Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

9 Surprising Benefits of Kimchi

Food
9 Surprising Benefits of Kimchi
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

The frozen meat section at a supermarket in Hong Kong, China, in February. Chukrut Budrul / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Imported frozen food in three Chinese cities has tested positive for the new coronavirus, but public health experts say you still shouldn't worry too much about catching the virus from food or packaging.

Read More Show Less
This image of the Santa Monica Mountains in California shows how a north-facing slope (left) can be covered in white-blooming hoaryleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius), while the south-facing slope (right) is much less sparsely covered in a completely different plant. Noah Elhardt / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.5

By Mark Mancini

If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.

Read More Show Less
Flames from the Lake Fire burn on a hillside near a fire truck and other vehicles on Aug. 12, 2020 in Lake Hughes, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.

Read More Show Less
Although heat waves rarely get the attention that hurricanes do, they kill far more people per year in the U.S. and abroad. greenaperture / Getty Images

By Jeff Berardelli

Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020

If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.

Read More Show Less

A film by Felix Nuhr.

Thailand has a total population of 5,000 elephants. But of that number, 3,000 live in captivity, carrying tourists on their backs and offering photo opportunities made for social media.

Read More Show Less
Scientists have found a way to use bricks as batteries, meaning that buildings may one day be used to store and generate power. Public Domain Pictures

One of the challenges of renewable power is how to store clean energy from the sun, wind and geothermal sources. Now, a new study and advances in nanotechnology have found a method that may relieve the burden on supercapacitor storage. This method turns bricks into batteries, meaning that buildings themselves may one day be used to store and generate power, Science Times reported.

Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.

The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.

If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.

The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.

"A solar cell on the roof of your house has to store electricity somewhere and typically we use batteries," D'Arcy told The Guardian. "What we have done is provide a new 'food-for-thought' option, but we're not there yet.

"If [that can happen], this technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries," D'Arcy added. "It would be a different world and you would not hear the words 'lithium ion battery' again."

Trending

Aerial view of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Gamboa, Panama, where a new soil study was held, on Sept. 11, 2019. LUIS ACOSTA / AFP via Getty Images

One of the concerns about a warming planet is the feedback loop that will emerge. That is, as the planet warms, it will melt permafrost, which will release trapped carbon and lead to more warming and more melting. Now, a new study has shown that the feedback loop won't only happen in the nether regions of the north and south, but in the tropics as well, according to a new paper in Nature.

Read More Show Less