Growing vegetables all year round has never been possible. Therefore, people have developed several methods like pickling and fermentation to preserve their palatable delicacies worldwide. It is a process using enzymes for creating chemical changes in food.
One such food is the ever-famous Kimchi. Hailing from South Korea, Kimchi is a Korean tradition featuring several fermented vegetables with salts and spices. Typically, it contains cabbage, radishes, and scallions with seasonings of garlic, onions, chili peppers, ginger, and fish sauce. Kimchi may have other vegetables like celery, carrot, cucumber, eggplant, spinach, beets, and bamboo shoots. With all these healthy ingredients in place, Kimchi is fermented in cool pits for a few days or weeks before serving. Although eaten fermented, many love it fresh and immediately after preparation as well.
When made well, Kimchi can help preserve vegetables all year round. It is a deliciously crunchy and flavorful Korean food. But is flavor the only thing that makes this fermented food so popular? Definitely, not. There are several health benefits of Kimchi and here’s to some of them!
6 Health Benefits of Kimchi
With a nutrient-dense profile, Kimchi is a great source of vitamins and minerals because of its healthy ingredients. The main component — Chinese cabbage — boasts high levels of vitamin A and C with amino acids and ten different minerals. As Kimchi varies in its components widely, the exact nutritional profile differs from batch to batch and brand to brand. Typically, it contains the following per a 150 gram (1-cup) serving:
- Calories: 23
- Carbs: 4 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: less than 1 gram
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sodium: 747 mg
- Vitamin B6: 19% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin C: 22% of the DV
- Vitamin K: 55% of the DV
- Folate: 20% of the DV
- Iron: 21% of the DV
- Niacin: 10% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 24% of the DV
The fermentation process makes these nutrients more absorbable to your body, leading to the following six health benefits of Kimchi.
May Slow Down Cell Aging
Chronic inflammation is not only linked with a myriad of illnesses, but it also accelerates the aging process. Quite interestingly, Kimchi slows down this process and prolongs the life of your cells.
In a test-tube study, human cells treated with Kimchi exhibited increased cell viability and age. These factors measure the overall cell health as well.
Although we still require more evidence, Kimchi may be beneficial as an anti-aging food.
May Foster Immunity
The Lactobacillus bacteria in Kimchi may boost our immune systems.
In an animal case study, mice injected with strains for Lactobacillus bacteria exhibited lower levels of an inflammatory marker called TNF alpha. As TNF alpha levels rise during infectious diseases, a decrease in their levels indicates that the immune system works efficiently.
Another test-tube study also demonstrated the immune-enhancing effects of Lactobacillus. This bacteria strain was isolated from Kimchi.
Gives You a Healthy Heart
Research indicates that Kimchi may improve and help you maintain a healthy heart. It can significantly reduce your risk of heart diseases.
It may be because of the anti-inflammatory properties it carries — recent evidence suggests that an underlying cause of heart diseases may be inflammation.
Kimchi also suppresses fat growth and lowers fat levels of blood and liver. As it prevents the accumulation of fat in these areas, it prevents you from heart diseases.
A weeklong study revolving around Kimchi also concluded that people consuming 0.5–7.5 ounces (15–210 grams) of it experienced a significant decrease in blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and total cholesterol.
Probiotics and active compounds in fermented foods may help reduce inflammations. For instance, an animal study with a mouse revealed that HDMPPA, a principal chemical in Kimchi, had the potential to improve blood vessel health. Upon further research, it concluded that HDMPPA did this by suppressing inflammation.
A test-tube study on HDMPPA also revealed its anti-inflammatory properties. It blocks and suppresses the release of inflammatory compounds.
There was another mouse study that concluded the anti-inflammatory properties of Kimchi. For Kimchi administered regularly for two weeks at a rate of 91 mg per pound of body weight, lowered levels of inflammation-related enzymes were observed.
However, we still require more human studies to establish it as a concrete benefit of Kimchi.
Prevents Yeast Infections
The healthy bacteria and probiotic content of Kimchi may help prevent yeast infections.
Kimchi can help fight off yeast infections occurring due to Candida fungus, which is harmless in general. However, as this fungus is developing resistance to our current antibiotics, researchers have resorted to natural treatments and remedies.
Studies reveal that some strains of Lactobacillus can fight Candida. For instance, one test-tube study found that Lactobacillus strains in Kimchi had antimicrobial activity against Candida. However, make sure you contact a doctor for yeast infections instead of treating it yourself with Kimchi.
Aids Weight Loss
Although the exact mechanisms remain a mystery, fresh and fermented Kimchi are known for their weight loss properties. Kimchi is low in calories, and multiple studies are proving its aid in weight loss.
One particular 4-week study involving 22 people revealed that fresh and fermented Kimchi helped reduce body fat, weight, and body mass index. The fermented one decreased blood sugar levels as well.
Although both the varieties showed a positive result, people taking fermented Kimchi experienced more body fat loss and improved blood pressure.
Many believe it is the low-calorie count, probiotics content, and richness in fiber that makes it do this wonder!
Does Kimchi Have Downsides?
In general, the safety concern for fermented cuisines is food poisoning. Recently, Kimchi has also been associated with norovirus and E.coli outbreaks. These foods do not typically carry foodborne pathogens. However, Kimchi’s ingredients and its fermentation does make it vulnerable. Therefore, people with compromised immune systems may want to caution against excessive intake of old Kimchi.
Some people are also worried about the nitrite, histamine, and sodium content of this Korean delight. Luckily, you can control all these as they depend on the recipe and method you use for preparation. A study of 114 also exhibited no significant correlations between high blood pressure and kimchi consumption.
With that said, we recommend purchasing your Kimchi from a reliable and hygienic store. You can also prepare it with healthy ingredients in clean conditions to eliminate risks of any adverse effects.
The Bottom Line
Kimchi is an ever-famous savory delight right from the Korean kitchens. It offers several health benefits because of its probiotics and healthy bacteria content. It is also rich in nutrients and lets you healthily preserve vegetables all year round.
Kimchi dates back two thousand years from now — but that’s a topic for another Korean Cooking Blog. Stay tuned!
Make sure to check our famous kimchi recipes like Kimchi-Baked Tofu.