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Kimchi: 14 Health Benefits
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Kimchi: 14 Health Benefits 

Kimchi is a living food like wine and cheese; the older it gets, the deeper its taste develops. Kimchi preserves nutrients, prebiotics that are already in fresh vegetables while self-generating probiotics

What is the most interesting food (to you) that you have eaten? If you are from the States or Canada or some other non-Asian country.

What is Kimchi?

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made with salted, fermented vegetables. Before the age of refrigeration, it wasn’t always possible to grow fresh vegetables throughout the year. Therefore, in order to have food available during the months that the gardens weren’t thriving, people developed methods of food preservation — pickling and fermentation. The process of fermentation involves using enzymes to create chemical changes in food.

Unlike sauerkraut (which is made primarily with white cabbage and spiced with caraway seeds), kimchi can vary in ingredients. Typically, it contains Chinese cabbage and seasonings like sugar, salt, onions, garlic, ginger, and chili peppers or chili paste. However, other vegetables are often added to kimchi, such as radish, celery, carrot, cucumber, eggplant, spinach, scallions, beets, and bamboo shoots. Despite the ingredient and flavor differences, both sauerkraut and kimchi are an easy, low-calorie way to increase your vegetable intake and incorporate healthy bacteria (probiotics) into your diet.

Health Magazine ranked kimchi among the world’s five healthiest foods, as it possesses anti-mutagenic, anti-bacterial, and anti-carcinogenic properties. The wealth of antioxidants it contains are thought to have healing effects on the digestive system, as well as chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and skin disorders. However, more human studies are required to confirm the possible health benefits of kimchi.

Though it can be fermented for a few days to a few weeks before serving, it can also be eaten fresh, or unfermented, immediately after it has been prepared.

Health Benefits of Kimchi

All of the elements in Kimchi are beneficial for our body, especially our intestines that feed our digestive tract, blood stream and brains. Kimchi adds flavors to any type of food; meat, potatoes, noodles, rice, bread, tortillas.

Kimchi is Nutrient-Dense

Since kimchi varies widely in ingredients, it is hard to state the exact nutritional profile between different batches. However, it is possible to know that kimchi is packed with nutrients and fiber while being low in calories (about 23 calories per 1 cup of kimchi). It contains many vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and vitamin C.  

Since kimchi often contains several green vegetables such as cabbage, celery, and spinach, each batch boasts a high amount of vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, iron, niacin, and riboflavin. Kimchi is also rich in essential amino acids and minerals such as iron, calcium, and selenium. It is packed with an assortment of antioxidants, as well as many helpful components such as capsaicin, chlorophyll, carotenoids, flavonoids, and isothiocyanates.

Contains Probiotics

Since kimchi undergoes the fermentation process, it is more easily absorbed by the body and contains probiotics in the form of lactobacillus bacteria. Fermentation occurs when a starch or sugar is converted into an alcohol or acid by organisms such as yeast, mold, or bacteria. For kimchi, the fermentation process uses the bacterium Lactobacillus to break sugars down into lactic acids, giving kimchi a sour taste.

When Lactobacillus bacteria is taken as a supplement, it can treat hay fever and certain types of diarrhea.The fermentation process also creates an environment that allows other healthy bacteria (or probiotics) to thrive. These microorganisms offer health benefits when consumed in large amounts such as protection from: certain types of cancer, the common cold, constipation, gastrointestinal distress, heart issues, mental health issues, and skin conditions.

Contains Antioxidants

Kimchi batches that use red pepper seeds are especially rich in antioxidants. This protects the cells from oxidative damage and harmful effects of oxygen-free radicals. When the cells are healthy and mutated cells are not multiplying, the risk of cancer is reduced.

Kimchi has other cancer-fighting ingredients that are found in cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage), called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates break down to form smaller components, called isothiocyanates, which are thought to be effective against cancerous cell growth. However, kimchi’s role against cancer requires more human research to be certain of its effects.

Boost the Immune System

Kimchi is rich in immune-boosting ingredients, such as ginger, garlic, and chili peppers — All which support the immune system and help the body fight infections and get rid of harmful pathogens. Additionally, kimchi’s digestive benefits are helpful to the immune system, also. Since the majority of immune function takes place in the gut, the probiotics in kimchi are beneficial to the immune system. Studies performed on mice have demonstrated that the Lactobacillus bacterium found in kimchi had lower levels of TNF alpha, an inflammatory marker, than the control group. TNF alpha levels are often elevated during infection and disease, demonstrating that the immune system has to work harder (and therefore less efficiently) than normal. Although human studies are needed in order to confirm these initial findings, increasing vegetable consumption is never a bad thing!

Reduce Inflammation

Excessive or chronic inflammation can destroy optimal health over time. Probiotics, such as those found in kimchi, can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the gut. Another study performed on mice showed that HDMPPA, one of the principal components in kimchi, improved blood vessel health by suppressing inflammation. However, human studies are required in order to confirm this benefit.

Slow the Aging Process

Ah, what we all desire! Kimchi contains antioxidants and vitamin C, both which help slow down the aging process. In addition, chronic inflammation accelerates the aging process. Kimchi potentially prolongs cell life by slowing this process and reducing inflammation within the body. In a test-tube study, human cells treated with kimchi demonstrated in increase in viability, or overall cell health, and an extended lifespan regardless of their age. Again, human research is required before kimchi can be recommended as a longevity treatment.

Prevent Yeast Infections

Yeast infections occur when the Candida fungus, which is normally harmless, multiplies rapidly inside the vagina, a condition that impacts over 1.4 million women in the United States each year. This fungus may be developing resistance to antibiotics, making natural treatments imperative. The probiotics and healthy bacteria that are found within kimchi may help prevent yeast infections. Test tube and animal studies indicate that certain strains of Lactobacillus fight Candida. Research for this benefit are in the early stages, but look hopeful.

Beneficial to Your Gut

Kimchi is a food that is used to promote proper digestion. The probiotics within kimchi help balance the good and bad bacteria in the gut, and therefore help to keep the intestinal flora in an optimal state of health. In addition, kimchi is made from Chinese cabbage, a vegetable that is high in fiber and is therefore able to stabilize bowel movements and prevent constipation.

Aid Weight Loss

Fresh and fermented kimchi are low in calories and high in fiber, and therefore may assist weight loss. During a 4-week study, 22 participants wight excess weight showed improvement in reducing body weight, body mass index (BMI), and body fat by eating fresh and fermented kimchi.

Additionally, those who ate fermented kimchi had decreased blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and body fat percentage than those who ate fresh kimchi. These results suggest that the fermentation process, and, therefore, creation of probiotics, are important in losing weight.

The fiber present in kimchi keeps the body full and hunger satisfied for a longer duration, which can prevent snacking and overeating. Also, people tend to overeat when food is boring or bland. Since kimchi is full of flavor, adding it to meals will help satisfy tastebuds and allow a person to feel content with a healthy meal.

Support Heart Health

Since inflammation may be an underlying cause of heart disease, preliminary research suggests that kimchi may reduce risk of heart disease as a result of its anti-inflammatory properties.A weeklong study in 100 people showed that eating 0.5-7.5 ounces (15-210 grams) of kimchi daily significantly lowered blood sugar, total cholesterol, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels… All of which are risk factors for heart disease.

One of the reasons that kimchi may have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels is because garlic, which is used to prepare it, is rich in selenium and allicin. These two components are thought to reduce unhealthy levels of cholesterol, along with a healthy diet and exercise. Selenium protects the artery walls by preventing plaque buildup, and therefore decreasing the risk of arthosclerosis.

Allicin may also reduce the risk of developing cardiac disorders such as strokes and heart attacks. Since kimchi contains antioxidants, this can help stabilize damaged cells that can accelerate disease processes in chronic conditions, such as heart disease.

Support Brain Health

Since the brain and gut are connected, keeping the digestive system is imperative for optimal cognitive function. The enteric nervous system within the gut communicates with the brain, so improving gut health will improve brain function.

Benefits the Skin

Since kimchi contains the bacteria lactobacillus, it can help alleviate skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis occurs when there are increased levels of immunoglobulin E and skin lesions, such as edema and hemorrhage.

Helps Manage Diabetes

In a study with high-fat diet, type-2 diabetic rats, kimchi decreased some diabetic signs and symptoms, including better glucose tolerance and lower levels of fasting glucose.

Reduces Gastric Ulcers

Gastritis and peptic ulcer disease is caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria. The presence of Lactobacillus bacteria inhibits the harmful Helicobacter pylori bacteria from binding to human gastric cells.

Kimchi: Side Effects

Food Poisoning

This dish has recently been linked to E. coli and norovirus (“summer flu”) outbreaks. Although fermented foods don’t typically carry food borne pathogens, kimchi can still be vulnerable to food borne illnesses if the ingredients contain pathogens. As such, make sure that the ingredients are fresh and there has not been a pathological outbreak.

High Sodium Content

Since this dish has a high sodium content, you may want to limit the amount consumed per day if you’re watching your sodium intake. However, a study with 114 people with high blood pressure showed no significant relationship between kimchi intake and high blood pressure.

Digestive Problems with Excessive Consumption

As the saying goes… There can be too much of a good thing! Research has indicated that excessive amounts of kimchi may aggravate the risk of developing gastric cancer due to the sodium and red pepper combining to form a carcinogen. Additionally, due to fermentation, kimchi is abundant in fiber, which may cause gas and bloating in susceptible individuals who don’t break down fiber well. Cabbage is a food that can cause gas and bloating on its own, so just proceed with caution. Whenever you add anything new to your diet, start slowly! Begin by adding small quantities of kimchi into your diet and assess how your body handles the new food.

Kimchi Packs Some Serious Heat

Unlike sauerkraut, traditional kimchi can be spicy! If you’re sensitive to spice or are susceptible to acid reflux, look (or make) versions that are less spicy.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of cabbage (Chinese or napa are common)
  • 8 ounces of Korean or daikon Raddish, peeled and cut into matchsticks (optional)
  • Carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks (optional)
  • Onion, cut into chunks (optional)
  • 4 medium scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce or salted shrimp paste (optional)
  • 1-5 tbsp. red chili flakes
    • Note: For a mild flavor, add 1 tbsp… Increase up to 5 tbsp., depending on your spice preference.
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated and peeled
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup iodine-free sea salt or kosher salt
  • Water, preferably filtered or distilled

How to Prepare Kimchi at Home

Equipment

  • Cutting board and knife
  • Plate and something to weigh the kimchi down, like a jar
  • Clean 1-quart jar with lid
  • Bowl or plate to place under jar during fermentation

Instructions

  1. Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters, through the stem. From each of the pieces, then cut the cores. Ensure that you cut each quarter crosswise to strips that are not less than 2-inch in width.
  2. Salt the cabbage. Put the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle salt all over it. Use your (WASHED) hands to mix the salt properly until it starts to soften. Add enough water to cover the cabbage. Place a plate on top of the cabbage and weigh it down with something heavy. Leave this setup as is for one to two hours.
  3. Rinse and drain the cabbage thoroughly in cold water at least three times. Keep it aside to drain in a colander for about 15-20 minutes while you prepare the spice paste.
  4. Make the spice paste. Properly rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting. Add the sugar, fish sauce (or shrimp paste), ginger, garlic, and water and stir into a smooth paste. Add the red pepper/chili flakes and stir.
  5. Combine the vegetables and spice paste. Return to the cabbage and gently squeeze out any water. Add the cabbage to the spice paste. Add the other vegetables (radish, scallions, onion, etc.) and mix well.
  6. Mix thoroughly. Gently coat the paste over the vegetables with your hands. Use gloves to protect your hands from stings, stains, and smells.
  7. Pack the kimchi into the jar. Take a 1-quart jar and pack the kimchi in it. Press it down until the liquid that comes out of the kimchi rises to cover the vegetables, leaving at least an inch of space on top. Seal the jar.
  8. Let the kimchi ferment for 1-5 days at cool room temperature, far away from direct sunlight, under a plate or bowl to catch the overflow. You may see bubbles inside the jar and brine (or liquid of the kimchi) may seep out of the lid, which is normal during fermentation.
  9. Check it daily and refrigerate when ready.  Check the kimchi at least once per day, opening the jar and pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon so that the vegetables remain submerged under the brine. Keep checking the taste from time to time. When the kimchi tastes ripe enough to your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. You may eat it right away, but it is best in a week or two.

Notes

  • Kimchi gets its umami flavor from seafood (fish sauce, oyster or shrimp paste… Or a combination). For vegetarians and vegans, use 3/4 teaspoon of kelp powder mixed with 3 tablespoons of water, or simply 3 tablespoons of water.
  • You can refrigerate the kimchi for up to a few months.
  • You use salt that is free of iodine and anti-caking agents so that fermentation is not disrupted.
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Kimchi: 14 Health Benefits

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