7 Kimchi Benefits 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 healthy benefits.

<p>Kondoruk/Getty Images</p>

Kondoruk/Getty Images

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

“I’ve been eating all kinds of kimchi my whole life, and even helped my grandmother make it as a kid,” says Maggie Moon, RD, a Korean-American dietitian and owner of Kimchi Curious, a website dedicated to the deliciousness of kimchi. “Kimchi is essential to the Korean eating experience. You’ll just about always find it on the table on its own as a banchan (side dish), but it may also show up in soups, stews, cold noodle dishes, fried rice, savory pancakes, and more.” There isn’t a universal recipe for kimchi, and Moon reminds us that every Korean household has their preferred way of making it.

Related:Fermentation: This Ancient Technique Is the Key to Our Plant-Based Future

How you eat kimchi depends partly on what stage it’s in—whether it was recently made 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 pungent,” Moon explains. “Older, pungent kimchi is best for savory pancakes, stews, and fried rice, since the flavor mellows with cooking. You need a strong kimchi that will keep some of its flavor when cooked similar to how tart apples are used to make apple pie.”

As a fermented food, kimchi is often praised as a gut-friendly source of 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 kick 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 surrounding gut health. There’s an entire ecosystem living in your gut, known as the gut microbiome, and research has found that eating a diet rich in fermented foods like kimchi helps add “good” bacteria and diversify the microbiome to help improve digestion and immunity, as well as reduce gut inflammation.

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

Antibiotics are often necessary to kill bad bacteria (i.e. infections), but they also take the good bacteria with it. So after a round of antibiotics, for example, eating fermented foods that are rich in probiotics is especially beneficial for repopulating the good gut flora and returning your digestive system to a healthy state.

Kimchi is packed with plant-powered nutrients.

Vegetables are an essential food group, yet not enough people are eating 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 many that struggle to make vegetables enjoyable, kimchi, made primarily from cabbage and various other veggies, is a superb, savory way to get more plant-powered fiber, important micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals), and phenolic compounds.

“Kimchi is made with a combination of vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, and celery, yielding a nutrient-rich food profile,” confirms registered dietitian Johna Burdeos, RD.

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

  • Fiber

  • Iron

  • B vitamins

  • Folate

  • Vitamin K

  • Sodium

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

Kimchi may help improve blood lipid levels.

Your blood lipids refer to the amount of fats in your blood, such as cholesterol and triglyceride. High blood lipid levels can be an indicator of potential health complications relating to heart health (high cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in U.S. adults.)

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

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

Kimchi is high in vitamin C.

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

You may 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 kimchi, but cabbage-based kimchi can have up to 50.64 mg of vitamin C per 100-gram serving. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends 75 to 90 mg of vitamin C daily 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 stave off diseases.

Kimchi is a rich vitamin K source 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 have dubbed kimchi as 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 may increase the bioavailability of its vitamin K.

Kimchi may help prevent vaginal yeast infections.

Yeast infections are no fun, but three in four women will be affected by them 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 may prevent vaginal yeast infections,” Burdeos says. In a 2019 study, three bacterial strains from kimchi were isolated and shown to improve mucosal health by demonstrating antimicrobial and antibacterial activity against fungus 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’s an unexpected, nutrition-based preventive measure to consider (and it certainly can’t hurt).

Kimchi may have benefits for those with prediabetes.

More than one-third of U.S. adults have prediabetes, as estimated by the CDC. However, most folks don’t know 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, Moon suggests, pointing to a small but telling study: “In a small study of people with prediabetes, eating 10-day-fermented kimchi decreased insulin resistance and blood pressure, while glucose tolerance improved by 33 percent compared to 1-day-fermented kimchi,” she explains.

Related:6 Healthy Foods That Boost Metabolism

Easy, Healthy Recipes With Kimchi

Bulgogi-Inspired Beef Tacos

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Greg DuPree
Greg DuPree

Miso Chicken Noodle Soup With Kimchi

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Linda Pugliese
Linda Pugliese

Kimchi Cabbage Cakes

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Victor Protasio
Victor Protasio

Korean-Style Lettuce Wraps

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Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

Steak House Bibimbap Bowls

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Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

Related:These 5 Tasty Dinner Ideas Are Extra-Good for Your Gut

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