Kimchi is one of the most iconic foods in Korean cuisine. Besides eating it as a refreshing side dish, kimchi is also used in a variety of Korean dishes, such as ramen, soups and fried rice. Surprisingly, despite the party it gets going in your mouth, this addictive appetiser is full of health benefits.
Most people don’t know that kimchi is loaded with nutrients, antioxidants and even a type of bacteria you’d want in your body – which easily makes it one of the foods you definitely want to keep in your kitchen. Want to know more? Scroll down to read about some surprising health benefits of kimchi!
The taste and smell of kimchi isn’t hard to distinguish, and that’s because of the fermentation process. But did you know that the reason it tastes so wonderfully sour is because of the lactobacilli present in the kimchi, which breaks sugars down into lactic acid?
This ‘friendly bacteria’ can be found in our digestive system, and consuming kimchi can help keep your gut flora balanced. The probiotics found in such fermented foods can also fight against infections and even treat or relieve conditions like constipation and colds.
Such probiotics may also help with inflammations, such as ulcerative colitis or an inflammatory-type arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, a 2014 study found that markers of inflammation were significantly lower in patients who took probiotic supplements than those who didn’t. Similarly, this study presented similar results when lactic acid bacteria isolated from kimchi was administered to mice.
Cabbage and radish, which are commonly found in kimchi, are both cruciferous vegetables. Being great sources of phytonutrients like glucosinolates, these veggies can also reduce your risk of developing cancer. They turn into indoles and isothiocyanates when broken down.
As biologically active compounds, they have been proven to inhibit cancer growth in several organs on animals. Potentially, consuming these vegetables may benefit you by helping to inactivate carcinogens and preventing tumour blood vessel formation. Biochemicals like isocyanate and sulfide found in them are also known to help flush out toxins.
Looking to shed some kilos? A search on My Fitness Pal shows that one cup (150g) of kimchi contains only 45 calories, which could easily be burnt off by four minutes of running, or 16 minutes of cleaning. It being an excellent source of fibre also means you stay full longer, making you more likely to consume fewer calories.
A 2011 study published in Nutrition Research substantiates the point with their experiment on 22 overweight patients who were put on a fresh or fermented kimchi diet. Both resulted in decreases in body weight, body mass index and body fat (though fermented kimchi presented stronger results).
Fermented foods have been said to rejuvenate skin and improve complexion through their supply of probiotics. This also ties in with the lactobacilli found in our intestines through a ‘better gut, better skin’ relationship. This ‘gut-friendly bacteria’ has also been proven to be beneficial to skin conditions, based on a study of mice with mite-induced dermatitis.
Being high in antioxidants is a major plus point as this brings to the table a myriad of benefits. As they rid the body of free radicals, this means your body’s oxidative damage – the underlying cause of chronic conditions – is decreased.
You may even be able to spot the effects visibly as reducing oxidative damage may intervene with ageing, and we know the biggest telltale sign is visible wrinkles. Maybe that’s the secret step on top of their skincare that helps Koreans stay so youthful?
As we get older, the risk of getting high blood pressure and cholesterol increases. Both can contribute to cardiovascular issues. Health Hub states that slightly less than one in four Singaporeans aged 30 to 69 have high blood pressure.
Though there’s no one way to prevent such diseases, there are some foods that have properties that can help you ward them off. For one, allicin which is found in fresh garlic is known to fight against cardiovascular issues, while the aforementioned lactobacillus can help lower LDL cholesterol. Published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, a study of Korean adults who were fed kimchi saw a drop in their cholesterol levels, with greater improvements among those who had a bigger intake of kimchi.
Kimchi is one of the foods that can protect you against Candida – the fungus that causes yeast infections when there’s too much of it. Multiple studies in recent years, such as in 2019 and 2018, have looked to lactobacillus as a natural treatment to yeast infections due to its microbial nature.