Kimchi is a traditional fermented food that’s a staple in Korean households. It’s also earned new popularity in the United States, and for good reason. It’s flavorful, delectably spicy, versatile, low in fat, and high in nutrition. What’s more, the health benefits of kimchi are surprising and powerful. Read on to discover some of what this time-honored superfood has to offer.
Kimchi is Nutritious
Kimchi is not only delicious- it’s also very good for you! It’s full of many essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, B2, K, calcium, potassium, and iron. One cup of kimchi offers 9% of your daily fiber intake as well as 1.7 grams of protein. It’s low in calories, with only 23 calories per serving.1
Even better is the fact that lacto-fermented foods like kimchi contain enzymes and lactic acid that help break food down into smaller, more digestible pieces, allowing your body to absorb more of the nutrients that are already there.2 The nutrition in kimchi alone is a reason to eat up!
Surprising Health Benefits of Kimchi
Among the many benefits of kimchi is its ability to help lower cholesterol. In one study, participants who ate kimchi every day for only seven days had significantly lower levels of bad cholesterol by the end of the week.3 In another, rats who were intentionally fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet along with kimchi had lower cholesterol as well as a lower cardiac risk factor.4 Still more evidence suggests that one of the active compounds in kimchi can work against the buildup of plaque in the arteries.5
The main point? If you’re concerned about your cholesterol, kimchi consumption may be one way to help. Talk to your doctor about including this superfood in your cholesterol-fighting diet.
Improves Gut Health
The health benefits of kimchi extend to the gastrointestinal tract. You probably know that lacto-fermented foods are full of probiotics, or good bacteria and yeasts. These friendly microorganisms can play an integral role in healthy digestion, the restoration of healthy gut flora, and a strong immune system. In fact, fermented foods like kimchi are crucial for overall gut health.
How do fermented foods play a role in digestive health? Lacto-fermentation makes nutrients in food more bioavailable, meaning our bodies can assimilate the vitamins and minerals in fermented foods more easily than in their non-fermented counterparts. Not only do they make it easier to use the nutrients already present, they also can detoxify or entirely remove antinutrients that can hinder digestion.2
The probiotics found in fermented foods can also assist with common tummy troubles. They may reduce bloating and gas, fight against diarrhea, improve regularity of bowel movements, and help with inflammatory bowel diseases.6
Kimchi and other fermented foods can help to restore a healthy gut flora, or microbiota. The intestinal tract is a host for more than 500 species of bacteria. Good bacteria, like the ones found in fermented foods, may help to colonize the intestinal tract and support overall gut function.7
Additionally, your immune system is closely related to your gut health. A strong microbiota can help to lessen the permeability of your intestinal lining, keeping pathogens out and bolstering you against infections.7,8 Probiotics can also help you to get better faster if you do happen to find yourself ill.9 Supporting your gut health with kimchi may just pay off with a stronger immune system as well.
Improves Cognitive Function
Research suggests that kimchi may help to keep your brain functioning well. This makes sense: your gastrointestinal tract and brain “talk” to each other in a relationship known as the brain-gut axis. Having good bacteria in the gut is related to other central nervous system processes,10 and so aiding the colonization of your gastrointestinal tract with fermented foods may help to contribute to overall brain health.
One study done with mice gives us specific insight into the benefits of kimchi and how it can help to improve cognitive function. Mice were injected with amyloid beta, a substance known to be associated with memory and cognitive impairments, as well as found in people with Alzheimer’s disease. One group of mice was also given compounds from kimchi in addition to the amyloid beta. The mice receiving the kimchi compound had fewer cognitive deficits than the control group.
While more research is needed, the results suggest that because kimchi has antioxidative and anti-inflammatory compounds, it may help to lessen the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and certainly could be used as a preventative measure against cognitive impairments.11
Promotes Weight Loss
The benefits of kimchi include its potential to help you lose weight. Some researchers believe that our modern-day altered microbiomes may contribute to the prevalence of excess body fat. Thankfully, the evidence also suggests that some probiotic strains can help to reduce weight and inflammation, as well as help with weight management.12
In one study, researchers fed mice a high fat diet. One group was also fed a probiotic strain from fermented napa cabbage kimchi. The mice receiving kimchi probiotics had less weight gain, better glucose tolerance, and changes in genes that help to regulate metabolism.13 In another study of Koreans with obesity, participants who consumed a probiotic strain from kimchi had a reduced body fat mass.14
Kimchi is not an instant weight-loss gimmick. However, the research shows that kimchi can certainly be a part of a healthy diet and weight-loss plan.
The ability to reduce inflammation is yet another of kimchi’s health benefits. Several studies have shown that particular bacteria strains in kimchi have anti-inflammatory effects.15,16,17 These have been shown to help alleviate colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases. 15 Some of these strains are not only anti-inflammatory, but also anti-oxidant and anti-cancer. 17 These superpowers are more compelling reasons to consume kimchi on a regular basis.
How to Make Homemade Kimchi
The great news is that you can easily make delicious kimchi at home. Though kimchi can be made with a variety of ingredients, the most common ones include napa cabbage, daikon radishes, garlic, green onions, ginger, and Himalayan salt. It also typically includes flavorful additions like korean chili flakes or sauce, miso paste, or fish sauce.
To prepare kimchi at home, cut the vegetables into small pieces and massage with salt. Next, add the remaining flavorings and mix well. Pack the mixture into a mason jar, cover with a salt brine, and use a Fermentools glass weight and airlock system to ensure a smooth fermentation process. Let the kimchi ferment at room temperature for about one week before removing the airlock and storing in the refrigerator.
The evidence is clear: kimchi is delicious, nutritious, and wonderfully healthy for you. We hope you enjoy making, eating, and enjoying the amazing health benefits of kimchi in your own home.
Variations of Kimchi
If you come to love this fantistic fermented superfood and want a bit of a variety, check out this Kimchi Recipe Round-up: 7 Delicious Kimchi Recipes to Satisfy
1 “Cabbage, Kimchi.” Nutrition Facts for Cabbage, Kimchi, Recommended Daily Values and Analysis., 2021, www.nutritionvalue.org/Cabbage%2C_kimchi_nutritional_value.html.
2 Swain, Manas Ranjan, et al. “Fermented Fruits and Vegetables of Asia: a Potential Source of Probiotics.” Biotechnology Research International, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4058509/.
3 Choi, In Hwa, et al. “Kimchi, a Fermented Vegetable, Improves Serum Lipid Profiles in Healthy Young Adults: Randomized Clinical Trial.” Journal of Medicinal Food, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Mar. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3598433/.
4 Jo, Se Yeon, et al. “Characterization of Starter Kimchi Fermented with Leuconostoc Kimchii GJ2 and Its Cholesterol‐Lowering Effects in Rats Fed a High‐Fat and High‐Cholesterol Diet.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 18 Dec. 2014, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jsfa.7018.
5 Kim HJ; Noh JS; Song. “Beneficial Effects of Kimchi, a Korean Fermented Vegetable Food, on Pathophysiological Factors Related to Atherosclerosis.” Journal of Medicinal Food, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29271694/.
6 Divya, Jayakumar Beena, et al. “Probiotic Fermented Foods for Health Benefits.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 19 July 2012, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/elsc.201100179.
7 Ohland, Christina L., and Wallace K. MacNaughton. “Probiotic Bacteria and Intestinal Epithelial Barrier Function.” American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 1 June 2010, journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpgi.00243.2009.
8 ML;, Lei YM;Nair L;Alegre. “The Interplay between the Intestinal Microbiota and the Immune System.” Clinics and Research in Hepatology and Gastroenterology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25481240/.
9 King, Sarah, et al. “Effectiveness of Probiotics on the Duration of Illness in Healthy Children and Adults Who Develop Common Acute Respiratory Infectious Conditions: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” The British Journal of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24780623/.
10 Grenham, Sue, et al. “Brain–Gut–Microbe Communication in Health and Disease.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 18 Nov. 2011, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2011.00094/full.
11 Woo, Minji, et al. “Bioactive Compounds in Kimchi Improve the Cognitive and Memory Functions Impaired by Amyloid Beta.” MDPI, Nutrients, 20 Oct. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6213637/pdf/nutrients-10-01554.pdf.
12 Ferrarese, R., et al. “Probiotics, Prebiotics and Synbiotics for Weight Loss and Metabolic Syndrome in the Microbiome Era.” European Review, 2018, www.europeanreview.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/7588-7605.pdf.
13 Lee , E, et al. “Lactobacillus Plantarum Strain Ln4 Attenuates Diet-Induced Obesity, Insulin Resistance, and Changes in Hepatic MRNA Levels Associated with Glucose and Lipid Metabolism.” Nutrients, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29783731/.
14 Lim, Soo, et al. “Effect of Lactobacillus Sakei, a Probiotic Derived from Kimchi, on Body Fat in Koreans with Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Study.” Endocrinology and Metabolism, Korean Endocrine Society, 30 June 2020, synapse.koreamed.org/articles/1144640.
15 Park , JS, et al. “A Lactic Acid Bacterium Isolated from Kimchi Ameliorates Intestinal Inflammation in DSS-Induced Colitis.” Journal of Microbiology (Seoul, Korea), U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28124779/.
16 Yu, Hyung-Seok, and Na-Kyoung Lee. “Anti-Inflammatory Potential of Probiotic Strain Weissella Cibaria JW15 Isolated from Kimchi through Regulation of NF-ΚB and MAPKs Pathways in LPS-Induced RAW 264.7 Cells.” Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, The Korean Society for Microbiology and Biotechnology, 2019, www.koreascience.or.kr/article/JAKO201921956453164.page.
17 Lee, Na-Kyoung, et al. “Multifunctional Effect of Probiotic Lactococcus Lactis KC24 Isolated from Kimchi.” LWT – Food Science and Technology, Academic Press, 13 July 2015, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0023643815300347.
Abigail is an aspiring homesteader, homeschooler, and music-maker. She lives with her husband and three children on her acre-and a half homestead in scenic Pennsylvania. You can visit her blog about living the homegrown life (and seeking contentment while doing it) at They’re Not Our Goats.
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