Health

The Power of Kimchi: A Nutritional Superfood

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Can kimchi benefit individuals trying to incorporate more fermented foods into their diet?

Kimchi

Kimchi is a flavorful and nutritious food packed with nutritious vegetables. It is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and iron. It is made of salted, fermented vegetables and typically served as a side dish that starts with cabbage as the base. Other varieties use different vegetables, like radish, cucumber, and onion. It has minimal calories, a low carb count, zero fat, and health benefits like an abundance of probiotics from its fermentation process.

Nutrition

Kimchi is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A. A typical half-cup of kimchi is 85 grams and provides the following. (U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2017)

  • Calories – 20
  • Fat – 0g
  • Sodium – 290 milligrams
  • Carbohydrates – 4 grams
  • Fiber – 1 grams
  • Sugars – 2 grams
  • Protein – 1 grams
  • Vitamin C – 18 milligrams
  • Iron – 1.08 milligrams
  • Vitamin A – 375 micrograms
  • Calcium – 40 milligrams

Calories

  • A half-cup serving provides 20 calories, about 53% of which are carbohydrates, 21% are protein, and 26% are fat.

Carbohydrates

  • Kimchi comprises 4 grams of carbohydrates per serving, with 1 being fiber.
  • However, many kimchi recipes add sweeteners, like honey or fruit juice, to balance the sourness.
  • More sweeteners means more carbohydrates.

Fats

  • Because it is primarily vegetables, it is naturally fat-free.

Protein

  • Kimchi isn’t exactly a protein-power player.
  • A half-cup serving provides just 1 gram of plant-based protein from veggies.
  • However, recipes that include seafood like shrimp or squid will contain higher amounts of this macronutrient.

Vitamins and Minerals

  • Vitamins and minerals vary depending on the vegetables used.
  • A Napa cabbage-based kimchi includes abundant vitamins C and K and smaller amounts of iron, calcium, copper, and potassium.
  • A recipe with carrots will contain significant vitamin A.
  • A recipe with radishes will supply folate, potassium, and riboflavin.
  • All varieties are made with salt, so sodium is a mineral to watch.
  • A half-cup serving may provide nearly 300 milligrams or 13% Daily Value of sodium.

Benefits

Kimchi is a versatile food that can provide health benefits.

Digestion

  • The lactic acid that ferments the cabbage also provides healthy gut bacteria.
  • Consuming probiotics through kimchi promotes healthy digestion and helps alleviate constipation problems. (Higashikawa, F. et al., 2010)

Compatible with Special Diets

  • With simple plant-based ingredients it can be suitable for specialized diets.
  • It suits vegan, vegetarian, low-carb, gluten-free, and dairy-free diets.

Immune System Support

Decrease Inflammation

  • Researchers isolated a compound in kimchi called HDMPPA – 3-(4′-hydroxyl-3′,5′-dimethoxyphenyl) propionic acid
    and studied its interaction with inflammatory proteins.
  • They discovered that HDMPPA counteracted the proteins’ inflammatory effect.
  • It is not enough to conclude that kimchi readily reduces inflammation, but further research could help confirm its ability. (Jeong, J. W. et al., 2015)

Improve Asthma Symptoms

  • A study of Korean adults with asthma found that the more kimchi they consumed, the less likely they were to experience an asthma attack.
  • Further research is needed, but the results are promising. (Kim, H. et al., 2014)

Allergies

  • Commercial and home-prepared kimchi is often free of all top eight food allergens—but check ingredient labels to be sure.
  • Some preparations, for example, may contain fish sauce, shrimp, or shrimp paste, which are a no-go for those with a fish or shellfish allergy.

Adverse Effects

  • Kimchi may have adverse effects on some individuals depending on its preparation.
  • It could be high in sodium, which may not be recommended for individuals on a heart-healthy or sodium-restricted diet.
  • With high levels of probiotics, it could cause bloating or an upset stomach.
  • Individuals sensitive to strong flavors may not enjoy the taste.

Varieties

Traditionally, kimchi is made from cabbage, but a wide variety of vegetables can be substituted for or combined with recipes that use alternative vegetables, spices, or other additions. Some recipes include fish or meat to turn it inta a main dish. Water kimchi is a soup version served in broth. But what makes kimchi is its base of fermented vegetables.

Storage and Safety

Fermentation can be tricky when it comes to food safety. Store-bought or homemade kimchi properly canned in a sterilized jar can be kept at room temperature for up to a week after opening. Stored in the refrigerator, it will stay fresh for three to six months. The beneficial bacteria working and fermentation process is ongoing, making the taste increasingly sour and texture mushier over time. This does not mean the jar has gone bad as long as it has no odd smell or mold.

Preparation

The process is not that complex.

  • Select a recipe with vegetables like cabbage, radish, and carrots.
  • Slice the vegetables into chunks and rub with salt.
  • Leave the vegetables in salt; some recipes include water for several hours to allow fermentation.
  • Drain the excess water, then add flavoring ingredients like sweeteners and spices.
  • Serve as a side dish with fried rice or noodles, or make it a main course by adding fish, meat, or tofu.

Injury Medical Chiropractic and Functional Medicine Clinic focuses on and treats injuries and chronic pain syndromes through personalized care plans that improve ability through flexibility, mobility, and agility programs to relieve pain. Our providers use an integrated approach to create personalized care plans for each patient, to restore health and function to the body through Nutrition and Wellness, Functional Medicine, Acupuncture, Electro-Acupuncture, and Sports Medicine protocols. If the individual needs other treatment, they will be referred to a clinic or physician best suited for them, as Dr. Jimenez has teamed up with the top surgeons, clinical specialists, medical researchers, nutritionists, and health coaches to provide the most effective clinical treatments.


The Healing Diet


References

U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. (2017). Kimchi. Retrieved from fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/516912/nutrients

Higashikawa, F., Noda, M., Awaya, T., Nomura, K., Oku, H., & Sugiyama, M. (2010). Improvement of constipation and liver function by plant-derived lactic acid bacteria: a double-blind, randomized trial. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 26(4), 367–374. doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2009.05.008

Olivares, M., Paz Díaz-Ropero, M., Gómez, N., Sierra, S., Lara-Villoslada, F., Martín, R., Miguel Rodríguez, J., & Xaus, J. (2006). Dietary deprivation of fermented foods causes a fall in innate immune response. Lactic acid bacteria can counteract the immunological effect of this deprivation. The Journal of dairy research, 73(4), 492–498. doi.org/10.1017/S0022029906002068

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. (2021). Vitamin C: Fact sheet for health professionals. Retrieved from ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/

Jeong, J. W., Choi, I. W., Jo, G. H., Kim, G. Y., Kim, J., Suh, H., Ryu, C. H., Kim, W. J., Park, K. Y., & Choi, Y. H. (2015). Anti-Inflammatory Effects of 3-(4′-Hydroxyl-3′,5′-Dimethoxyphenyl)Propionic Acid, an Active Component of Korean Cabbage Kimchi, in Lipopolysaccharide-Stimulated BV2 Microglia. Journal of medicinal food, 18(6), 677–684. doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2014.3275

Kim, H., Oh, S. Y., Kang, M. H., Kim, K. N., Kim, Y., & Chang, N. (2014). Association between kimchi intake and asthma in Korean adults: the fourth and fifth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2007-2011). Journal of medicinal food, 17(1), 172–178. doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2013.3013

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The information herein on "The Power of Kimchi: A Nutritional Superfood" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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