Demystifying Kimchi’s Health Claims
Written By Stephen Redeker
Near the end of November brings the annual tradition of making kimchi. For centuries, different forms of kimchi have been a part of the Korean diet. The most common type, which consists of Chinese cabbage covered in a mix of red pepper paste and other spices, has been a staple since the 18th century. There have been numerous health claims made about kimchi, and some doctors even prescribe it to their patients (Got a stomach ache? You are not eating enough kimchi). Some have even claimed its ability to ward off bird flu and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). While these examples may seem farfetched to many, let us take a look at the scientifically proven health benefits of Korea’s most cherished side dish.
Kimchi contributes to improved digestion in a few ways. The main ingredient, cabbage, is already known to contain fiber which helps clear out the intestines. The fermentation of kimchi creates the healthy bacterium lactobacillus, which, also found in yogurt, enhances the digestion process. The effects of the lactobacilli extend beyond just digestion. It fights against dermatitis and promotes healthy skin and hair. It also assists in weight loss by suppressing appetite and stabilizing blood sugar levels (which is very helpful to diabetics). Tests have also shown that kimchi contains allicin, which is found in garlic. This helps the body reduce cholesterol levels and prevents the buildup of unhealthy plaque in the artery walls, thus reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Garlic, ginger, and pepper are used to make kimchi, and these provide phenolics and flavenoids, which are compounds that enrich the blood circulation system, as well as boost the immune system. The antioxidants contained in kimchi help reduce the dangers of free radicals, which can lead to cancer. That is a big reason why kimchi is recognized for its anti-aging properties; it helps slow down the aging process at the cellular level due the high concentration of these healthy components. Also, the large presence of vitamins A, B and C in the ingredients play a big part in keeping the body strong.
Eating massive amounts of kimchi does come with a risk, however. Stomach (gastric) cancer deaths in Korea are very high compared to the rest of the world. Doctors have said that too much salt, combined with red pepper especially, could form dangerous carcinogens. Fermented foods may highly increase the risk of cancer in many people, so doctors recommend a controlled intake.
We may not know for certain the exact effects kimchi has on preventing certain diseases and conditions in the body, but what experts have discovered is very encouraging. There are so many healthy components that combine in kimchi, which is why numerous health benefits exist. So, go enjoy some kimchi today!
References: organicfacts.net, livestrong.com, health.com, webmd.com