The Many Health Benefits of Cultured Vegetables

Raw cultured vegetables have been around for thousands of years, but we have never needed
them more than we do today.  Rich in
lactobacilli and enzymes, alkaline-forming, and loaded with vitamins, they are an ideal food that can and should be consumed with every meal.

Since they are an excellent source of Vitamin C, Dutch seamen used to carry them to prevent scurvy.  For centuries, the Chinese have cultured cabbage each fall to ensure a source of greens through the winter (if they have no refrigeration).

The friendly bacteria, the enzymes, and the high lactic acid in raw cultured vegetables add to health and longevity.

They taste tangy and it is probably a new taste for you, but personally speaking, cultured
vegetables are the best way to eliminate cravings for sweets.  After initially getting use to eating cultured vegetables, you will soon feel that no meal is complete without
them.  Since they are all vegetable, they combine with either a protein or a starch meal.

So what exactly are raw cultured vegetables?

They’re sauerkraut. The Austrians coined this word, from sauer (sour) and kraut (greens
or plants).  But they are very different than the pasteurized sauerkraut you buy in the supermarkets.  The pasteurization (heating) process destroys recious enzymes, and the added salt eliminates any health benefits.  The variety of vegetables that you can ulture are endless and once you culture your first batch of vegetables, you ill want to experiment and try different vegetables that perhaps you’ve never tried before.

Here are many of the benefits to adding cultured vegetables to your diet:

  • Help re-establish a healthy inner ecosystem.  The friendly bacteria in raw cultured vegetables are a less expensive alternative to probiotics (although both probiotic supplements and culturedvegetables are recommended on a daily basis)
  • If you have ever experienced a sluggish thyroid, it can be such an emotional roller coaster to get it functioning properly.  Personally speaking cultured vegetables are one of things that have helped to nourish and re-balance my thyroid which had been sluggish for about a year. It is very important when you have a sluggish thyroid, to do everything possible to eat more alkalizing foods such as cultured vegetables, coconut kefir (Fermented coconut water from young Thai coconuts. They are the white coconuts that you see at Asian markets or Whole Foods.), sea vegetables (kelp, dulse, nori, kombu, arame, etc.)
  • If you have ever struggled with your weight or wanted to lose those nagging pounds we’ve all held onto, add cultured vegetables to your diet. Losing weight is all about how well everything is flowing in your digestive tract, how regular you are and how to balance the acids in your body to a more alkalizing state.
  • They improve digestion.  Knowing the health benefits of raw foods, eating cultured vegetables is an easy way to implement raw foods into your diet.  However, depending on how well you digest your foods, your digestive tract may be too weak to tolerate them.  Cultured vegetables eliminate this concern, since they are pre-digested.  This means that even before they enter your mouth, the friendly bacteria have already converted the natural sugars and starches in the vegetables into lactic acid, a job your own saliva and digestive enzymes would do anyway.  The enzymes in the cultured vegetables also help digest other foods eaten with them.
  • They increase longevity.  You could think of the friendly bacteria in raw cultured vegetables as little enzyme powerhouses.  By eating the vegetables, you will maintain your own enzyme reserve and use it to eliminate toxins, rejuvenate your cells, and strengthen your immune system – which all add up to a longer, healthier life.
  • They control cravings.  Homemade cultured vegetables are ideal for appetite control and thus weight control.  The veggies help take away cravings for the sweet taste in pastries, colas, bread, pasta, dairy, and excessive amounts of fruit.
  • Raw cultured vegetables are alkaline and very cleansing.  They help restore balance if your body is in a toxic, acidic condition.  Because they do trigger cleansing, you may have an increase in intestinal gas initially as the vegetables stir up waste and toxins in your intestinal tract.  Soon however, you will notice an improvement in your stools.  To ease discomfort of the gas, colonics and enemas are very useful during this period.
  • And lastly, if you want gorgeous, healthy skin cultured vegetables will become your best friend. Our skin is our largest organ and whatever shows up on the skin is a good indication of what is going on inside the body.

How To Make Cultured Vegetables

Cultured veggies are made by shredding cabbage or a combination of cabbage and other
vegetables and then packing them tightly into an airtight container.  They are left to ferment at room temperature for several days or longer.  Friendly bacteria naturally present in the vegetables quickly lower the pH, making a more acidic environment so the bacteria can reproduce.  The vegetables become soft, delicious, and somewhat “pickled.”

The airtight container can be glass or stainless steel (I personally prefer to store my
cultured vegetables in a glass jar that has a tight, clamp down lid).  Use a 1 to 1 ½ quart container that seals with a rubber or plastic ring and a clamp down lid. Room temperature means 70 degrees Fahrenheit, for at least 3 days (I life to ferment my cultured
vegetables for at least 5 days, but 3 is the minimum).  You can taste them at different stages and decide for yourself.

Depending on what part of the country you live in, your indoor temperature plays a big role in how quickly your vegetables will culture. I started culturing vegetables while living in Orlando, FL. which is pretty humid so my vegetables would not have taken as long to culture them, however I did culture them for 5 days.

In the winter months in your kitchen temperature falls below 70 degrees, wrap the
container in a towel and place it inside an insulated or thermal chest.  In the summer months the veggies culture faster.  They may be ready in just three or four days.

During the fermentation period, the friendly bacteria are having the time of their life
reproducing and converting the sugars and starches to lactic acid.  Once the initial process is over, it is time to slow down the bacterial activity by putting the cultured vegetables in the refrigerator.  The cold greatly slow the fermentation, but does not stop it completely.
Even if the veggies sit in your refrigerator for months, they will not spoil; instead they become more like fine wine, more delicious with time.  Properly made, cultured vegetables have at least an eight month shelf life, although my veggies have never lasted that long.

While it is not necessary to add a “starter culture” to your vegetables, I recommend that
you do it just to ensure that your vegetables begin fermenting with a hardy strain of beneficial bacteria.  I use Body Ecology’s Cultured Vegetable Starter which contains a very robust bacterium called Lb. Plantarum.

Cultured Vegetable Recipes

*Recipes From the Body Ecology Book

Recipe 1


3 heads green cabbage, shredded in a food processor

1 bunch kale, chopped by hand

1 garlic clove

2 cups wakame ocean vegetables (measured after soaking), drained, spine removed, and chopped

Recipe 2

3 heads green cabbage, shredded in a food processor

6 carrots, large, shredded in a food processor (don’t worry about the sugar in the carrots, the fermentation process will eat up the sugar)

3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

To Make Cultured Vegetables:

1. Come all ingredients in a large bowl

2. Remove several cups of this mixture and put into a blender

3. Add enough filtered water to make a “brine” the consistency of a thick juice.  Blend well and then add brine back into first mixture.  Stir well (If using starter culture, see below)

4. Pack mixture down into a glass or stainless steel, air-tight, container.  Use
your fist, a wooden dowel, or a potato masher to pack veggies tightly.

5. Fill container almost full, but leave about 2 inches of room at the top for veggies to expand. *Please be sure to leave room at the top because I didn’t when I first started culturing vegetables and I had liquid all over my counter.

6. Roll up several cabbage leaves into a tight “log”
and place them on top to fill the remaining 2 inch space.  Clamp jar closed.

7. Let veggies sit at about a 70 degree room temperature for at least three days.  A week is even better. Refrigerate to slow down fermentation.

To Use Body Ecology’s Culture Starter:

***Very important – when stirring the starter culture, only use either a glass or plastic utensil to stir, never metal.

Dissolve one package of starter culture in ¼ cup warm  (90 degrees Fahrenheit) water.  Add a small amount of sugar to feed the starter (try Rapadura, Sucanat, honey, Agave, or Body Ecology’s EcoBloom™).  Let starter/sugar mixture sit for about 20 minutes or longer while the L. Plantarum and other bacteria wake up and begin enjoying the sugar.  Add this starter culture to the brine (Step 3)

Happy Culturing!



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15 Responses to The Many Health Benefits of Cultured Vegetables

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  4. Dave W. says:

    Hi, Just curious if you can culture vegetables too long and if there are any concerns regarding this. On a website I viewed that sold starter cultures they recommend about 21 days to culture. Thanks for your help.

    • Tracy says:

      Hi Dave,
      Thanks for reading my article. How long you should culture depends on the food you’re culturing.

      For instance when I culture cabbage using salt, I culture the cabbage for minimum 2 weeks, but I could culture the cabbage for up to 4 weeks. The longer you culture a food the more it will grow with friendly bacteria.

      When I use Body Ecology’s Culture Starter, the directions say to culture vegetable minimum 3 days, but a week is better. The same goes when I use Body Ecology’s Kefir Starter when I’m making coconut water kefir, the directions say to culture for 36 hours and that may vary depending on the temperature in the room (ideally between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

      Hope this helps.

      Warm regards,

      • Rob says:

        Hi Tracey,

        At the top of the article you say about the added salt eliminating any health benefits. and now in the comments and in other articles I’m reading about adding salt for the fermentation process.. And yes, I’ve already made your 2nd recipe suggestion..

        What would be the result if you didn’t add any salt at all?:)

        Kind regards


        • Tracy says:

          Hi Rob,
          Thanks for your post. When I reference salt in the article, I am speaking of the amount that is in someone’s diet. Many times, people use way too much salt in their diet and especially iodized salt.

          The salt referenced in making cultured vegetables is necessary as it extracts the liquid out of the vegetables and in particular a lot of water is extracted from cabbage.

          When I create the recipe from Donna Gates Body Ecology, I make a brine from the vegetables and water and then I add Body Ecology’s Culture Starter.

          Thanks again and I’m happy to hear that cultured vegetables are part of your diet.

          Be well,

          • Rob says:

            So for this batch, can I get away with no salt? Or should I take a couple of cup fulls out and make more brine, this time adding salt and pour it in the jar??



          • Tracy says:

            Rob are you using a culture starter? If so, then it’s okay if you don’t use salt.


          • Rob says:

            Hi Tracy,

            Nope, no starter culture or salt,, how much of a disaster is it??:p

            Really do hope I don’t have to start all over again!

            Kind regards


  5. Emily says:

    Hi Tracy, I’ve just started BED and my cultured veggies are in the frig. I didn’t have a food processor, so I just chopped them and tried to use my blender for some. The cabbage came out pretty watery, does that cause a problem for the veggies? Also, I have a slightly bigger jar – 2 quarts. Is that okay? Thanks!!!

    • Tracy says:

      Hi Emily,
      Congratulations on doing the BED. It is fine to chop your veggies by hand. I always chop my cabbage (by hand) into thin strips.

      I want to understand why your cabbage is watery. So did you follow the BED recipe by taking some of your cabbage mixture and add it to a blender?

      Sometimes I will use a shortened version of culturing my cabbage by using only cabbage and salt and the salt releases liquid from the cabbage.

      If you use a 2 qt. jar, you want to make sure you have enough veggies in your jar so there isn’t a lot of space at the top of the jar. Too much air in the jar can create mold.

      Once you let me know what were the steps you took before your mixture was watery, I can give you advice.


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