5 Reasons You Should Include Kimchi in Your Diet

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Are you tired of the same old boring vegetables on your plate? Look no further than kimchi, the Korean dish that packs a powerful punch of flavor and health benefits. This spicy, tangy, and sometimes pungent dish is a staple in Korean cuisine and has gained popularity around the world for its unique taste and nutritional value.

Made with fermented cabbage and a variety of other vegetables, spices, and seasonings, kimchi has been touted for its potential to boost digestion, strengthen the immune system, and even fight off certain diseases.

If you’re looking to spice up your meals and boost your health, it’s time to explore the benefits of kimchi. In this article, we are going to dive deeper into this amazing dish in hopes you will soon find it at your dinner table.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before starting or changing a nutrition or workout program.

Nutritional Composition of Kimchi

Kimchi is full of nutrients while also being low in calories. On its own, Chinese cabbage, one of the main ingredients in kimchi, is packed with vitamins A and C, 10 different minerals, and many amino acids.

One cup of kimchi serving contains the following nutritional value:

Calories 23
Carbs 4g
Protein 2g
Fat Less than 1g
Fiber 2g
Sodium 747mg
Vitamin B6 19% of the Daily Value (DV)
Vitamin C 22% of the DV
Vitamin K 55% of the DV
Folate 20% of the DV
Iron 21% of the DV
Niacin 10% of the DV
Riboflavin 24% of the DV

5 Health Benefits of Kimchi

Kimchi, a Korean fermented dish, is known for its various health advantages, according to both researchers and dietitians. Blanca Garcia, RDN, a nutrition specialist at Health Canal in Los Angeles, suggests that kimchi may be especially helpful in enhancing gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health, as well as boosting the immune system.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of kimchi below.

1.      It may strengthen your immune system

Research has shown that consuming kimchi, a fermented dish from Korea, may positively impact immune health. Specifically, a strain of the Lactobacillus bacterium found in kimchi, called Lactobacillus plantarum, has been studied for its effects on the immune system.

In mice, those injected with this strain had lower levels of a marker for inflammation called tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF alpha), which is typically elevated during infections and diseases. This suggests that the immune system was functioning efficiently.

Additionally, a test-tube study found that Lactobacillus plantarum isolated from kimchi had immune-enhancing effects. These findings suggest that consuming kimchi may help boost immune health.

2.      It may lower cholesterol

Incorporating kimchi into your diet regularly has been shown to have potential health benefits, particularly regarding blood sugar and cholesterol levels. One study found that young adults who regularly consumed kimchi experienced a decrease in their fasting blood sugar levels and serum total cholesterol.

3.      It may prevent yeast infection

Yeast infections, which occur when the Candida fungus overgrows rapidly in the vagina, are a common issue affecting many people in the United States each year. Researchers are exploring natural remedies to address this problem, as the fungus may become antibiotic-resistant.

Some studies have suggested that certain strains of Lactobacillus bacteria, which are found in fermented foods like kimchi, may help fight Candida. In fact, a test-tube study found that multiple strains isolated from kimchi showed antimicrobial activity against this fungus, indicating that consuming kimchi may help prevent yeast infections.

4.      It may protect against oxidative stress

Oxidative stress refers to the imbalance between free radicals (known as oxidants) and antioxidants, which protect cells from damage. Because of its high antioxidant content, consuming kimchi may help protect against oxidative stress. This may reduce the risk of developing certain diseases associated with oxidative stress.

In a 2014 test-tube study, kimchi displayed potent antioxidant activity against various oxidants and protected cells from oxidative damage, promoting cell survival. Additionally, kimchi may help prevent cellular aging caused by oxidative stress by decreasing free radical production and increasing antioxidant defenses.

5.      It may help in weight loss

Whether fresh or fermented, Kimchi is a low-calorie food that may aid in weight loss. In a 4-week study involving 22 individuals with excess weight, consuming fresh or fermented kimchi helped decrease body weight, body mass index (BMI), and body fat. Furthermore, the fermented kimchi variety resulted in lower blood sugar levels.

Interestingly, those who consumed fermented kimchi showed more significant improvements in blood pressure and body fat percentage than those who consumed the fresh version.