Korean culture is becoming more and more popular, including music, beauty secrets, and food. One thing foodies find interesting and delicious is kimchi. Kimchi is basically fermented cabbage. The tradition of such fermentation dates back 3,000 years. People realized they couldn’t get fresh veggies all year round a very long time ago. As a result, they started fermenting them with sugar, salt, garlic, onion, ginger, chili, etc.
Kimchi can be made from other vegetables besides cabbage. There are varieties including:
- Beets, etc.
Aside from being interesting, spicy, and tasty, kimchi is full of potential health benefits (12). More studies have to be done, but according to the info we have now, adding some fermented veggies on top of your dishes can be pretty good for you. Of course be mindful if you don’t have allergies to any of the ingredients.
There are even kimchi diet plans lasting from 14 days and on to boost weight loss. At first sight it seems like another crazy idea about one magic ingredient that will take all the problems away. Of course, it’s not like that.
However, along with other alterations to one’s lifestyle, anything is possible if you think about health first and not the inches on your waist. Besides this, kimchi is easy to diversify since there’s no one standard recipe. You can change the spices and veggies in any way you want. You can also eat kimchi fermented and fresh (fermented may provide more benefits, though).
So, is the kimchi diet a thing? Can it help you lose weight? What benefits and risks are there to your health? Let’s try to cover all these questions in this comprehensive guide.
Kimchi Benefits: Sour And Spicy Perks For Your Health
Of course, more studies have to be done to research the effects on various individuals with different lifestyles, pre-existing conditions, age, weight, etc.
But we’re off to a good start.
Here are the 10 potential benefits of kimchi.
#1: Weight Loss
Can you lose weight by eating kimchi?
If you also ate 5 pieces of cake with non-diet Cola, would you lose weight, probably not. What I mean is that you still need a complex approach to lose weight permanently and healthily. This involves a balanced diet, physical activity, and water balance, to list a few elements.
However, eating kimchi is a great way to up your veggie game, fill your diet with nutrients, and improve your gut microbiome.
Both fresh and fermented kimchi are low in calories and high in nutrients. One small study found that eating kimchi was associated with reductions in body fat, body weight, and BMI (body mass index) (14).
The fermented version provides enhanced benefits, so it may be better to wait for some time before opening that kimchi jar.
Why does kimchi help you lose weight? This is due to it being very low in calories and high in fiber and nutrients. Probiotics also promote gut health, which may improve your weight loss results.
#2: Nutrient Density
One of the best kimchi benefits is nutrient density, despite low calorie content. The base for the dish – Chinese cabbage – is rich in vitamins A, C, more than 30 amino acids, and over 10 minerals (15).
There are different types of kimchi, but on average, one cup of kimchi (that’s about 150 g) contains (5_):
- 23 kcal
- 4 g carbs
- 2 g protein
- <1 g fat
- 747 mg sodium
- 2 g fiber
It also contains over half of the daily value of vitamin K, as well as generous amounts of vitamin C, folate, iron, riboflavin, and niacin. The process of fermentation may add even more benefits to this nutrient-rich food, making it easier for your body to absorb and process it.
#3: Probiotic Content
This is where the fermentation process is very important. It happens when starch or sugar turns into an acid or alcohol. This enhances odor and taste and has some benefits for human health.
Kimchi gets its sour taste from the bacterium called Lactobacillus that breaks down sugars into lactic acid. The bacterium by itself can be used to treat antibiotic-related diarrhea, hay fever, and other conditions (16).
Closer to the point, fermentation allows gut-friendly bacteria, including probiotics, to procreate. Probiotics have a lot of potential benefits for gut health and more (17).
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#4: Inflammation Reduction (Potential)
Some kimchi benefits are marked as potential since there are no sufficient human studies.
Fermented foods may reduce inflammation. Studies on mice showed that kimchi extract lowered markers of inflammation in a model of Alzheimer’s disease (7). A compound found in the dish called HDMPPA may block inflammatory compound release, according to a test-tube study.
When more human studies are done, there will be clearer conclusions about the anti-inflammatory effect of fermented food. But the data available at the moment is promising.
#5: Immune System Boost (Potential)
The Lactobacillus I wrote about earlier may also get you an immunity boost. One study in mice found that a strain usually found in fermented foods, including kimchi, may reduce the TNF alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha) marker (9). Its levels commonly rise when infection or disease is present in the body. So, a decrease in the levels indicates that the body is fighting off diseases well.
Conclusion? The immune system is working.
Of course, human research is needed to confirm the results, but test-tube studies already suggest the immune system-regulating benefits of bacteria from kimchi (4).
#6: Yeast Infections Prevention (Potential)
Yeast infections are pretty common and are caused by fungi. For example, more than 1.4 million people get tested for vaginal yeast infection annually in the US only (19). The Candida fungus responsible for the infection is usually harmless. However, as it starts to multiply rapidly, the patient gets sick.
Moreover, fungus can develop antimicrobial resistance, which means that over time, you may not be able to get rid of it fast by taking antifungal medication. Specialists are looking for natural ways to treat the condition.
That’s where our friend Lactobacillus may come in handy. Test-tube and animal studies have found that the bacterium has anti-candida activity (1).
#7: Slowing Aging Processes (Potential)
We’ve established that kimchi may help your body fight inflammation, which when chronic is associated with some illnesses. It may also lead to accelerated aging as it’s a huge stress for the body.
A test-tube study showed that human cells’ health improved after being treated with kimchi extract. Cells of various ages showed greater longevity. This is good news.
I can’t recommend kimchi as a 100% effective anti-aging treatment due to the lack of human studies. However, adding this dish to your diet won’t hurt and may even reduce inflammation and slow down the aging process.
#8: Heart-Friendly (Potential)
Due to its anti-inflammatory or other properties, kimchi may promote heart health by lowering the risk of disease (6). Kimchi extract may reduce fat levels in the liver and blood, which can be contributors to heart disease.
A human study in young, healthy adults showed that eating 15-210 g of kimchi a day decreased LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol), total cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
More research is needed to draw conclusions, but existing studies show that kimchi may really help improve heart health risk factors.
#9: Lowering Blood Sugar (Potential)
According to one small study, pre-diabetic individuals may improve their condition by eating a kimchi-infused diet for 8+ weeks. The participants showed better glucose tolerance, as well as improvements in metabolism and improved insulin sensitivity.
So, if you’re in the pre-diabetic group, have diabetes, or just want to keep your blood sugar leveled, consider adding kimchi to your diet. Of course, if you already have the condition, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle.
#10: Easy To Prepare
Finally, kimchi is very easy to make at home. Fermentation may sound difficult, but if you follow a step-by-step guide, it won’t be hard at all. Here’s a common kimchi recipe (15):
- Choose the ingredients you want to ferment and the spices you want to add. It can be cabbage, carrot, onion, radish, ginger, sugar and salt, garlic, chili oil and/or powder, rice flour, fish sauce, etc.
- Wash and cut the veggies you want to ferment and ginger with garlic.
- For the classic kimchi, salt each layer of Chinese cabbage and let them stay there for 2-3 hours. Turn the layers every half hour to make sure you distribute the salt everywhere.
- Wash and drain the cabbage to get rid of the salt left.
- Mix the spices with water to form a paste. That’s where you may need rice flour.
- Put all the vegetables you want to ferment into this paste. Make sure each piece is coated.
- Close the container tight so that it’s sealed properly.
- Let the veggies ferment for 3+ days if you leave the container at room temperature. You can also leave it for up to 3 weeks in colder temperatures (down to 4°C/39°F).
And if you want to try fresh kimchi, you don’t have to store it anywhere. Just eat right after you prepare them.
Kimchi Risks And Cautions
Like any food, kimchi may have some side effects. It may not be prepared right or go bad at the wrong temperature. Usually though, this dish is safe to consume. However:
- Kimchi may lead to food poisoning (15). There may be links between kimchi and E. coli (18) outbreaks. Fermented foods don’t usually carry such bacteria, but their adaptability may make the food rather dangerous for people with weak immune systems.
- Kimchi may be high in nitrate. If you’re trying to avoid nitrates for any reason, mind how your kimchi is prepared. In case you bought a jar, read its ingredient list carefully.
- Kimchi may be high in sodium. If you have issues with high blood pressure, you may be advised to minimize sodium intake. Kimchi can be high in sodium, so, if you try to minimize blood pressure fluctuations, it’s better to choose another type of condiment.
For most people, moderate amounts of kimchi are safe to eat. Just make sure you prepare the fermented foods from high-quality ingredients. Or, if you buy it, do it only if you know the product hasn’t expired and was properly prepared.
Is it OK to eat kimchi every day? Yes, of course, if your immune system is fine and you have no allergies.
Can you eat too much kimchi? Probably not, but check with your doctor if you have concerns.
No food is healthy if you overeat it. So, if you try a moderate amount of kimchi, it shouldn’t cause any side effects. Consider including this dish in your daily meals and make sure you buy only from the stores you trust.
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Kimchi Diet Plan In Detail
First of all, let’s remember that the best diet is the one:
- You can be consistent with throughout many months and even years
- That is varied and well-balanced
- That you enjoy volume-, diversity-, and taste-wise
- That is safe
If you don’t like sour or spicy foods or experience any of the side effects of kimchi, it’s better to look for another way to diversify your weight loss journey. But if you’re fond of kimchi and Korean food in general, consider a 14-day journey to the kimchi land to see what it does for you.
Here Are Some Tips If You Want To Try A 14-Day Kimchi Diet:
- Start with smaller amounts – don’t spend a whole day eating only kimchi.
- Create a calorie deficit if you want to lose weight – a slight deficit will help you lose weight and stay consistent
- Write a menu of the dishes with kimchi you can cook to diversify your diet
- Introduce exercising once you’re comfortable with the changes to your diet
- Increase your veggie intake – kimchi will help you a lot with that
- Try adding some rice to your kimchi to feel fuller, but mind the portion size
- Drink a lot of water to maintain proper body function
- Consider cutting on snacking and eating full meals instead
These tips will help you see the first results in 2 weeks. But make sure you don’t stop there. As the two weeks pass, you may start getting used to the new routine. Continue eating the same way, introduce more physical activity into your life, and you should see the changes in a month or two.
Here Are Some Of The Meals You Can Prepare With Kimchi:
- Scrambled eggs with kimchi – just add kimchi on top of your eggs along with other veggies
- Salads with kimchi – universal salads where you put all the vegetables you have in the fridge will taste even better with a sour sprinkle of kimchi
- Kimchi fried or plain rice – keep in mind that fried rice tends to be very high in calories. It’s better to choose plain brown rice or limit the oil you add when you fry.
- Spicy soup with kimchi – add some hot pepper paste, meat, veggies, and kimchi to your soups to make them extra spicy and nutritious. Remember to listen to your body and not to eat too much of spicy foods if you are prone to acid reflux (11).
- Kimchi dumplings – it’s better if they are steamed and the sauce comes on the side if you are trying to cut down on sodium, sugar, and saturated fats.
- Kimchi stew – kimchi jjigae or stew is a perfect option if you want to eat aged kimchi. It’s made with shiitake mushrooms, meat (optional), onion, tofu, kimchi, and water.
You can also add kimchi as a side dish to any meal you prepare until it tastes good. And make sure not to eat too much fermented foods. Everything has to be in balance.
If in doubt, go with fresh kimchi first to make sure the taste suits your tongue.
Kimchi is fermented cabbage or another vegetable. This is a very popular element of Korean cuisine that has been spreading all over the world. Aside from its spicy, sour taste, a kimchi diet has a ton of possible health benefits.
These include weight loss promotion, slower aging, blood sugar level improvements, heart health, and more. Human studies are still limited, but according to the information that is already out there, kimchi can be safely included in your lifestyle.
Make sure you don’t have allergies before trying a kimchi diet! Also, if you’re interested in a kimchi and rice diet or other restricting plans, maybe think again. Severe restrictions are never healthy, and all the weight you will lose may come back with a vengeance pretty quickly.
It’s better to add kimchi to a balanced diet where you have enough proteins, healthy fats, carbs, fiber, and micronutrients. Thankfully, Korean fermented veggies can help you boost the intake of vegetables and nutrients, not to mention they’re really tasty.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Action mechanisms of probiotics on Candida spp. and candidiasis prevention: an update (2020, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Anti-aging effects and mechanisms of kimchi during fermentation under stress-induced premature senescence cellular system (2011, link.springer.com)
- Anti-Inflammatory Effects of 3-(4′-Hydroxyl-3′,5′-Dimethoxyphenyl)Propionic Acid, an Active Component of Korean Cabbage Kimchi, in Lipopolysaccharide-Stimulated BV2 Microglia (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Antioxidant and immune-enhancing effects of probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum 200655 isolated from kimchi (2019, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Beneficial effects of fresh and fermented kimchi in prediabetic individuals (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Beneficial Effects of Kimchi, a Korean Fermented Vegetable Food, on Pathophysiological Factors Related to Atherosclerosis (2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Bioactive Compounds in Kimchi Improve the Cognitive and Memory Functions Impaired by Amyloid Beta (2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Contrasting effects of fresh and fermented kimchi consumption on gut microbiota composition and gene expression related to metabolic syndrome in obese Korean women (2015, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Different immune regulatory potential of Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus sakei isolated from Kimchi (2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Fermented kimchi reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight and obese patients (2011, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Foods Inducing Typical Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Symptoms in Korea (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Health benefits of kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) as a probiotic food (2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Kimchi, a fermented vegetable, improves serum lipid profiles in healthy young adults: randomized clinical trial (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Kimchi (2017, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Kimchi and Other Widely Consumed Traditional Fermented Foods of Korea: A Review (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Lactobacillus (n.d., medlineplus.gov)
- One Health, Fermented Foods, and Gut Microbiota (2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Outbreak of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli O169 enteritis in schoolchildren associated with consumption of kimchi, Republic of Korea, 2012 (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Vaginal candidiasis (n.d., cdc.gov)