When you think of German food do you think of beer, potato pancakes and sausage? German food has many very healthy choices you will soon discover reading the Top Ten Great German Foods for Health.
My main outcome during almost two months of travel in Europe this summer was to discover the best foods for health and longevity. A secondary goal was to discover the least healthy foods and biggest health challenges facing the people in the European Union (EU).
The German Diet
German food is famous for the breads, meats, dumplings, fresh and pickled vegetables and potatoes. While this many all sound very tasty and tempting we should look a little closer at which foods offer the best health properties. In Germany while some foods are raised and prepared in a way that offers better quality than the same foods prepared in other countries, be assured that many of then are less healthy than in the past.
Many Germans are now consuming larger quantities of cheese, meat and potatoes as well as more pasta, pizza and prepared and processed foods so they are facing the same health challenges as other developed countries. This includes increasing cancer, coronary disease, diabetes and obesity.
Another incentive was to reconnect with my roots since the Morningstar side of my family is originally from Germany (Deutschland). This article will share my top ten great German foods for health as well as some food trends to be concerned about which are harming Germans and citizens around the world. Let’s start with the top ten healthy foods.
Top Ten German Foods for Health
1. Sauerkraut: Sauerkraut is definitely one of the most famous and popular German foods and one of my favorites. It’s made from finely shredded and pickled cabbage. It has a sour and tangy flavor based on the ingredients and length of time that it is fermented. It is eaten with cheeses, meats, potatoes, salads, sandwiches and even soups. Natural sauerkraut has many health benefits.
Since it is made of cabbage it is a great source of antioxidants, fiber and phyto-nutrients. Research has shown cabbage to be helpful in preventing cancer and digestive issues. Cabbage is a rich source of beneficial fiber, Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), minerals, trace elements and vitamins. MSM is a sulfur based compound found in cruciferous vegetables which is essential for healthy muscle, organ and skin tissues. Sauerkraut is cultured (fermented) and therefore offers additional benefits due to the fermenting process which use good bacteria known as pro-biotic (literally “for life”). These pro-biotic cultures help digest the tough cabbage fibers in order to release beneficial enzymes, minerals and nutrients. They also promote healthy fauna and flora in the digestive tract which aids in our digestion process. Cabbage is also on my list of plants that offer pro-biotic properties.
Unfortunately most sauerkraut sold today in cans and jars has been cooked which kills the good bacteria and prevents most of the benefits mentioned. Some companies also use vinegar for quick sauerkraut instead of the cultured version and this is not good either. Also, many people cook the good sauerkraut which also eliminates many of the benefits. Therefore it is important to eat traditionally prepared (raw) sauerkraut to enjoy the health benefits from fermentation. You can find it in some delis, health food stores or traditional restaurants. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to enjoy sauerkraut is to make it yourself.
2. Red Beets and Red Cabbage: This combination found in popular German dishes is prepared in many of the same ways as sauerkraut. They can be prepared cooked, pickled or raw and served with meats, salads, sandwiches and in soups. Both also offer an excellent source of antioxidants, fiber, minerals, phyto-nutrients and vitamins.
As many of us know from understanding the benefits of rainbow colored foods the dark red pigments are an indication that these red vegetables offer additional health benefits not found in green cabbage and other green vegetables.
3. White Asparagus: This is a vegetable that is a welcome sight signaling that winter is past and spring is here. From spring to early summer asparagus is plentiful and found in farmers markets, gardens, roadside stands and supermarkets.
The white asparagus can be served cooked, marinated, pickled, raw, sautéed and steamed. Many restaurants also offer various specialty asparagus dishes Besides tasting great asparagus is also a great source of fiber, minerals, phyto-nutrients and vitamins which are great for your health and longevity.
4. Apples: Apples are probably the most widely grown fruit in Germany. They are used to make a wide variety of beverages and dishes. Many people enjoy apple juice, apple cider and wassel (a tangy holiday beverage).
Apples are also used to make a wide variety of items such as:
- apple butter
- apple jam
- apple pancakes
- baked apples
- dried apples
Of course apples are also eaten plain as a quick snack any time of the day. Apples are abundant at markets, roadside stands and even many parks and public areas have abandoned apple trees where people gather fresh apples
Most of us have heard the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. We know that apples are loaded with great antioxidants, fiber, minerals, trace elements and vitamins. Some scientific studies found that eating a minimum of two apples weekly reduces ones risk for asthma and diabetes.
5. Whole-Grain Bread (Brot): Germany is well known for making some of the best breads and produce a wide variety. Some of their most popular choices include single grains and combinations, grains and sunflower seeds, grains and linseeds, multigrain mixtures, dark rye (pumpernickel), sourdough and whole wheat bread.
Unlike most American breads which are mostly made using refined white flour and sweeteners German breads are typically made with higher quality whole grains and seldom add much sweeteners. The exceptions are their desert breads and sweet treats which are often loaded with sugar. Dark rye bread is often served with salads, sandwiches, soup and as dinner bread. My favorite was the very heavy rye and whole wheat sourdough bread which was great with a little honey added on top.
Properly prepared whole-grains are a good source of carbohydrates, fiber and nutrients. They are a much better choice than the bagels, baguettes and other white breads which lack the fiber, wheat bran and wheat germ believed to be the best part of wheat. Using sourdough and sprouted whole grain breads have less of a gluten or insulin response compared to refined flour bread, making them a better choice for most people.
German Sourdough Bread also has a longer shelf life naturally from the special process which is similar to the making of sauerkraut which acts as a natural food preservation technique.
6. Green Red & Black Grapes: Grapes are common throughout many regions of Germany. They grow a large variety of green, red and black grapes.
Grapes are a great source of antioxidants, minerals, phytonutrients, resveratrol, trace elements and vitamins Grape seeds are also a great source for healthy essential fatty acids, fiber, minerals and trace elements. The grape leaves are also a great food and many of the ethnic cultures in Germany such as the Greek and Turkish often use stuffed grape leaves in popular delicious dishes.
7. Sweet, Tart, and Tangy Cherries: Cherry trees were loaded with fruit during June and July offering delicious and nutritious treats that have beneficial health properties. It was great to enjoy tart, tangy and sweet cherries that were tree ripened and picked at peak perfection the day before being delivered to market.
As a dark red fruit cherries offer the extra potent antioxidants that offer great protection against free radical damage. The cherry trees (also pear and plum trees) are mainly a summer fruit and a very common tree found in many green spaces, orchards and yards. They provide delicious and nutritious fruits during the summer prior to the apples coming in the fall season.
8. Wild & Domesticated Berries: Berries such as bilberry, blackberry, blueberry, currant, elderberry, gooseberry, lingon berry, logan berry, raspberry and others are common throughout Germany. We already know how great berries taste and how beneficial they are for our health. Like many other fruits berries are packed with antioxidants, fiber, minerals, phyto-nutrients and vitamins. The blue, red, purple and black fruits are loaded with exceptionally powerful antioxidants and phyto-nutrients.
9. Muesli Cereal Blends: Muesli is a blend of natural multi-grain/ whole grain cereals. It is quite distinctive in appearance from traditional cereal in the US and UK. Instead of being ground up and extruded or puffed grains heated to high temperatures, muesli is usually unprocessed and uncooked rolled whole grains. They usually have low or no sugar added and may come with and without dried fruits, nuts and seeds added. Sometimes they have spices like cinnamon and special food based flavorings.
It was common to find stores which had over 60 varieties of muesli to choose from. Another great thing about muesli is that it usually comes in a plastic, foil /paper or waxed paper bag. This avoids the wasted packaging, storage space and weight associated with cardboard box cereals. Another advantage was finding a large selection of healthy whole grain muesli for less than two euro per pound which is much cheaper than a whole grain cereal with lots of sugar and artificial ingredients here in the US. Usually the grains include rolled oats, rye, barley, spelt, whole wheat and sometimes corn flakes are added. Muesli is best when soaked overnight to allow the grains to soften up and also break down some of the digestive inhibitors in grains. This makes it easier to chew and digest.
10. Salads (Salats): Many Germans were really great about enjoying salads and often had salad twice a day. Their salads often included combinations of beets, cabbage, carrots, celery and celery root, cucumbers (gerkins), herbs, lettuce, parsnips and tomatoes. Some of them were a bit surprised during a walk along a river when I began harvesting dandelions.
You should have seen the look on my German friend’s faces when later that day we sat down to enjoy a great salad made with sun dried black olives, dandelion greens, dandelion flowers, gerkins, herbs, onions, peppers, spices, sun dried tomatoes with black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and lemon dressing.
Horseradish and Mustards almost made the top ten list. They are popular condiments for German dishes. Horseradish and mustard contains beneficial antioxidants and compounds known to increase the ability of the liver to detoxify harmful compounds and toxins. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables also contain these compounds but horseradish and mustard provide even higher levels.
Horseradish and mustard are known super antioxidants and also believed to be anti-bacterial, anti fungal and anti-viral to help deal with bad bacteria and molds in our foods.
When talking about German beverages and foods the obvious discussion includes beer, wine, meat dishes, potatoes, strudels, chocolates, sweets and treats. Rather than focus on the unhealthy aspects of these items due to food processing, harmful synthetic chemicals and over consumption contributing to escalating disease, poor health and weight problems in this blog post and upsetting my German ancestors and friends, today let’s just close with the top ten healthy foods!
German food is much more than indulging in big steins of beer with potato pancakes and sausage on a stick. Now that you have a better understanding about my Top 10 Great German Foods for Health, you can begin to find ways to enjoy these foods yourself. With a little creativity and time you will be enjoying great German cuisine that is delicious and nutritious.
This post also seemed like a great time to add a new feature. In this post I am introducing the Mastery Action Plan strategy, suggestion and solutions section. Please watch the following movie, Home Project to better understand the truth and consequences of global consumption and food production.
Home Project Movie
Enjoy One of My Living Cuisine Recipes
[colored_box title=”Michael’s Recipe for Tangy Red Cabbage Salad” variation=”teal”]
- 1 head of red cabbage finely shredded and allowed to pickle in raw apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice for several days.
- 2 – 3 shredded carrots
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 Tablespoons grape seed oil optional: 1-2 oz sheep or feta cheese or natural Greek or Turkish yogurt (live and without fruit) for an extra creamy dressing
- ground black pepper and pinch of sea salt
- Place the shredded cabbage into a large bowl with a lid and toss with the raw apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice. Set on the counter for the day and then place in the refrigerator for several days.
- Toss in the shredded carrots and sliced onion.
- Add all the spices and seasonings into a small bowl and blend with the grape seed oil. Optional 1 tablespoon of natural yogurt may be added.
- Crumble the cheese into small pieces and mix in the bowl.
- Allow the red cabbage salad to sit for several hours and then serve
Our next blog post will share: Top Ten Spanish Foods for Health