Kimchi is a staple in Korean cuisine, but we’re now seeing it all over the place in the U.S. too. Why? In addition to being tangy, delicious and versatile, it’s extremely healthy. Read on to find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about this fermented nutritional powerhouse.
What Is Kimchi?
Though there are tons of variations on the classic recipe, traditional kimchi is made from cabbage that's fermented in a mixture of garlic, salt, vinegar, chili peppers and other spices. In Korean households, it's traditionally served as a side dish (at every meal), but it’s also a great snack to keep in your fridge. It’s delicious in grain bowls, with eggs, in stews and more. Basically, it’s very versatile.
What’s the Nutritional Information?
Because there are lots of different brands of kimchi (and many people choose to make their own), it’s hard to pin down exact nutritional information. However, according to the USDA, here’s what’s usually in a one-cup serving of kimchi:
- Calories: 23
- Carbs: 4 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: <1 gram
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sodium: 747 milligrams
- Vitamin B6: 19% of the RDA
- Vitamin C: 22% of the RDA
- Vitamin K: 55% of the RDA
- Folate: 20% of the RDA
- Iron: 21% of the RDA
- Niacin: 10% of the RDA
- Riboflavin: 24% of the RDA
What Are the Health Benefits of Kimchi?
1. It’s an Excellent Source of Probiotics
Probiotics are crucial to gut health (which goes hand in hand with mental health). Fermented foods like kimchi are fantastic sources of probiotics, which is why so many nutritionists and other experts recommend consuming them daily. Probiotics have been linked to preventing or improving tons of conditions, from the common cold and constipation to mental health and even certain types of cancer. The point is, we should all be eating more probiotic foods, like, immediately.
2. It Could Help You Lose Weight
In tandem with other healthy-eating practices, incorporating kimchi into your diet could aid in weight loss. One 2015 Korean study of mice found that kimchi “exhibited anti-obesity activity.” Again, eating only kimchi and cookies isn’t going to help you lose weight, but the former can (and should) be part of a balanced diet.
3. It Could Strengthen Your Immune System
Kimchi is a fabulous source of antioxidants, which can boost your immunity, says another Korean study. How? The antioxidants found in food can help protect your cells from the effects of free radicals and can help reduce an overabundance of inflammation in your body, helping you fight infections and other bad guys.
4. It Can Regulate Cholesterol Levels
Researchers at the Pusan National University in Korea found that people who ate kimchi had lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (aka “bad cholesterol”). Translation: Eating kimchi could reduce the risk of cardiac disorders like strokes and heart attacks. Roger that.
What Are Some Other Probiotic Foods?
You know this pickled cabbage dish is the ultimate hot dog topping, but did you know that it’s also full of probiotics and equally delicious when piled onto a salad or sandwich? And one study published in World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology found that it could also reduce cholesterol levels.
This tangy beverage is made by fermenting milk with bacteria and yeast, and it’s actually an even better source of probiotics than yogurt. It also boasts high levels of nutrients like protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and magnesium. Use it the same way you would its creamier cousin (we like ours poured over cereal).
3. Dark Chocolate
You know that probiotics are great for your gut, but did you know that in order to reap the benefits, you actually need to feed the good bacteria prebiotics (i.e., nondigestible fiber that helps the good bacteria in your body thrive)? Luckily, chocolate contains both of these ingredients, plus high levels of antioxidants and nutrients.