What Is Kimchi?
Kimchi is an essential element of Korean cuisine. It can act as an ingredient in a recipe, but it is most often served as a side dish. Kimchi is usually made from fermented cabbage, but other fermented vegetables, such as radishes, can also be used as the basis of kimchi.
A variety of preparations and recipes exist, so it can look quite different, with the photo above illustrating only some of these variations. Today, kimchi has become a widespread food around the world, with many supermarkets and Asian specialty shops selling several brands of kimchi worldwide.
Still, most Koreans prepare their own kimchi at home, and so can you by following this super easy kimchi recipe. The advantage of preparing your own kimchi is that you can adjust the taste to your liking, and it’s usually much cheaper to make your own kimchi. But before you prepare this delicious side dish, we recommend you learn about its nutritional facts and health benefits.
Kimchi is a low-fat, low-calorie food that is rich in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and essential probiotics and antioxidants. The chart below shows its nutritional value. As you may note, kimchi is quite salty, so it’s not recommended to eat more than a serving a day. But because it is usually eaten as a side dish, most people don’t eat too much anyway.
Because of its high content in antioxidants and probiotics, kimchi is associated with a variety of health benefits, with clear skin, a strong immune system, and low cholesterol levels being just a few. A list of kimchi's nutritional value can be found in the picture above.
1. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
As reported by a Korean study, kimchi can lower the levels of both total cholesterol and specifically LDL (bad) cholesterol. The researchers conclude that eating kimchi regularly can help normalize cholesterol levels and even decreasing the risk of developing atherosclerosis.
The scientists suggest that fermentation, as well as allicin, a compound contained in garlic, which is one of the ingredients of kimchi, may be responsible for the cholesterol-lowering properties.
2. May Prevent the Development of Cancers
A tube study confirmed that kimchi may have anticancer properties, although it is unknown if the findings are limited to certain kinds of cancers. Kimchi has high levels of flavonoid antioxidants and β-sitosterol, a waxy compound found in certain vegetables that is used as an anti-inflammatory in medicines.
The combination of these two compounds, both of which kimchi contains naturally, is likely what accounted for the cancer-preventing findings.
3. Reduces Insulin Resistance
Prediabetic patients that ate kimchi every day have been shown to have fewer sugar spikes and better fasting sugar levels than those that didn’t just after 1 month of eating kimchi regularly. This was especially true among those patients that ate a low or moderately fatty diet. Therefore, daily kimchi consumption may relieve diabetic symptoms.
4. Boosts the Immune System
Since kimchi is a complex and fermented food that often contains such outstanding ingredients as ginger, garlic, and pepper, it "borrows" its immune-boosting properties as well. That and the combination of antioxidants and Vitamin C guarantees for a real immune boost after eating a portion of kimchi, especially during flu season.
5. Promotes Digestion
Kimchi helps get rid of constipation and, if eaten regularly, normalizes the digestive processes, mainly because it is rich in fiber and fermented ingredients. Speaking of fermentation, kimchi can also promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut, as it introduces Lactobacillus bacteria into the gut.
As we have stressed in countless previous articles, healthy gut flora is necessary not only for digestion but also for skin health and likely even brain and mental health.
6. Promotes Weight Loss
Kimchi is rich in dietary fiber and has very little calories, so it is a great food to eat if you want to feel fuller for longer. The fermented ingredients and antidiabetic effect may also suppress your appetite and make you crave less sugary foods. The weight loss effect of kimchi was confirmed in a study that found that the BMI of patients who ate kimchi for a month was lower than those who didn’t.
7. May Lower Blood Pressure