Kimchi: Benefits, Nutrition and Risks



Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made from fermented and salted vegetables. It can contain a variety of ingredients, but most often includes cabbage and seasonings such as sugar, salt, onions, garlic, ginger, and chili peppers. Kimchi may offer potential health benefits, but the fermentation process it undergoes also means that it may come with some risks.

Before advances in agriculture and technology, it was difficult to store food for long periods of time without spoiling. Therefore, people have developed food preservation methods to keep food longer.

Fermentation is a process that uses microorganisms and enzymes to create chemical changes in foods that can improve shelf life certain foods and drinks.

Traditionally, during the kimchi fermentation process – which can take up to 1 month – people place kimchi in special jars that they store partially or totally underground.

Some evidence suggests that kimchi may possess health benefits because of its probiotic properties, but there may also be Safety concerns related to the fermentation process.

This article discusses the possible benefits and risks of kimchi, and provides tips on how people can prepare it.

The nutritional content of kimchi may vary because it has more than 200 different variations. However, it is generally low in calories and high in nutrients.

Kimchi is also a good source of vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, minerals, fiber and amino acids.

A 1 cup serving, which amounts to approximately 150 grams (g), contains approximately:

  • 23 calories
  • 1 g of protein
  • less than 1 g of fat
  • 4 g of carbohydrates
  • 2 g of fiber
  • 2 g of sugar

The abundance of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants found in kimchi can provide significant health benefits. For example, some evidence suggests that kimchi may help promote good health and may help prevent or control certain conditions.

Some health benefits of kimchi may include the following.

Better digestion

The method of producing fermented foods such as kimchi involves a lacto-fermentation process who uses the Lactobacilli bacteria to break down sugar and starches into lactic acid.

These “good bacteria” are also present in yogurt, and people often call them probiotics. Eating fermented foods containing probiotics can help maintain healthy gut flora and reduce negative symptoms of digestive disorders.

Heart health

According to some researchConsumption of kimchi may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol and inflammation.

Inflammation is a contributing factor metabolic syndrome, which refers to a set of conditions that occur together to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. People with risk factors such as low cholesterol high and chronic inflammation are much more likely to develop heart disease.

Kimchi can also help lower cholesterol. In 2018 study, the researchers fed mice a high cholesterol diet, with some mice given kimchi extract. Mice consuming kimchi had lower levels of fat in the liver and circulating blood than those consuming only the high cholesterol diet.

Immune support

In addition to reducing inflammation, some research suggests that consuming fermented foods such as kimchi may also help reshape the gut microbiome and modify and strengthen the immune system.

This is consistent with a 2014 Mouse Study this indicates that consumption of kimchi may lower the levels of the inflammatory marker tumor necrosis factor-alpha, which is usually present at higher levels in the body during infections.

A Test tube study 2019 the study of bacteria in kimchi also notes that it has immune system strengthening effects.


Kimchi is not only low in calories, but can also help with weight loss.

A week of 12 randomized clinical trial in 114 obese adults suggests that Lactobacillus sakei kimchi derivative could help reduce body fat and waistline.

Likewise, a 8 week mouse study indicates that kimchi may exhibit anti-obesity activity.

While kimchi can have many potential health benefits, it still contains live bacteria. The bacteria that people use to ferment kimchi is safe to eat. However, people must prepare and store kimchi properly, or there may be a risk of Pathogenic bacteria growth during fermentation and storage.

Foodborne pathogens are generally not found in fermented foods. This is due to the fact Lactic acid usually forms during fermentation, which can help control harmful pathogens that may be present. However, like most foods, kimchi is still vulnerable to these harmful microorganisms.

Over the past 10 years, researchers have linked kimchi to outbreaks of both Escherichia coli and norovirus. People can minimize the risk of food poisoning by purchasing kimchi from a reliable retailer and making sure they store it properly.

Another consideration is the high sodium content of kimchi. People at risk for high blood pressure might be concerned about the high salt content in this food. However, a 2014 study suggests that eating kimchi does not increase blood pressure.

While people can buy kimchi at many Korean grocery stores and markets, they can also consider making it at home.

It can be safe to make kimchi at home, but people should follow proper sanitation practices to avoid contamination from spoilage or harmful bacteria. This will involve proper hand washing, use of clean equipment, and cleaning of surfaces throughout all preparation steps.

To safely prepare kimchi at home:

  1. Prepare the cabbage:
    1. Rinse the cabbage and discard any spoiled or damaged spots.
    2. Cut the cabbage into quarters and remove the core from each.
    3. Then cut these quarters into 2 inch (inch) pieces.
  2. Salt the cabbage:
    1. Prepare a salt water solution, consisting of half a cup of salt and 1 gallon of cold water, in a large mixing bowl.
    2. Briefly dip the cabbage in the salt water solution, then discard the salt water.
    3. Place the cabbage in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt, then massage the cabbage.
    4. Let the cabbage sit at room temperature for 3 to 6 hours.
    5. Rinse the cabbage three to four times with cold water, then place it in a colander for 30 minutes.
  3. Prepare the seasonings:
    1. Add the sweet rice flour to half a cup of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and let cool.
    2. Clean, peel and finely mince the garlic and ginger. Mix with the cooled sweet rice flour paste and add Korean red chili powder.
    3. Clean and peel the radish, green onions and Asian pear. Cut into matchsticks about 1 inch long.
    4. Using clean hands, combine seasoning paste and vegetables in a large mixing bowl.
    5. Then mix in the fish sauce to create a vegetarian paste.
    6. Mix the cabbage with the spicy vegetable paste, rub together and mix well.
  4. Pack the container:
    1. Wrap the kimchi tightly in the container, minimizing exposure to air and encouraging brine formation.
    2. Fill the container about two-thirds full with kimchi and cover tightly.
    3. If you are using jars, seal them tightly with your fingertips. If you are using bags, remove excess air.
  5. Fermentation:
    1. Place the kimchi in the refrigerator to ferment slowly for 3 to 4 days. This may be preferable, especially in hot weather.
    2. Otherwise, place the sealed container in a well-ventilated area with relatively constant room temperature.
    3. Ferment for only 1 to 2 days at room temperature, enjoying it daily until it reaches the desired taste and texture.
  6. Storage room:
    1. People can now store kimchi in the refrigerator. It is important to cover it well to minimize exposure to air. Kimchi can become more acidic and spoil over time.
    2. Throw away the kimchi if it shows signs of mold or has a strong foul odor.

Find the full recipe and all the necessary ingredients here.

Kimchi is a versatile dish that people can add to many meals. People can eat it as a side dish, use it as an ingredient in other meals, or eat it on its own.

While individuals can cook kimchi, keep in mind that heating fermented foods can start to kill healthy probiotics. So, to retain the health benefits, it is best to add kimchi at the end of the cooking process.

Here are some ways people can enjoy kimchi:

  • served on potato pancakes
  • used as a garnish in an omelet
  • incorporated into homemade fried rice
  • used inside Korean style burritos and tacos
  • added to noodle dishes such as ramen, udon and soba
  • used to flavor soup broth

Kimchi is a Korean food that usually consists of fermented cabbage and various seasonings. It’s an easy addition to most meals. Due to the probiotics, vitamins, and minerals it contains, it may provide some health benefits.

However, if a person improperly prepares or stores kimchi, it can contain harmful bacteria that can make people sick. While people can make kimchi at home, it is often readily available in many grocery stores.


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