7 benefits of kimchi that prove this Korean superfood is as healthy as it is tasty

If you haven’t tried kimchi, you’re missing out on probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and more healthful benefits.

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Kimchi is an integral part of Korean cuisine and culture. In its most basic form, kimchi is made with fermented cabbage, fermented fish, and spicy seasonings like Korean chili flakes, though it can be made with hundreds of vegetables and other ingredients. It is often treated as a condiment, but kimchi is traditionally eaten as a side dish.

“I’ve eaten all kinds of kimchi my whole life and even helped my grandmother make it as a kid,” says Maggie Moon, RD, a Korean-American dietician and owner of Kimchi Curious, a website dedicated to the deliciousness of kimchi. “Kimchi is essential to the Korean dining experience. You’ll almost always find it on the table on its own as a banchan (side dish), but it can also show up in soups, stews, cold noodle dishes, fried rice, savory pancakes, and more. There is no universal recipe for kimchi, and Moon reminds us that every Korean family has their own favorite way to prepare it.

Related: Fermentation: This ancient technique holds the key to our plant-based future

How you eat kimchi depends in part on what stage it’s in, whether it’s been recently brewed or has been fermenting for some time. “Kimchi is meant to be enjoyed in all its stages, as it transforms from fresh and crunchy to wilted and pleasantly tangy,” explains Moon. “Older, pungent kimchi is best for savory pancakes, stews, and fried rice, as the flavor mellows with cooking. You need a strong kimchi that will hold some of its flavor when cooked, similar to how tart apples are used to make apple pie.

As a fermented food, kimchi is often lauded as a source of gut-friendly probiotics, and it certainly is, but that’s not all the health benefits kimchi has to offer. Here are all the nutritious reasons why you should consider buying or making your own kimchi for a healthy hit of flavor.

Health benefits of Kimchi

Kimchi has probiotics for a healthy gut microbiome.

Kimchi is a fermented food, so it’s often included in discussions of gut health. There’s a whole ecosystem living in your gut, known as your gut microbiome, and research has found that eating a diet rich in fermented foods like kimchi helps add “good” bacteria and diversify your microbiome to help improve digestion. and immunity, as well as reducing intestinal inflammation.

“Kimchi supports the growth of live, beneficial bacteria known as probiotics, which contribute postbiotics in the gut,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Keri Gans, RDN. “One study revealed that postbiotics could change the composition of the gut microbiome, resulting in improved symptoms associated with constipation.”

Antibiotics are often needed to kill the bad bacteria (i.e. infections), but they also take the good bacteria with them. So after a round of antibiotics, for example, eating probiotic-rich fermented foods is especially helpful in repopulating good gut flora and getting your digestive system back to a healthy state.

Kimchi is rich in plant-based nutrients.

Vegetables are an essential food group, but not enough people eat enough of them to get the plant nutrients their bodies thrive on. The CDC estimates that only 9 percent of Americans eat the recommended two to three cups of vegetables per day.

If you’re one of the many who struggle with making vegetables palatable, kimchi, made primarily from cabbage and various other vegetables, is a superb and flavorful way to get more plant fiber, important micronutrients (e.g., vitamins and minerals), and phenolic compounds. .

“Kimchi is made with a combination of greens like kale, spinach, and celery, producing a nutrient-rich food profile,” confirms registered dietitian Johna Burdeos, RD.

According to USDA data, one cup of kale-based kimchi is high in the following nutrients:

  • Fiber

  • Iron

  • B vitamins

  • folate

  • Vitamin K

  • Sodium

It also has a couple grams of protein and contains small amounts of potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, calcium and copper.

Kimchi can help improve blood lipid levels.

Blood lipids refer to the amount of fats in the blood, such as cholesterol and triglycerides. High blood lipid levels can be an indicator of potential health complications related to heart health (high cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in US adults).

“About one and a half cups of kimchi a day has been shown to help people with high cholesterol lower their numbers,” says Moon. Researchers have also found a link between kimchi and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and lipid-lowering properties, which could have positive effects on atherosclerosis, the accumulation of fat in the arteries.

Research has shown that probiotics also possess heart health benefits, which is another way this fermented condiment could support cardiovascular health.

Kimchi is rich in vitamin C.

Speaking of heart health, the vitamin C in kimchi can help. “Kimchi is a good source of antioxidants, especially vitamin C,” says Gans, adding that this may also contribute to its heart health benefits. Some research suggests that the anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin C-rich foods may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

You might not expect kimchi to be such a rich source of vitamin C, but recent research says it’s pretty significant. It ultimately depends on the ingredients used to make the kimchi, but cabbage-based kimchi can contain up to 50.64 mg of vitamin C per 100-gram serving. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 75 to 90 mg of vitamin C per day for the average adult, so kimchi can make a significant dent in your daily needs.

Vitamin C is also an essential nutrient for immune health and other bodily functions. As an antioxidant, it fends off free radical damage, which could ward off disease.

Kimchi is a rich source of vitamin K for bone and blood health.

Supporting bone health and proper blood clotting are just a few reasons to eat vitamin K foods, and if you’re looking for ideas, kimchi is a great source. Among fermented foods, researchers named kimchi one of the richest sources of vitamin K. “One cup of kimchi offers about 65 micrograms of vitamin K, which meets about 53 percent of the recommended vitamin K intake for men and 71 percent for women, Burdeos says, adding that fermenting kimchi can increase the bioavailability of its vitamin K.

Kimchi can help prevent vaginal yeast infections.

Yeast infections are no fun, but three out of four women will be affected at some point in their lives. Probiotic foods are often recommended as a way to prevent them, and kimchi is no exception.

“Kimchi, like other fermented foods, offers beneficial bacteria that can prevent vaginal yeast infections,” says Burdeos. In a 2019 study, three bacterial strains of kimchi were isolated and shown to improve mucosal health by demonstrating antimicrobial and antibacterial activity against fungi and bacteria that cause vaginal yeast infections.

While eating kimchi isn’t a cure for women who are plagued by frequent vaginal yeast infections, it is an unexpected nutrition-based preventative measure to consider (and it certainly can’t hurt).

Kimchi may have benefits for those with prediabetes.

More than a third of US adults have prediabetes, as estimated by the CDC. However, most people are unaware that they have it or the risks of having it, such as an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Those with prediabetes may benefit from eating more kimchi, suggests Moon, pointing to a small but significant study: “In a small study of people with prediabetes, eating fermented kimchi for 10 days reduced insulin resistance and blood pressure, while glucose tolerance improved by 33 percent compared to 1 day’s fermented kimchi,” she explains.

Related: 6 Healthy Foods That Boost Your Metabolism

Easy and healthy recipes with Kimchi

Bulgogi inspired beef tacos

: Get the recipe

Greg DuPree

Chicken Miso Noodle Soup With Kimchi

: Get the recipe

Linda Pugliese

Linda Pugliese

Kimchi Cabbage Cakes

: Get the recipe

Vittorio Protasio

Vittorio Protasio

Korean-style lettuce wraps

: Get the recipe

Jennifer Causey

Jennifer Causey

Steak House Bibimbap Bowls

: Get the recipe

Jennifer Causey

Jennifer Causey

Related: These 5 tasty dinner ideas are very good for your gut

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