9 Surprising Benefits of Kimchi

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Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made with salted fermented vegetables. It is nutrient-dense, contains probiotics, and may help support the immune system and reduce inflammation, among many possible benefits.

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

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

This dish is not only delectable but also offers many health benefits 

Here are 9 unique benefits of kimchi.

kimchi in a bowl with chopsticksShare on Pinterest
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.

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 may offer several benefits, including treating conditions like hay fever 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 the prevention and treatment of 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 typical serving of kimchi.

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

    . 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 the inflammatory marker tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) 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. 
    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  

    In another mouse study, a kimchi extract administered at 91 mg per pound of body weight (200 mg per kg) 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.

    5. May slow aging

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

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

    In a test-tube study, human cells treated with kimchi demonstrated increased viability, which measures overall cell health, as well as showed an extended life span regardless of their age.

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

    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 people 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.

    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.

    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 people in the control group. In addition, the kimchi extract appeared to suppress fat growth.

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

    Meanwhile, a weeklong study including 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.

    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, along with 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 it 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, 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 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.