Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

9 Surprising Benefits of Kimchi

Food
Kimchi, seen above, is a sour Korean dish often made from cabbage and other vegetables. Because it's a fermented food, it boasts numerous probiotics. KarpenkovDenis / iStock / Getty Images

By Cecilia Snyder, MS, RD

Historically, it hasn't always been possible to grow fresh vegetables throughout the year.


Therefore, people developed methods of food preservation, such as pickling and fermentation — a process that uses enzymes to create chemical changes in food.

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made with salted, fermented vegetables. It typically contains cabbage and seasonings like sugar, salt, onions, garlic, ginger, and chili peppers.

It may also boast other vegetables, including radish, celery, carrot, cucumber, eggplant, spinach, scallions, beets, and bamboo shoots.

Though usually fermented for a few days to a few weeks before serving, it can also be eaten fresh, or unfermented, immediately after preparation.

Not only is this dish delectable, but it also offers many health benefits.

Here are 9 unique benefits of kimchi.

1. Nutrient Dense

Kimchi is packed with nutrients while being low in calories.

On its own, Chinese cabbage — one of the main ingredients in kimchi — boasts vitamins A and C, at least 10 different minerals, and over 34 amino acids.

Since kimchi varies widely in ingredients, its exact nutritional profile differs between batches and brands. All the same, a 1-cup (150-gram) serving contains approximately.

  • 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

Many green vegetables are good sources of nutrients like vitamin K and riboflavin. Because kimchi often comprises several green veggies, such as cabbage, celery, and spinach, it's typically a great source of these nutrients.

Vitamin K plays an important role in many bodily functions, including bone metabolism and blood clotting, while riboflavin helps regulate energy production, cellular growth, and metabolism.

What's more, the fermentation process may develop additional nutrients that are more easily absorbed by your body.

Summary

Kimchi has an excellent nutritional profile. The dish is low in calories but packed with nutrients like iron, folate, and vitamins B6 and K.

2. Contains Probiotics

The lacto-fermentation process that kimchi undergoes makes it particularly unique. Fermented foods not only have an extended shelf life but also an enhanced taste and aroma.

Fermentation occurs when a starch or sugar is converted into an alcohol or acid by organisms like yeast, mold, or bacteria.

Lacto-fermentation uses the bacterium Lactobacillus to break sugars down into lactic acid, which gives kimchi its characteristic sourness.

When taken as a supplement, This bacterium itself may have several benefits, including treating conditions like hayfever and certain types of diarrhea.

Fermentation also creates an environment that allows other friendly bacteria to thrive and multiply. These include probiotics, which are live microorganisms that offer health benefits when consumed in large amounts.

In fact, they're linked to protection from or improvements in several conditions, including:

  • certain types of cancer
  • the common cold
  • constipation
  • gastrointestinal health
  • heart health
  • mental health
  • skin conditions

Keep in mind that many of these findings are related to high-dose probiotic supplements and not the amounts found in a normal serving of kimchi.

The probiotics in kimchi are believed to be responsible for many of its benefits. Nonetheless, more research is needed on the specific effects of probiotics from fermented foods.

Summary

Fermented foods like kimchi offer probiotics, which may help prevent and treat several conditions.

3. May Strengthen Your Immune System

The Lactobacillus bacterium in kimchi may boost your immune health.

In a study in mice, those injected with Lactobacillus plantarum — a specific strain that's common in kimchi and other fermented foods — had lower levels of TNF alpha, an inflammatory marker, than the control group.

Because TNF alpha levels are often elevated during infection and disease, a decrease indicates that the immune system is working efficiently.

A test-tube study that isolated Lactobacillus plantarum from kimchi likewise demonstrated that this bacterium has immune-enhancing effects.

Though these results are promising, human research is needed.

Summary

A specific strain of Lactobacillus found in kimchi may boost your immune system, though further research is necessary.

4. May Reduce Inflammation

Probiotics and active compounds in kimchi and other fermented foods may help fight inflammation.

For example, a mouse study revealed that HDMPPA, one of the principal compounds in kimchi, improved blood vessel health by suppressing inflammation.

In another mouse study, a kimchi extract of 91 mg per pound of body weight (200 mg per kg) given daily for 2 weeks lowered levels of inflammation-related enzymes.

Meanwhile, a test-tube study confirmed that HDMPPA displays anti-inflammatory properties by blocking and suppressing the release of inflammatory compounds.

However, human studies are lacking.

Summary

HDMPPA, an active compound in kimchi, may play a large role in reducing inflammation.

5. May Slow Aging

Chronic inflammation is not only associated with numerous illnesses, but it also accelerates the aging process.

Yet, kimchi possibly prolongs cell life by slowing this process.

In a test-tube study, human cells treated with kimchi demonstrated an increase in viability, which measures overall cell health — and showed an extended lifespan regardless of their age.

Still, overall research is lacking. Many more studies are needed before kimchi can be recommended as an anti-aging treatment.

Summary

A test-tube study indicates that kimchi may slow the aging process, though more research is necessary.

6. May Prevent Yeast Infections

Kimchi's probiotics and healthy bacteria may help prevent yeast infections.

Vaginal yeast infections occur when the Candida fungus, which is normally harmless, multiplies rapidly inside the vagina. Over 1.4 million women in the United States are treated for this condition each year.

As this fungus may be developing resistance to antibiotics, many researchers are looking for natural treatments.

Test-tube and animal studies suggest that certain strains of Lactobacillus fight Candida. One test-tube study even found that multiple strains isolated from kimchi displayed antimicrobial activity against this fungus.

Regardless, further research is necessary.

Summary

Probiotic-rich foods like kimchi may help prevent yeast infections, though research is in the early stages.

7. May Aid Weight Loss

Fresh and fermented kimchi are both low in calories and may boost weight loss.

A 4-week study in 22 people with excess weight found that eating fresh or fermented kimchi helped reduce body weight, body mass index (BMI), and body fat. Additionally, the fermented variety decreased blood sugar levels.

Keep in mind that those who ate fermented kimchi displayed significantly greater improvements in blood pressure and body fat percentage than those who ate the fresh dish.

It's unclear which properties of kimchi are responsible for its weight loss effects — though its low calorie count, high fiber content, and probiotics could all play a role.

Summary

Though the specific mechanism isn't known, kimchi may help reduce body weight, body fat, and even blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

8. May Support Heart Health

Research indicates that kimchi may reduce your risk of heart disease.

This may be due to its anti-inflammatory properties, as recent evidence suggests that inflammation may be an underlying cause of heart disease.

In an 8-week study in mice fed a high cholesterol diet, fat levels in the blood and liver were lower in those given kimchi extract than in the control group. In addition, the kimchi extract appeared to suppress fat growth.

This is important because the accumulation of fat in these areas may contribute to heart disease.

Meanwhile, a weeklong study in 100 people found that eating 0.5–7.5 ounces (15–210 grams) of kimchi daily significantly decreased blood sugar, total cholesterol, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels — all of which are risk factors for heart disease.

All the same, more human research is needed.

Summary

Kimchi may lower your risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation, suppressing fat growth, and decreasing cholesterol levels.

9. Easy to Make at Home

Though preparing fermented foods may seem like a daunting task, making kimchi at home is fairly simple if you adhere to the following steps:

  1. Gather ingredients of your choice, such as cabbage and other fresh vegetables like carrot, radish, and onion, plus ginger, garlic, sugar, salt, rice flour, chili oil, chili powder or pepper flakes, fish sauce, and saeujeot (fermented shrimp).
  2. Cut and wash the fresh vegetables alongside the ginger and garlic.
  3. Spread salt in between the layers of cabbage leaves and let it sit for 2–3 hours. Turn the cabbage every 30 minutes to evenly distribute the salt. Use a ratio of 1/2 cup (72 grams) of salt to every 6 pounds (2.7 kg) of cabbage.
  4. To remove the excess salt, rinse the cabbage with water and drain in a colander or strainer.
  5. Mix the rice flour, sugar, ginger, garlic, chili oil, pepper flakes, fish sauce, and saeujeot into a paste, adding water if necessary. You can use more or less of these ingredients depending on how strong you want your kimchi to taste.
  6. Toss the fresh vegetables, including the cabbage, into the paste until all of the veggies have been fully coated.
  7. Pack the mixture into a large container or jar for storage, making sure to seal it properly.
  8. Let the kimchi ferment for at least 3 days at room temperature or up to 3 weeks at 39 F (4 C).

To make a version that's suitable for vegetarians and vegans, simply leave out the fish sauce and saeujeot.

If you prefer fresh over fermented kimchi, just stop after step 6.

If you choose fermentation, you'll know that it's ready to eat once it starts to smell and taste sour — or when small bubbles begin to move through the jar.

After fermentation, you can refrigerate your kimchi for up to 1 year. It will continue to ferment but at a slower rate due to the cool temperature.

Bubbling, bulging, a sour taste, and a softening of the cabbage are all perfectly normal for kimchi. However, if you notice a foul odor or any signs of mold, such as a white film atop the food, your dish has spoiled and should be thrown out.

Summary

Kimchi can be made at home using a few simple steps. Typically, it needs to ferment 3–21 days depending on the surrounding temperature.

Does kimchi have any downsides?

In general, the biggest safety concern with kimchi is food poisoning.

Recently, this dish has been linked to E. coli and norovirus outbreaks.

Even though fermented foods don't typically carry foodborne pathogens, kimchi's ingredients and the adaptability of pathogens means that it's still vulnerable to foodborne illnesses.

As such, people with compromised immune systems may want to practice caution with kimchi.

Although people with high blood pressure may have concerns about this dish's high sodium content, a study in 114 people with this condition showed no significant relationship between kimchi intake and high blood pressure.

Summary

Kimchi has very few risks. Nonetheless, this dish has been tied to outbreaks of food poisoning, so people with compromised immune systems may want to use extra caution.

The Bottom Line

Kimchi is a sour Korean dish often made from cabbage and other vegetables. Because it's a fermented food, it boasts numerous probiotics.

These healthy microorganisms may give kimchi several health benefits. It may help regulate your immune system, promote weight loss, fight inflammation, and even slow the aging process.

If you enjoy cooking, you can even make kimchi at home.

Reposted with permission from Healthline. For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Supporters cheer before Trump arrives for a rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, OK. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

On Monday and Tuesday of the week that President Donald Trump held his first rally since March in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the county reported 76 and 96 new coronavirus cases respectively, according to POLITICO. This week, the county broke its new case record Monday with 261 cases and reported a further 206 cases on Tuesday. Now, Tulsa's top public health official thinks the rally and counterprotest "likely contributed" to the surge.

Read More Show Less
In the tropics, farmers often slash and burn forests to clear fertile land for crops, but a new method avoids that technique. Inga Foundation video

Rainforests are an important defense against climate change because they absorb carbon. But many are being destroyed on a massive scale.

Read More Show Less
A truck spreads lime on a meadow to increase the soil's fertility in Yorkshire Dales, UK. Farm Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As we look for advanced technology to replace our dependence on fossil fuels and to rid the oceans of plastic, one solution to the climate crisis might simply be found in rocks. New research found that dispersing rock dust over farmland could suck billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air every year, according to the first detailed large scale analysis of the technique, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning. Pxfuel

By Tim Radford

German scientists now know why so many fish are so vulnerable to ever-warming oceans. Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning.

Read More Show Less
Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Niq Steele / Getty Images

By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach

The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.

We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.

Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.

What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?

The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.

Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.

It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.

Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.

Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.


Nurses wear PPE prior to caring for a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Sharp Grossmont Hospital on May 5, 2020 in La Mesa, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

One of the initial reasons social distancing guidelines were put in place was to allow the healthcare system to adapt to a surge in patients since there was a critical shortage of beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment. In fact, masks that were designed for single-use were reused for an entire week in some hospitals.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Democratic presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders greet each other with a safe elbow bump before the start of the Democratic Party 2020 presidential debate in a CNN Washington Bureau studio in Washington, DC on March 15, 2020. Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.

"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."

The climate panel—co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry—recommended that the Democratic Party commit to "eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035," massively expanding investments in clean energy sources, and "achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030."

In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."

"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."

 

The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.

Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."

"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."

Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."

"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.

On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.

Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.

"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."

 

Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."

Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."

"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."

"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.