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10 Health Benefits of Kimchi & 3 Recipe Ideas

Kimchi has been a well-loved health food for over 1000 years now. This Korean staple is known for its salty, spicy, acidic, and umami flavors. In this article, we’ll explore just what the health benefits are, any risks associated with eating kimchi, delicious recipe ideas, and more.

Kimchi is well known for its high probiotic content. It’s filled with beneficial microorganisms that can help boost your gut health, improve your immune system, aid with weight loss, and even ward off signs of aging.

Kimchi boasts a number of health benefits, giving you an even bigger incentive for adding it to your diet (if you needed one.)

Interesting Facts about Kimchi

Interesting Facts about Kimchi

Kimchi is much-loved throughout Korea, but has increasingly gained popularity all over the world. There are around 200 varieties available. On top of that, most Korean families tend to have their own kimchi recipes.

Kimchi is recognised for its heritage by UNESCO, and even went into space with the first Korean astronaut in 2008.

What Kimchi Is

Kimchi is a type of Korean lactic acid-fermented cabbage, which usually also includes a range of other salted and fermented veggies.

Origin and Where Kimchi Comes From

Origin and Where Kimchi Comes From

Kimchi is from Korea and is an important part of Korean national heritage. It’s actually considered a symbol of Korean pride and identity.

Most kimchi is still imported from Korea, though Chinese varieties are growing more popular.

Interestingly, Korea now also imports some of its kimchi from China due to shortages in cabbage production.

Ingredients In Kimchi

Ingredients In Kimchi

Traditional baechu kimchi is made with napa cabbage, a good amount of salt, Korean chili flakes (gochugaru), fish sauce, garlic, scallions, and ginger. The chili gives the kimchi its iconic red coloring.

What Kimchi Taste Like

Kimchi offers plenty of delicious umami flavoring, as well as salty, sour, and spicy tastes. Depending on the ingredients used, it can be more or less spicy, more salty, or more mellow.

Nutritional Facts, Calories and Protein of Kimchi

Nutritional Facts, Calories and Protein of Kimchi

A cup of kimchi contains around 23 calories, as well as small amounts of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber.

Kimchi does contain a lot of sodium, but also a multitude of vitamins and minerals.

You’ll benefit from vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, iron, niacin, and riboflavin.

Kimchi is also full of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, and amino acids glutamate, alanine, and proline.

Health Benefits of Eating Kimchi: Why It Is So Good for You

Health Benefits of Eating Kimchi: Why It Is So Good for You

Kimchi offers a myriad of health benefits. It’s not just a delicious side dish or condiment, but also very good for your body and mind. Below are some of the top ways kimchi can improve your health.

May Help Reduce Insulin Resistance

If you’re pre-diabetic, adding kimchi to your diet may reduce your insulin resistance and blood pressure. It’s also been shown to improve serum lipid levels and fasting levels of blood glucose in healthy young people.

Could Be Effective at Lowering Levels of Bad Cholesterol

Could Be Effective at Lowering Levels of Bad Cholesterol

One study showed that adding a small amount of kimchi to your daily diet helped reduce bad cholesterol levels.

It was also shown that total cholesterol and blood sugar levels were decreased. As all of the above put you at risk for developing heart disease, kimchi may provide some protection.

May Reduce Inflammation in Your Body

Some research has shown that kimchi can help lower inflammation in your body and improve the overall function of your immune system. This is apparently due to the bacteria used to ferment your kimchi. Vitamin C found in kimchi is also a known aid for a good immune system.

Can Support Your Heart Health

Can Support Your Heart Health

As mentioned above, adding some kimchi to your daily diet can help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. This gives you some protection against developing heart disease. Kimchi is also full of helpful minerals and vitamins, which all give your health a good boost.

Could Reduce Signs of Aging

Could Reduce Signs of Aging

If you’ve ever marveled at Korean skincare and the glowing, smooth skin many people seem to sport in that part of the world, we’re letting you in on a secret: scientists believe that it may be down to their diet.

Kimchi contains plenty of helpful antioxidants, which can slow down the aging process of your cells.

May Help You Lose Weight

May Help You Lose Weight

Kimchi doesn’t contain a lot of calories while being rich in many nutrients. This makes it a perfect addition to your weight loss diet. Beneficial bacteria in kimchi also help, as they boost your metabolism and aid your digestive system.

Might Prevent Yeast Infections in Women

Might Prevent Yeast Infections in Women

The probiotics in kimchi may help reduce women’s risk of developing yeast infections.

This is because they help keep a healthy balance of bacteria in your body, increasing good bacteria and warding off ‘bad’ bacteria.

One study conducted in 2019 showed that it had both antibacterial and antimicrobial activity against bacteria and fungus that cause yeast infections.

Probiotics Can Improve Your Gut Health

The fermentation process used to make kimchi makes it a well-known and much-loved probiotic. It contains some of the same bacteria found in fermented dairy products such as yogurt. These good bacteria can help improve your digestive system and overall gut health.

Can Reduce Symptoms of IBS

Can Reduce Symptoms of IBS

Kimchi may help improve irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, symptoms by reducing levels of serum inflammation and increasing the intake of dietary fiber.

With that said, some spicier ferments may cause discomfort, so you’ll want to find out what works for you and your specific case of IBS.

May Reduce Stress and Improve Mood

May Reduce Stress and Improve Mood

The good bacteria in kimchi as well as its high mineral and vitamin contents can positively impact your gut. In turn, this may result in lessened stress and better mood.

In recent years there has been much talk about the impact of a balanced gut on mental health. Studies have even shown that some digestive disorders may put you at an increased risk of anxiety and depression.

Therefore, keeping your gut healthy and adding probiotic foods such as kimchi may well show benefits for your brain, too.

Potential Risks of Kimchi

Potential Risks of Kimchi

Any health food which offers plenty of healthy benefits will also pose some risks. Most of the below are associated with badly made kimchi, so they’re generally things to watch out for if you’re making your own ferments. Nevertheless, you’ll want to know about these.

May Contain Harmful Bacteria

Kimchi is generally regarded as safe. However, if your kimchi develops mold, starts to smell unusual or even unpleasant, you’d be better off getting rid of it.

Contains a Large Amount of Sodium

Contains a Large Amount of Sodium

Kimchi is made with a large amount of salt. Too much sodium in your diet is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure.

One trick some people seem to use is to add radish to your ferment to draw out the salt.

You can remove the radish the next day and taste, to see if it tastes less salty.

Might Temporarily Increase Bloating and Gas

Probiotics can increase gas and bloating temporarily, until your body gets used to these foods. If you’ve never had kimchi before, you may wish to slowly add it to your diet for this reason.

Is Kimchi in Pregnancy Good For You?

Is Kimchi in Pregnancy Good For You?

So long as it’s quality-controlled, kimchi isn’t just safe but actually quite good for you during pregnancy.

This is because homemade varieties may contain harmful bacteria. Store-bought, well-sealed varieties are safer.

Many of the health benefits noted above are also helpful during pregnancy. Lowered inflammation, improved gut health, and reduced insulin resistance are all useful, just to name a few.

Can Dogs and Cats Have Kimchi?

Can Dogs and Cats Have Kimchi?

Cats should not consume kimchi. Garlic and onions, which are often vital ingredients of kimchi, are toxic to cats. Meanwhile the large amount of salt can also harm a cat’s stomach, so it’s best to steer clear.

Dogs have the same problem, and cannot have garlic, onion, or chillies. Spicy and/or salty foods can cause your furry friend pain, gas, and diarrhea.

In short, dogs and cats have very different dietary requirements from humans, and it’s best to avoid giving them unusual foods.

Delicious Recipe Ideas with Kimchi

Delicious Recipe Ideas with Kimchi

Kimchi is a great addition to many types of foods. However it’s worth knowing some basic Korean dishes that are made with kimchi, so you can enjoy it the way it’s intended. Once you’ve tried these, have a go at making some basic kimchi at home.

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap)

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap)

This is an easy Korean rice dish made with steamed rice, chopped kimchi, kimchi juice, water.

Plus gochujang (Korean chili paste), toasted sesame oil, vegetable oil, spring onion, toasted sesame seeds, and some roasted seaweed strips if you can get a hold of them.

You can add beef, chicken, or pork, or top it with a fried egg. Delicious.

Kimchi Pancake

Kimchi Pancake

Kimchi pancakes are hugely popular in Korea. It’s made with kimchi, scallions, sugar, flour, water, and a bit of oil. It makes a great side dish as well as a fabulous addition to lunch boxes, so long as you don’t mind a bit of spice.

Basic Homemade Kimchi

Basic Homemade Kimchi

You’ll want to get your hands on Korean napa cabbage for this, then pre-cut it to bite sized chunks.

Mix it with salt, some sweet rice flour, sugar, water, garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, gochugaru, and some veggies of your choice.

Leeks, spring onions, carrot, and Korean radishes are good, with radishes being helpful at drawing out some of the salt.

Fun Fact

You can eat your kimchi right away, though leaving it to ferment will give it the special probiotic properties and additional health benefits it’s loved for. Fermented kimchi will take on more acidic flavors, while fresh kimchi will taste more salty and spicy.

Tips for Using Kimchi

Tips for Using Kimchi

Kimchi is a household staple in Korea. In the West, we’re still finding our feet when it comes to making kimchi and using it properly. Below are some tips for keeping your kimchi fresh and making flavorful varieties at home.

How to Store Kimchi

How to Store Kimchi

Kimchi stays good for months, provided it’s stored correctly. Keep it in the fridge and always make sure it’s fully covered by any liquid and not exposed to air.

This will ensure that it doesn’t spoil and doesn’t continue to ferment at a fast rate.

If your kimchi begins to smell funny or develop a layer of mold, throw it out and start again.

How to Make Your Own Kimchi

How to Make Your Own Kimchi

There are many varieties of kimchi available. If you’re just starting to make some at home, follow a recipe with ingredients such as ours above.

Some more advanced kimchi preparations include raw oysters or squid — these are fine once you know what you’re doing, though you’ll want to take care if you’re just getting started.

A standard kimchi with veggies and spices is perfect and will ferment in just 1 to 2 days if kept at room temperature. Always refrigerate your kimchi after the initial ferment, to keep it fresh for longer and avoid it fermenting more.

It’s worth preparing all of your utensils before you make your own kimchi. Make the spice paste and taste it to make sure it’s to your liking before you add it to the cabbage and any other vegetables.

Make sure your veggies are always entirely covered by liquid to avoid spoilage, watch the temperature in your room, and keep your kimchi jars clean. You should also rinse excess salt from your brined cabbage per your favorite kimchi recipe, before you add spices and put it in jars to ferment.

The Best Ingredients to Add for Even More Flavorful Kimchi

The Best Ingredients to Add for Even More Flavorful Kimchi

You can add fish sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and Korean chili flakes for a flavorful concoction.

Radish can reduce the saltiness of kimchi but can also be bitter, so make sure you always use the freshest, best vegetables you can find.

You can add fish sauce but you may also skip it if you don’t like the taste. In short, experiment with your favorite flavors and see what works best for you.

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