The Top 5 Health Benefits of Kimchi, According to Experts
If you’re a fan of tangy, spicy foods and want to sneak more nutrients into your diet, you may want to consider adding Kimchi to your diet. This Korean dish is made with fermented vegetables that result in an overall tangy, sour taste. You can find Kimchi at most grocery stores and ethnic markets, although if you have dietary restrictions note that most kimchi contains fish paste.
It’s simple to prepare this dish at home with a variety of plant-based ingredients. The process starts with salting the cabbage to draw out the water, which helps preserve it for longer. Then, add spices to the brine such as ginger, garlic, shallot, or even soy sauce and ferment it all for 3-4 days in a cool, dark place. “Fermentation is a process that encourages the growth of good bacteria for our gut,” says Ashley Shaw, MS, RD, a dietitian at Preg Appetit says.
Kimchi packs a tangy punch due to all the veggies and spices that give it flavor. Not only is it delicious, but it’s quite nutritious too thanks to the veggies and fermentation process it undergoes.
The 5 Health Benefits of Kimchi
1. Kimchi helps boost your gut health.
Kimchi is full of probiotics – live bacteria and yeasts that provide health benefits when consumed. “When foods are fermented, they produce probiotics. By eating probiotics we are increasing the ratio of good to bad bacteria, improving our immune and digestive systems,” says Shaw.
A 2019 study in the journal Nutrients concluded that taking probiotics to maintain a healthy gut can offer many benefits, including help with serious diseases, saying, "Probiotic microorganisms are attributed a high therapeutic potential in obesity, insulin resistance syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcohol hepatic steatosis. It seems also that probiotics may be helpful in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, enteritis, bacterial infections, and various gastrointestinal disorders."
2. Kimchi helps strengthen your immune system.
Over 70 percent of our immune system is in our gut. Immune cells in our gut interact with our microbiome, the ecosystem of bacteria and microorganisms that exists inside of our bodies, says Shaw. Our diet and lifestyle largely influence our gut microbiome, thereby affecting our immunity.
A 2021 study published in Cell found that eating kimchi and other fermented vegetables helped decrease inflammatory markers and increase microbial diversity, suggesting improved immunity.
3. Kimchi may help slow down aging.
The secret to a youthful glow may involve eating nutritious foods filled with antioxidants. A 2019 study published in Nutrition Research and Practice found that the consumption of kimchi decreased cellular damage and inflammation in rats with liver cirrhosis.
Kimchi is full of antioxidants and vitamins that help protect against free radicals. The accumulation of many free radicals is suggested to induce aging in humans, researchers note in a 2020 Frontiers article.
4. Kimchi helps support heart health.
The key to a healthy heart is a diet rich in fiber and low in cholesterol. “Eating a plant-forward diet that is high in fiber has been proven to improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and overall heart health,” Shaw says. One cup of kimchi has 2.4 grams of fiber and 3.6 grams of carbohydrates, making it a low-carb food. You can add more fiber to homemade kimchi by fermenting fiber-rich vegetables, such as carrots, beets, and broccoli.
5. Kimchi helps boost brain health.
Researchers have studied that the gut is like your second brain, where it helps control digestion, impact mood, and affect cognition. Therefore, what you eat can impact how your brain functions. “Probiotic-rich foods, such as kimchi, are filled with beneficial bacteria that help your body and brain,” says Dr. Uma Naidoo, MD, author of This Is Your Brain On Food. Certain species of bacteria found in kimchi can help boost levels of brain chemicals, improving mood and other mental health conditions, studies show.