very crunchy like raw cabbage, it is not done. When it is done, the sauerkraut will be somewhat soft and almost a bit squeaky on your teeth.
- Once the fermentation process is done, refrigerate the sauerkraut. For the best flavor and texture, let the sauerkraut age for a few weeks in the fridge before you start eating it.
This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!