What is Kimchi and why is it amazing for our gut?
Kimchi is a popular Korean dish consisting of pickled, fermented vegetables, similar to sauerkraut but with garlic, ginger, and chilies. It comes in several different forms and can range from mild to super spicy, depending on preference. The vegetables are cut, salted, then fermented over some time: the result is a tangy gut-promoting mixture. It is great for salad dressings, on top of grains, made in sushi, eaten in stews, or even in sauces!
Kimchi has an excellent nutritional profile. The dish is low in calories but packed with nutrients like iron, folate, riboflavin, and vitamins B6 and K. Because kimchi often comprises several green veggies, such as cabbage, celery, and spinach, it’s typically a great source of these nutrients. Vitamin K plays an important role in many bodily functions, including bone metabolism and blood clotting, while riboflavin helps regulate energy production, cellular growth, and metabolism. What’s more, the fermentation process may develop additional nutrients that are more easily absorbed by your body. Since kimchi varies widely in ingredients, its exact nutritional profile differs between batches and brands. In addition to its nutrient profile, it is a great source of fiber as 1/4 cup contains 1 gram.
Studies show that if tolerated, fermented foods are highly beneficial to human health as they are a prebiotic that is used to feed the good bacteria in our guts. Though not many clinical trials have been done to research the in-vivo (or human, real-life) evidence of the benefits of fermented foods, there is plenty of less formal and in-lab evidence that these foods are beneficial for the gut microbiota.
The reasons why fermented foods are thought to be highly beneficial include improving the gut microbiome by providing probiotics (or extra beneficial bacteria), and producing more beneficial peptides (proteins) and short chain fatty acids -- which help maintain the integrity and health in the cells of the gut lining. These fermented foods are also known to reduce anti-nutrients, which are usually naturally occurring compounds that interfere with or even decrease the function and absorption of other nutrients in the body. Though more clinical trials are needed, the evidence for these fermented foods is promising!
Ways to eat it
Kimchi can be made with any kind of vegetable, though cabbage and daikon radishes are the most common. It is salty, spicy, and wonderfully funky! You can eat it as is, added to rice or grain bowls, salads, even turn it into a pasta sauce!
Ingredients (Makes 4 Servings):
3-8 lbs napa cabbage
2 bunches green onions
2-3 carrots, peeled and thinly julienned
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup korean chili powder
15-29 garlic cloves
4-6 inches ginger, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp vegan fish sauce
unsweetened pear or apple juice
4 Tbsp white miso paste
Cut the napa into thin lengthwise pieces and place it into a bowl with peeled and cut carrots. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup kosher salt and massage till everything is starting to wilt. Fill with spring water and cover to soak for at least 1 and 1/2 hours.
Drain the cabbage and carrots in a strainer. Meanwhile, put green onions, garlic, ginger, miso paste, and Korean chili in a food processor and blend till smooth. Add in the fish sauce and some of the fruit juice until it's a thin consistency.
Put the vegetables in a big glass bowl and pour the chili paste over the cabbage. While wearing gloves, massage the paste into the vegetables.
Pack your kimchi into canning jars tightly. Gently place the lid on top without screwing it on all the way and place your jar over something to catch any spillover. Let it sit at room temp for 72 hours until bubbly. After 72 hours you can enjoy or put it in the fridge for up to 6 months with the lid on! Enjoy.
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Chan, M., Baxter, H., Larsen, N., Jespersen, L., Ekinci, E., Howel, K. (2019). Impact of
botanical fermented foods on metabolic biomarkers and gut microbiota in adults
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Kim, M., Yang, H., Kim, S., Lee, H., Lee, M. (2018). Effects of kimchi on human health.
Medicine. 97(13): e0163.doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000010163.
Lindamood, R. (n.d.) Easy Fast Kimchi Recipe. Get a Recipe Cart.
Dimidi, E., Cox, S. R., Rossi, M., & Whelan, K. (2019). Fermented Foods: Definitions
and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal
Health and Disease. Nutrients, 11(8), 1806. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081806.