For Your Health: Kimchi


L. was sick for 5 days straight - some dumbed-down version of the swine flu, maybe, or maybe just some other pesky virus. She recovered Monday night, but I felt like I was going down. So I reluctantly cancelled plans to see "Precious" with "the girls," and went foraging in the fridge for dinner. In my mish-mash-hodge-podge of items was a favorite: Kimchi.  'Cause as you may remember, when the chips are down for me health-wise, I like to treat my body as best I can . . . and kimchi is pretty much as healthy as it gets.

So . . . what is it?  Kimchi is Korea’s most representative food - served at pretty much every meal.  Essentially, it's fermented vegetables - often made with cabbage, radishes, garlic, scallions and leeks, each with its own health benefits.  But because it's fermented, kimchi provides the health benefits of the veggies, plus, it can lower cholesterol, improve digestion, provide essential vitamins and minerals and provide a great, non-dairy source of live probiotics.  

You've probably heard about probiotics - they've been in the news a lot lately.  You mostly hear about supplements and yogurt.  Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that aid in maintaining the balance of microorganisms in your body's intestinal tract. On average, the human digestive system contains more than 400 types of probiotic bacteria. These all serve to inhibit the growth of dangerous bacteria by promoting the health of the digestive system.  And did you know that kimchi has more lactic acid bacteria than yogurt?  It does! 

What can kimchi do for you?

  • Kimchi helps reduce indigestion and gas. Excess bad bacteria causes irritation leading to indigestion, gas and fluid retention.
  • Kimchi may help you feel less hungry. Lactobacillus, one common strain of good bacteria, has been linked to appetite control. Good bacteria helps stabilize blood-sugar levels which means less frequent and less intense hunger.
  • Some studies have shown that kimchi can shorten the duration of a cold.
  • The juice and salt from kimchi helps to keep the intestines clean.
  • The chili peppers and garlic help to lower blood cholesterol and are an aid in blood-clotting.

How do you eat kimchi?  Really, any way you like.  The other night, I had it with chicken tenders and roasted root veggies.  But in addition to eating kimchi as a side dish, it's also served as kimchi stew, kimchi soup, kimchi dumplings, kimchi stir fried rice, etc. etc. etc.

You can make your own kimchi, but I'm lazy.  I get my everyday kimchi at Whole Foods, but if you're in the area and want an adventure, the new HMart in Burlington has an entire wall of kimchi . . . so you can sample different varieties, with absolutely NO health-downside to your nibbling.  What could be better?