Health Benefits of Kimchi

Kimchi, the national food of South Korea, is a spicy pickled vegetable dish. Kimchi is traditionally made by combining cabbage, scallions, or radishes in a brine with garlic, ginger, chili pepper, and fish sauce, and allowing the ingredients to ferment. Kimchi has a rich history in South Korea dating back more than two thousand years. 

Traditionally, kimchi is fermented in cool pits in the ground to help control the speed at which bacteria can grow. Properly made, kimchi can help preserve vegetables all year long. Kimchi is a crunchy, flavorful food that can provide impressive health benefits.

Health Benefits

The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in kimchi can provide important health benefits. Choline, which is found in kimchi, is a natural compound vital for maintaining your cells, your muscles, your nervous system, and even your mood. Choline is also important for maintaining your memory.

Kimchi is also rich in vitamin K, which helps your blood clot and keeps your bones from becoming brittle.

Some other health benefits of kimchi include:

Improve Digestive Health

Kimchi is a fermented food, which makes it an excellent probiotic. The same lactobacilli bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented dairy products are also found in kimchi. Consuming the so-called “good bacteria” in kimchi can help you maintain a healthy digestion.

Eating the probiotics found in fermented food can help reduce the negative symptoms of many gastrointestinal disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and colon inflammation. Maintaining a healthy gut flora is important to your overall health.

Protect Your Heart

Probiotics have been shown to improve heart health by reducing cholesterol and inflammation. Studies show that kimchi can also reduce your risk of atherosclerosis through its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering properties.

Immune System Support

Early research indicates kimchi may be able to strengthen your immune system. The bacteria that help ferment kimchi have been connected to improved immune function and lower levels of inflammation triggered by disease. The vitamin C found in kimchi can also help boost your immune health.

Nutrition

Kimchi is full of beta-carotene and other antioxidant compounds that can help reduce the risk of serious health conditions such as stroke, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease

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Kimchi is also an excellent source of:

Nutrients per Serving

A one-cup serving of kimchi contains:

Things to Watch Out For

Kimchi’s status as a probiotic is helpful for many people, but it still contains live bacteria. The bacteria used to ferment kimchi are safe to consume. However, if kimchi is not properly prepared or stored, the fermentation process can cause food poisoning. As a result, people with compromised immune systems should take caution when eating kimchi or other fermented foods.

How to Prepare and Eat Kimchi

There are plenty of recipes for making your own kimchi at home.

The most important part of making kimchi is keeping it at a cool, stable temperature to allow it to ferment before unwanted bacteria can grow. You can also buy kimchi at many grocery stores, Korean markets, and health food stores. 

Kimchi can be eaten on its own, as a side dish, or as an ingredient in other foods. Its spicy, tangy flavor is an excellent complement to savory foods, and it’s often paired with rich dishes to add contrast to a meal. 

Here are some ways to add kimchi to your diet:

  • Mix kimchi into savory dishes like hash browns or potato pancakes.
  • Use kimchi as a filling in an omelet.
  • Make bibimbap with kimchi.
  • Stir kimchi into homemade fried rice or any savory grain bowl.
  • Add kimchi as an ingredient on your next sandwich.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 16, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Cooks Illustrated: “Understanding Kimchi.”

Epidemiology and Infection: “Outbreak of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli O169 enteritis in schoolchildren associated with consumption of kimchi, Republic of Korea, 2012.”

FoodData Central: “Kimchi.”

Journal of Medicinal Food: “Beneficial Effects of Kimchi, a Korean Fermented Vegetable Food, on Pathophysiological Factors Related to Atherosclerosis.”

Journal of Microbiology and Technology: “Different immune regulatory potential of Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus sakei isolated from Kimchi.”

National Institutes of Health: “Choline.”

National Institutes of Health: “Vitamin K.”

New World Encyclopedia: “Kimchi.”

Nutrients: “Vitamin C and Immune Function.”

Nutrition Reviews: “Effect of probiotics on biomarkers of cardiovascular disease: implications for heart-healthy diets.”

PLoS One: “A meta-analysis of probiotic efficacy for gastrointestinal diseases.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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