Eating healthy in Germany sounds like a foreboding task to the uninformed. Everyone knows that German food is all sausage and fried pork, right? But ask any German and they’ll tell you that that stereotype comes from tourist trap restaurants that hide the healthy potential of German cuisine. That’s why we compiled a list of 10 healthy German foods and ingredients.
Long before the days of stainless steel refrigerators, Germans relied on the process of lacto-fermentation to keep their cabbages edible through the cold winter. Basically, they added submerged their cabbage in a brine to break the sugars into lactic acid with the aid of a helpful bacteria named Lactobacillus.
The fermentation process releases probiotics essential to stomach health by supporting bacteria beneficial to your digestive system. They also help you absorb nutrients better. So sauerkraut acts as a multiplier if you are already eating a healthy diet, as you will breakdown and absorb the nutrients in your other foods better. But Sauerkraut comes with plenty of nutrients of its own, in particular vitamin C, vitamin K, and iron, all of which contribute to immune system health.
Fresh ground horseradish has an unmistakably pungent aroma and distinctive taste that is guaranteed to liven up any dish. Made from the grated root of the Armoracia rusticate plant, this popular condiment has glucosinolate antioxidant properties that boost production of white blood cells and prevent the growth of cancerous ones. It also contains plenty of vitamin C that improve immune system and potassium, which regulates blood pressure.
Mediterranean flavor their dishes with oregano and basil. Germans prefer dill as their herb of choice. This vinegary cucumber salad uses light amount of sour cream mixed with chopped dill to create a crunchy and refreshing side dish. Dill contains multiple flavonoids with anti-inflammatory properties, while cucumbers are rich in the water and fiber you need for healthy digestion.
Breakfast is the biggest meal of the day in Germany. The traditional German breakfast includes sausages, bread, cheeses, and eggs. But that breakfast was suited for the active lifestyle of old labor-intensive jobs.
Many Germans now enjoy Muesli, a grain cereal, for breakfast. Paired with yogurt, muesli is high in fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. Just be discerning about what kind you buy: some grocery store versions are laden with extra sugar.
White asparagus is revered as the “vegetable of kings” in Germany. During the spring spargel season, you can find deliciously ripe asparagus on menus all across the country. Asparagus protects the liver with beneficial minerals and enzymes and contains no fat or cholesterol. It also protects against cancer, thanks to flavonoid compounds like lutein, zea-xanthin, carotenes, and crypto-xanthins that remove harmful oxidant free radicals from the body.
Whole Grain Rye Pumpernickel Bread
Germany was once known as the breadbasket of Europe, with endless fields of golden grain swaying in the country’s south and central regions. So it’s no surprise that German bakers make some of the best bread in the world. Whole grain bread options like pumpernickel are low on the glycemic index, high in fiber, and contain some protein. Pumpernickel also contains B-complex vitamins like thiamin, B-1, B-3, and selenium which help your body convert food into energy.
The pungent and sweet root vegetable is common in German gardens. These brightly colored little bulbs can be pickled, sliced raw and added to salads, or boiled down and turned into a type of mashed potatoes. They are a great food for those trying to lose weight because they are low in digestible carbs and contain mostly water. In other words they are low in calories but fill you up, making it less tempting to reach for unhealthy snacks. They are also high in fiber and function as a potent detoxifier.
Rote Linsensuppe (Red Lentil Soup)
This dish originated in Turkey but can be found on menus all across Germany. It’s a simple vegetarian soup that is flavored with carrots and onions and has a hearty helping of red lentils. Carrots are rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein that are linked to decreased heart disease. Lentils bring more than half your DV of dietary fiber, which regulates blood sugar levels and promotes healthy digestion. They are also low in calories and high in protein, filling you up without expanding your waistline.
Rothkohl (Red Cabbage)
Rothkohl is sauerkraut’s brother. In fact, it is not uncommon to find them sitting side by side on a plate. It contains red cabbage, apples, onions, and a bit of sugar for some sweetness. Red cabbage is the real star of this dish, filled with phytonutrients that everything from aid the immune system to prevent cancer. 1 cup of red cabbage gives you 28% of your vitamin K and over half of your vitamin C.
A picturesque weekend trip to the German countryside should include an afternoon in an apple orchard. While Germans make the best apple deserts in the world, a fresh apple still delivers the sweet and tart flavors without the extra sugar and pastry dough. That’s great news because it turns out that an apple a day really does provide demonstrably lower risk for several types of cancer. Apples contain plenty of flavonoids, antioxidants, and fiber.