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Kimchi is the latest fashionable ferment that has the health world talking. In this article, we’ll uncover just how good for you this spicy Korean cabbage dish really is.
We’ll explain what kimchi is, investigate its health benefits, share its nutritional profile, and advise you on how to get more kimchi in your diet.
In this article, we will cover
Kimchi is a Korean fermented cabbage dish, known for its high probiotic content.1
However, there’s a massive variance between individual kimchi recipes. Cabbage is included in most varieties of kimchi, and other vegetables including radish, carrot, and onion are frequently used.
Cabbage and other vegetables are typically flavoured with spices, including chilli, or even fish sauce, and left to ferment in a jar for 3-21 days.
As there are so many different varieties of kimchi, it’s difficult to give an exact nutritional profile of this tasty condiment, but here is the nutritional value of 282g of kimchi made from cabbage:
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.1mg||9%|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.1mg||5%|
Kimchi is linked to a wide variety of health benefits, including:
Fermented foods, like kimchi, increase the volume of probiotics (good bacteria) present in the gut.3
Creating an environment where this friendly bacteria can thrive and multiply in your gut is linked to the prevention and treatment of several conditions, including:
These same probiotics are found in kimchi, although all the studies linked to the effects above were focused on high doses of probiotic supplements, rather than the consumption of kimchi.
More study is required in relation to probiotics in fermented foods.
Handpicked content: Do Fermented Foods Improve Gut Health?
Evidence suggests that kimchi is effective at slowing the ageing process as it may help to prolong cell life.9
For example, in one experiment, human cells were treated with kimchi and following tests on these cells suggested that they had been given an increased viability, extending their life span.10
However, further research is needed for a full understanding of kimchi’s anti-ageing properties.
Kimchi has antimicrobial properties that can inhibit candida (the fungus that causes infection) developing.11
It has been shown that particulars strains of Lactobacillus, a live bacteria found in fermented food such as kimchi, have an anti-microbial effect on candida, although further research is needed before kimchi could be considered a go-to solution for yeast infections.12
Research has shown that the phytochemicals and probiotic bacteria in fermented foods may aid with modulating inflammatory responses.13
One study found that a kimchi extract given to participants at 200mg per kg every day for two weeks reduced the presence of enzymes related to inflammation, suggesting a link between kimchi and a decrease in inflammation.14
Even with these promising results, further human studies are needed.
Kimchi has a high level of vitamin K, which has been linked to the support of normal blood clotting.15
This is important for healing as blood clotting helps your body to form scabs when your skin is wounded, slowing the bleeding and allowing your body to heal over time.
Vitamin K is also used to support your bone metabolism and some studies have found that those with high intakes of vitamin K also appear to have higher bone mineral density, reducing the risk of bone fractures.16
Vitamin B2—also known as riboflavin—helps the body capture and use the energy from proteins and carbohydrates.17
Riboflavin is an essential component of flavin mononucleotide and flavin adenine dinucleotide, two coenzymes that are key in the production of energy.
Riboflavin helps maintain the health of the eyes, skin, and nervous system.
These are things that naturally deteriorate as we age and riboflavin has been linked to the prevention of age-related conditions that people may suffer from later in life, such as cataracts, glaucoma, skin conditions, and the ongoing health of nerve cells and neurotransmitters.
A strain of bacteria often found in fermented foods such as kimchi—Lactobacillus plantarum—has been linked to the efficiency of the immune system.
One particular study in mice found that these bacteria helped to decreased the levels of an inflammatory marker, suggesting a connection between this bacteria and a healthy immune system.
Even so, human research is needed to see whether these results can be replicated.
In a 4-week study of people with surplus weight, both fresh and fermented kimchi appeared to help participants reduce body weight, body mass index (BMI), and overall body fat.18
More research is needed to understand which properties of kimchi are most beneficial in weight loss, as kimchi is naturally low in calories and high in fibre and good bacteria.
Kimchi and the beneficial bacteria found in this fermented food may:
It is worth noting that Emily Rollason, our lead nutritionist at Holland & Barrett, has warned that although many of these health benefits may be linked to eating kimchi, further research is needed to confirm the full effects and benefits in humans.
Take inspiration from traditional Korean cooking and stir Kimchi into a soup or stew for an added health kick.
Add a spoonful to grain bowls to enjoy the health benefits, without depleting kimchi’s nutrient content by cooking.
Let’s start with learning how to make your own kimchi and then we’ll share a few tasty kimchi recipes you can try.
Choose your kimchi ingredients. Common choices in kimchi recipes may be:
Wash your fresh vegetables and cut thinly with ginger and garlic (excluding your cabbage).
Spread salt between the cabbage leaves and allow to sit for 2-3 hours, turning every 30 minutes to ensure even distribution of salt.
Your salt-to-cabbage ratio should be 72g of salt to every 2.7kg of cabbage.
After 2-3 hours, rinse and drain your cabbage in a colander to remove excess salt.
Mix the rice flour, sugar, ginger, garlic, chili oil, pepper flakes, fish sauce, and saeujeot into a paste.
Feel free to add or remove ingredients based on your desired taste.
Toss everything together with this paste until they have been fully coated.
Place this mixture into a clean and dry air-tight container or jar.
Let your kimchi mixture ferment for at least 3 days at room temperature, or up to 3 weeks at 4°C if you’d prefer to keep it stored somewhere cold.
Get ready to enjoy your homemade kimchi!
It’s simple! All you need to do is leave out the fish sauce and fermented shrimp (saeujeot) and then you can enjoy your homemade kimchi.
There are a number of ways to eat kimchi, so here are a few recipes with kimchi that we can’t wait for you to try.
Kimchi recipe for breakfast: Kimchi-topped cheese on toast.
If you love cheese on toast for breakfast, we have the perfect kimchi recipe idea for you!
Kimchi’s spiciness beautifully contrasts with the creaminess of some cheeses, so we think you might like to add a touch of kimchi to your cheese on toast in the morning. It gives you a hit of extra flavour and nutrients in every bite.
Kimchi recipe for lunch: Kimchi on the side of meat and rice.
In Korean cuisines, Kimchi is typically served as a condiment at the side of rice dishes or stirred into curries or stews. Pork is a favoured partner for kimchi as its saltiness is the perfect accompaniment to kimchi’s tartness and tang.
There are plenty of plant-based alternatives, too, so it’s easy to swap out the pork for a plant-based pork or meat options.
Kimchi recipe for dinner: Kimchi Poke Bowl or Kimchi Fried Rice.
We’ve been saving two delicious kimchi dinner recipes for this exact moment:
Kimchi may be an acquired taste, but with all those potential health benefits and intriguing recipes to try, it might be a taste worth acquiring.
While your homemade kimchi ferments, why not read more about the benefits of fermented foods and gut health?
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 16 February 2022
Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019
Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry
Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.
After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.