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
- What is kimchi?
- The nutritional profile of kimchi
- 10 health benefits of kimchi
- How to get more kimchi into your diet
- Homemade kimchi recipe
- What to eat with kimchi? (including recipes!)
- Kimchi FAQs
What is kimchi?
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.
Is kimchi healthy? The nutritional profile of kimchi
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:
Kimchi nutritional value
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.1mg||9%|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.1mg||5%|
- Kimchi is a Korean fermented cabbage dish left to ferment for 3-21 days in a jar.
- The taste can vary based on the ingredients and spices you add in.
- Kimchi has many vitamins and nutrients that help you create a balanced diet.
- The high sodium content in kimchi means you should not eat too much.
Is kimchi good for you? 10 health benefits of kimchi:
Kimchi is linked to a wide variety of health benefits, including:
High in probiotics
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:
- The common cold4
- Gastrointestinal health6
- Heart health7
- Mental health8—read more about the link between your gut and your brain!
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.
Reduced risk of yeast infections
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.
Helps wounds to heal
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.
Promotes healthy bones and teeth
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
Helps your body to create energy
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.
Supports healthy eyes, skin, and nervous system
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.
Supports your immune system
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.
May help with weight loss
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:
- Support a diverse microbiome with high levels of probiotics.
- Have anti-aging properties.
- Reduce the risk of yeast infections.
- Have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Help wounds heal by supporting normal blood clotting.
- Promote healthy bones and teeth.
- Help the process of energy production.
- Support eye, skin, and nervous system health as we age.
- Support your immune system.
- Help with weight loss.
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.
How to include more kimchi in your diet
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.
How to make the best kimchi at home
Choose your kimchi ingredients. Common choices in kimchi recipes may be:
- Rice flour
- Chilli oil, powder, or pepper flakes
- Fish sauce
- Saeujeot (fermented shrimp)
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!
How to make vegetarian kimchi or vegan 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.
What to eat with 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 Poke Bowl: If you’re on a health kick or looking for a bowl of summer flavours, you’ll love our Kimchi Poke Bowl recipe, with wholegrain rice, edamame beans, avocado, and watermelon!
- Kimchi Fried Rice: For something that feels a little naughtier, but with all the benefits of kimchi, you need to try fried kimchi. It’s colourful, spicy, and so easy to make!
- You can make kimchi at home with a few ingredients and as little as 3 days.
- Getting more kimchi into your diet is simple as it’s the perfect side dish.
- Try new kimchi recipe ideas, like kimchi cheese on toast, kimchi with meat and rice, or kimchi fried rice.
Healthy kimchi FAQs
It is not recommended to eat kimchi every day as it has high levels of sodium and therefore should be eaten alongside a balanced diet.
The taste of kimchi varies greatly depending on the ingredients and spices you use. Due to the fermentation process, however, it tends to have a tangy, acidic flavour that can be an acquired taste.
Kimchi is mostly made from fermented cabbage, although there are many different recipes that change the ingredients and spices used.
Kimchi isn’t necessarily bad for you, but you should avoid consuming too much kimchi as it has a high level of sodium.
People with compromised immune systems should also be careful with kimchi as the most common safety concern is food poisoning.
Yes! Making organic kimchi is as simple as using organic ingredients, such as organic cabbage, vegetables, and spices.
As kimchi is quite acidic and has high levels of sodium, eating kimchi too frequently or in excess may upset your stomach.
Yes, Kimchi is halal. Although small traces of alcohol are released in the fermentation process, it is not enough to intoxicate you, and therefore it is halal.
Kimchi is like the Korean version of Germany’s sauerkraut. If you like the flavours and texture of kimchi, you’ll probably enjoy sauerkraut, too!
What is kimchi? Summary
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?
You might be interested in “What Is Sauerkraut & Its Benefits?”, “Do Fermented Foods Improve Gut Health?” and “Understanding Your Microbiome.”
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