What is Kimchi?
A Brief History
Kimchi can be traced back to as early as 2,600-3,000 years ago. Early forms of kimchi consisted only of salted vegetables and no spices. In the twelfth century people began to include other spices to create different sweet and sour flavours and colours of kimchi.
The Classic of Poetry, an ancient Chinese also known as Shih-ching gives the first text-written mention of Kimchi. The poet referred to kimchi as “Ji,” the term used before "Chimchae".
Chili peppers came to Korea in the early seventeenth century. Chili peppers originated in America and were introduced to East Asia by western traders. Kimchi made with chili peppers and Chinese cabbage became more popular in the nineteenth century and continues to be the most popular form of kimchi today.
What are the benefits of Kimchi?
Nutritional Value of Kimchi
Kimchi has an excellent nutritional profile and is packed with nutrients including iron, folate, and vitamins B6 and K while also being low in calories.
The main ingredients in kimchi, Chinese cabbage, boasts vitamins A and C, at least 10 different minerals, and over 34 amino acids. Many green vegetables are good sources of nutrients like vitamin K and riboflavin. Kimchi often comprises of several green vegetables, such as cabbage, celery, and spinach, it’s typically a great source of these nutrients.
Vitamin K plays an important role in a lot of bodily functions, including bone metabolism and blood clotting, while riboflavin helps regulate energy production, cellular growth, and metabolism. The fermentation process also helps develop additional nutrients that are more easily absorbed by your body.
Every Korean family has its own kimchi recipe, passed down from generation to generation. The recipes are based on regional variations tailored to local ingredients.
Kimchi's Nutritional Profile
Since kimchi varies widely in ingredients, its exact nutritional profile differs between batches and brands. All the same, a 150-gram serving contains approximately:
Carbs: 4 grams
Protein: 2 grams
Fat: less than 1 gram
Fibre: 2 grams
Sodium: 747 mg
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
Fun Fact...In 2015, UNESCO declared the kimchi and its traditional practices as Korea’s intangible cultural heritage.
Does Kimchi Help My Gut Health?
It is filled with good probiotics bacteria. Fermentation reduces the carbohydrates making kimchi low in sugar and calories.
The lacto-fermentation process that kimchi undergoes makes it particularly unique. The fermentation process not only extendeds the shelf life but also adds an enhanced taste and aroma.The fermentation occurs when a starch or sugar is converted into an alcohol or acid by organisms like yeast, mold, or bacteria.
Lacto-fermentation uses the bacterium Lactobacillus to break sugars down into lactic acid, which gives kimchi its characteristic sour flavour.
Fermentation also creates an environment that allows other friendly bacteria to thrive and multiply. These include probiotics, which are live microorganisms that offer health benefits when consumed in large amounts.
Probiotics are linked to the prevention and treatment of several conditions, including constipation, gastrointestinal health, heart health and skin conditions.
Fermented foods like kimchi offer probiotics, which may help prevent and treat several conditions. The Lactobacillus bacterium in kimchi may boost your immune health. Test-tube study that isolated Lactobacillus plantarum from kimchi likewise demonstrated that this bacterium has immune-enhancing effects.
The Probiotics and active compounds in kimchi and other fermented foods may also help fight inflammation. In a recent study, a kimchi extract administered at 91 mg per pound of body weight (200 mg per kg) daily for 2 weeks lowered levels of inflammation-related enzymes.
Other Health Benefits of Kimchi
Although research is in the early stages, it seems probiotic-rich foods like kimchi may help prevent yeast infections.
Fresh and fermented kimchi are both low in calories and may boost weight loss. A 4-week study in 22 people with excess weight found that eating fresh or fermented kimchi helped reduce body weight, body mass index (BMI), and body fat.
Research indicates that kimchi may reduce your risk of heart disease. In an 8-week study in mice fed a high cholesterol diet, fat levels in the blood and liver were lower in those given kimchi extract than in people in the control group. In addition, the kimchi extract appeared to suppress fat growth.