In case you haven’t heard, fermented foods are the cool kids of the nutrition world. Not only do they offer some impressive health benefits, but they come in a ton of textures, flavors, and colors.
Move over, pickles and sauerkraut. We’re diving into the health benefits of kimchi.
Health benefits of kimchi
Kimchi is a fermented food that’s a staple in Korean cuisine. It’s a tangy dish that’s known for its unique flavor. And it’s got plenty of other perks, too.
- contains lots of important nutrients
- helps maintain a happy, healthy gut
- supports your immune system
- promotes heart health
- may protect against oxidative stress
- includes beneficial plant compounds
- may reduce inflammation
- boosts brain health
- tastes delicious and easy to add to your diet
Kimchi is a type of fermented dish that has a tangy, sour, salty taste. The star of the show is usually Chinese cabbage, but kimchi can be made with other veggies, too. You can find kimchi with onions, radish, carrots, cucumbers, and more.
It’s usually flavored with garlic, ginger, salt, sesame seeds, and soy sauce, but recipes can vary.
Kimchi is fermented. That means microorganisms break down carbohydrates in the vegetables, creating an acidic environment that gives kimchi its signature tang.
Thanks to all the veggies and this fermentation process, kimchi has been linked to some pretty impressive health benefits. Here are a few that are backed by research.
Kimchi may be a low calorie food, but it’s high in plenty of the nutrients that your bod needs to stay healthy. Because it’s loaded with veggies, it’s particularly high in provitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and manganese.
And it gets even better. A research review suggested that the fermentation process helps break down compounds that impact nutrient absorption. That may make it easier for your body to absorb all the vitamins and minerals found in kimchi.
Nutritional value of kimchi
Here’s the nutrition breakdown for 1 cup of kimchi.
- Calories: 22
- Protein: 1.6 grams
- Fat: <1 gram
- Vitamin A: 7.5 micrograms
- Vitamin K: 65.4 micrograms
- beta-Carotene: 82.5 micrograms
- Folate: 78 micrograms
FYI: Keep in mind that the nutrition of kimchi can vary depending on ingredients used and how it’s made.
Fermented foods (like kimchi) are famously gut-friendly. That’s thanks to the probiotics they contain. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that can benefit your digestive health and your whole bod’s wellness.
Rich in probiotics
There are a bunch of factors involved in keeping your gut in top condition, but a research review showed that getting plenty of fermented foods is particularly helpful for digestive health.
That’s because probiotic-rich foods have the ability to alter the composition of gut bacteria. They can also improve the overall health of your digestive system by improving the integrity of your intestinal lining.
Full of fiber
Kimchi contains veggies, and veggies are a great source of fiber. Your gut loves fiber! It can help promote healthy poops and it feeds the friendly bacteria that live in your gut.
How much fiber you’ll get depends on the ingredients in the kimchi. But in general, fiber from veggies = gut health bennies.
A healthy gut is critical for a healthy immune system. So, all of the digestive benefits you get from kimchi as a fermented food actually work to promote immune function as well.
Studies show that the lactic acid bacteria found in kimchi have the ability to modulate your immune system.
In fact, eating kimchi might be associated with a lower risk of allergy conditions like asthma and atopic dermatitis. This may be due to its immune-enhancing effects.
Fermented foods also have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. That can help your body prepare to fight off infections.
Keeping your heart healthy should be at the top of your to-do list. And maintaining a nutritious diet rich in delish fermented foods like kimchi can help keep your ticker in top shape.
Studies show that consuming kimchi may help reduce risk factors of heart disease (like high cholesterol and high blood sugar levels).
For example, a small 2011 study found that eating fermented kimchi led to significant reductions in total cholesterol, insulin, blood pressure, and fasting blood sugar compared to consuming fresh kimchi.
Other studies in rodents and humans suggest that kimchi and kimchi extracts may help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and prevent plaque buildup in your arteries.
Oxidative stress is a term that refers to an imbalance of “oxidants” (aka free radicals) and “antioxidants” (substances that help protect your cells from damage).
Kimchi’s a great source of antioxidants, so it may help protect your cells against damage caused by oxidative stress. That could help lower your risk of developing certain diseases.
In a 2014 test tube study, kimchi showed powerful antioxidant activity against a variety of oxidants. It also protected cells against oxidative damage and helped improve cell survival.
Kimchi may also help protect against cellular aging caused by oxidative stress. It might reduce free radical production and boost antioxidant defenses. Although this is super cool and promising, more research in humans is needed.
Kimchi is brimming with plant compounds that offer protective properties.
Because it’s made with veggies and spices, this tangy dish contains polyphenols and glucosinolates. These are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
For example, Chinese cabbage, which is a major ingredient of kimchi, contains caffeic acid and p-coumaric acid. Those are both polyphenols that function as antioxidants.
But most peeps don’t eat enough high polyphenol foods. You might be majorly missing out on all the benefits these compounds have to offer. Don’t worry though, adding a serving of kimchi to your daily diet can help give your antioxidant intake a serious boost.
Inflammation isn’t always a bad thing. For example, your bod needs inflammation to fight off infections and heal from injury. However, long-term inflammation is linked to increased disease risk.
Eating plenty of foods rich in anti-inflammatory compounds (like kimchi) may help counteract inflammatory processes in your body.
A mouse study found that kimchi intake helped decrease inflammatory compounds and increased some antioxidants that help reduce inflammation.
Another test tube study showed that a probiotic isolated from homemade kimchi called L. plantarum KU15149 had significant anti-inflammatory effects. Researchers are excited by these findings, but more studies in humans are needed.
Kimchi may offer some major benefits for your brain.
Because kimchi contains compounds that help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, it may have brain-protective effects.
Keeping your gut healthy is also important for your brain, so munching on probiotic-rich foods like kimchi can help your gut and your cognitive health. Win, win!
A research review of studies with mice suggested that kimchi may protect against difficulties in thinking, but more research in humans is needed.
On top of being amazing for your bod, kimchi is delish and versatile.
Here are a few ways to use kimchi:
- Enjoy it with a steaming bowl of rice.
- Use it as a nutrient-dense side for egg dishes.
- Add it to proteins like chicken and fish.
- Make kimchi dumplings.
- Use it in savory pancakes.
- Mix it into noodle and grain dishes.
When it comes to kimchi, the culinary possibilities are endless. Don’t be afraid to use this flavorful ingredient to add a little pizazz to your fav dish.
Kimchi is a Korean staple that’s both flavorful and nutritious. It’s linked to a number of health benefits from boosting the health of your gut to increasing your intake of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. You can purchase kimchi pre-made or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try out making your own homemade kimchi.