Kimchi is sort of a cousin to sauerkraut and the Korean take on cultured veggies. Kimchi is a traditional fermented probiotic food that is a staple Korean side dish.

Today, Kimchi is considered to be Korea’s “national dish” — on average people in Korea consume about 18 kilograms of kimchi per person, per year! Never tried kimchi? Kimchi tastes spicy and is sour due to the fermentation process that produces live and active “probiotic cultures,” which are responsible for some of its benefits, including improved digestion and raising immune function.

Why makes Kimchi Beneficial?

Kimchi undergoes a traditional fermentation process during which the flavours, textures and health benefits of kimchi dramatically change and improve, which is why kimchi is now growing in popularity worldwide as a “superfood.”

In a 2014 report published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods, the fermentative byproducts formed during fermentation and the functional ingredients used to make kimchi significantly boost its benefits as these are responsible for the forming of probiotics.

The WHO (World Health Organization) defines probiotics as “live organisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.” The organic acids called lactobacilli and lactic acid are the primary types of probiotics produced during its fermentation. These probiotics are known to suppress harmful bacteria and stimulate beneficial bacteria, prevent constipation, clean the intestines & even prevent colon cancer.

Based on research, some of kimchi’s benefits might include:

  • probiotic properties
  • anticancer properties
  • anti-obesity effects
  • antioxidative and anti-aging properties
  • seasonal allergy support
  • anti-constipation properties
  • colorectal health promotion
  • cholesterol reduction
  • fibrolytic effects
  • brain health promotion
  • immune promotion
  • treating leaky gut syndrome
  • skin health promotion

Beginning in the early 20th century, health researchers startd speculating that probiotic foods contained proteolytic microbes that worked in the colon to reduce toxic substances responsible for the aging process. They theorized that the consumption of fermented foods coats the colon with LAB bacteria, decreasing intestinal pH, suppressing dangerous bacteria and leading to a slower rate of aging. Since then, numerous studies suggest this to be true of many different cultured foods.

This superfood has even been associated with lower rates of obesity in Korea and helps keep Koreans energized, which is one reason they are known to be such a hard-working nation!

Kimchi Nutrition Facts

About 1/2 cup of kimchi (280 grams) has approximately:

  • 96 calories
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 3 grams protein
  • 1 gram fat
  • 20 grams carbohydrates
  • 2,273 IU vitamin A (45 percent DV (daily value) )
  • 21 micrograms vitamin K (26 percent DV)
  • 0.5 milligram manganese (25 percent DC)
  • 12.3 milligrams vitamin C (21 percent DV)
  • 0.3 milligram vitamin B6 (13 percent DV)
  • 2.1 milligrams iron (12 percent DC)

5 Benefits of Kimchi

  1. Providing Probiotics that Help Improve Digestion

We hear about the benefits of probiotic foods like yogurt and sauerkraut all the time, but don’t underestimate kimchi, which has tons of these gut-friendly bacteria, too. Responsible for kimchi’s carbonation, sour taste and pungent smell, probiotics develop during fermentation as bacterial enzymes that are able to rapidly reproduce from thriving off of the sugar molecules found in the vegetables. But remember that “real” kimchi also has to be refrigerated and unpasteurized for the probiotics to remain intact.

Re-populating “good” bacterial microflora of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can play an important role in preventing the pathophysiology of some GI disorders, according to the Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Quite frankly, kimchi can “keep you regular” and help you poop!

Fermented foods may be useful for anyone suffering from common digestive issues such as constipation or more serious conditions like candida virus, leaky gut syndrome or autoimmune disorders. The efficacy of probiotics, either as a single strain or a combination of probiotics found in some cultured foods, has been shown to be beneficial in antibiotic-associated diarrhea, clostridium difficile colitis, infectious diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, pouchitis and irritable bowel syndrome, among other disorders.

Over and above being a great source of probiotics, kimchi is also high in fibre. Increased fibre intake benefits a number of gastrointestinal disorders, such as: gastroesophageal reflux disease, duodenal ulcer, diverticulitis, constipation and hemorrhoids.

  1. Helps Increase Immunity

Over 75 percent of our immune system is actually stored within our gut, probiotic-rich kimchi could help you fight bacterial infections, viruses, common illnesses and serious chronic conditions, too. Probiotics have been linked to lower rates of:

  • leaky gut syndrome symptoms
  • food or seasonal allergies
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • cognitive-related diseases like dementia and Alzheimers
  • ulcer symptoms
  • autoimmune disorders like arthritis
  • hemorroids
  • bacterial vaginosis
  • bladder infections and urinary tract infections
  • dental or respiratory infections
  • even obesity and cancer

Apart from containing probiotics, kimchi is full of ingredients that are known to stimulate healthy immune function. Red pepper powder has anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant effects and even capable of helping food avoid spoiling since it contains natural antibacterial properties.

Garlic is also an immune system booster that inhibits the activities of  harmful viruses, fights fatigue, lowers inflammation and has been considered a food for promoting longevity for thousands of years. Ginger is a time-honored beneficial ingredient that helps: soothe the digestive organs, nourish the gut, fight bacteria and help you heal faster from being sick.

Last, but not least, cabbage is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-packaged vegetable that provides vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and other important nutrients. Specific biochemicals, including isocyanate and sulfide, that are in Chinese cabbage and radishes are effective in preventing cancer and detoxifying heavy metals in the liver, kidney and small intestine. Another benefit of kimchi is the prebiotic fibres found in the cabbage, radishes and other ingredients that are capable of helping to enhance immune function, especially in the digestive organs.

  1. High in Fibre

Kimchi is made primarily of vegetables, that provides a good dose of dietary fibre that is filling and good for digestive and heart health. Cabbage is especially a good source of fibre and is high in volume, but low in calories and carbs.

Diets that include more high-fiber foods, especially vegetables, are linked to lower blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels, improvements in glycemia and insulin sensitivity, and significantly enhanced weight loss. Increasing fiber in your diet can help you eat less overall since it swells up, absorbs water and makes you feel full. Even small amounts of kimchi can help you reach your fiber quota for the day and give you a nice dose of probiotics in the process, so try using kimchi on some of your favorite recipes as a healthy condiment.

  1. Low in Calories and Can Help Reduce Cravings

Many people find that consuming fermented foods helps kill their sugar addiction, improves digestion and helps with appetite regulation. If weight loss is your primary goal, luckily kimchi is very low in calories but high in nutrients and satiating fiber. It might even be able to help improve metabolic function, since its spicy red pepper flakes are known to cause warming, thermogenic effects inside the body.

Probiotic supplements and foods are now being linked with reductions in weight and body fat. Recent studies suggest that manipulation of the microbial ecosystem in the gut might even be a new novel approach in the treatment of obesity. In the future, we might see that treatment options for helping reduce overeating and obesity might consist of altering the compositions of the microbial communities of obese individuals by giving them probiotic bacterial microorganisms, including Lactobacillus gasseri SBT 2055, Lactobacillus rhamnosus ATCC 53103, and the combination of L. rhamnosus ATCC 53102 and Bifidobacterium lactis.

How are probiotics related to weight gain or loss? Short-chain fatty acid production and low-grade inflammation have been found to be important underlying mechanisms of action that influence appetite, metabolism and body weight, and these are highly connected to gut health. This means that finding the most effective combination and dosage rate of probiotic micro-organisms will likely be able to help those who struggle with controlling cravings, regulating appetite hormones and fighting impulses to overeat.

  1. Provides Antioxidants that Can Help Fight Cancer

Kimchi is chock-full of anti-inflammatory foods and spices that are known to be cancer-fighting foods since they promote overall better health, longevity and slow down oxidative stress. For example, different color varieties of cabbage can contribute a range of important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds to your diet. Garlic, ginger, radishes, red pepper and scallions are also high in antioxidant properties that help lower inflammation. Anti-inflammatory foods are important for preventing chronic diseases associated to oxidative stress, such as cancer, cognitive disorders and coronary artery diseases.

Certain studies suggest that the compound capsaicin, which is contained in the red hot pepper powder of kimchi, helps reduce the chance of developing lung cancer. Allicin, another beneficial chemical contained in garlic, helps reduce the chance of developing liver, stomach and thyroid cancer. In addition, the indole-3-carbinol contained in Chinese cabbage helps reduce the chance of developing stomach or colon cancer.