Feature Image by Portuguese Gravity

Kimchi has been a mainstay in Korean cooking since, at least, the early Three Kingdoms Period. The spicy-salty superstar started gracing Western grocery shelves long ago, but with the relatively recent emphasis on the importance of gut health, it’s no surprise that its popularity has skyrocketed. Here’s everything you need to know.

What’s the difference between kimchi and sauerkraut?
You’re probably familiar with kimchi’s more demure cousin, sauerkraut. If you’re wondering about the difference between the two (aside from the country of origin), it’s simple: sauerkraut is white cabbage spiced with caraway seeds, while the most common type of kimchi (there are over 200 varieties) is Chinese cabbage with chili paste and garlic — which accounts for its renown zip! 

What are the benefits of eating kimchi?
Most of the benefits of kimchi are derived from its dense concentration of gut-healthy probiotics. It’s probably no surprise, then, that consumption of the Korean staple (and other fermented foods) can make for a happy digestive tract — but many of us are not aware just how much of our health starts in the gut.

  • Improved immunity. Since 70-80% of our immune system actually lives in the gut, it’s kind of a no-brainer that happy bacteria and immunity are inextricably linked.
  • Decreased chronic inflammation. Although studies in gut biodiversity and inflammation are still largely in the inceptive stage, some have shown that there may be a strong link between low biome diversity and chronic inflammatory conditions, such as eczema and allergies.
  • Reduced “bad” cholesterol. One particularly promising study concluded that kimchi can improve serum lipid profiles in otherwise healthy young adults, lowering the concentration of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) — as well as overall blood glucose — within just seven days of regular consumption. High LDL is linked to conditions like heart disease and stroke, so it’s important to do all we can to keep it in check.
  • Relieved anxiety. A recent study linked regulation of miRNAs with a healthy gut biome, which matters because, as Dr. Gerard Clark (one author of the study) said, “…these miRNAs may affect physiological processes that are fundamental to the functioning of the central nervous system and in brain regions…which are heavily implicated in anxiety and depression.” The study concludes that the introduction of a balanced gut biome may help to stabilize erratic miRNAs, leading to improvements in anxiety, depression, and other stress-related psychiatric conditions.

How do you eat kimchi?
Now that we’ve convinced you that kimchi is almost always a good idea, here are some recipes to keep this spicy friend in your dietary rotation.

Jean’s Kimchi Recipe

We’d be remiss to draft a kimchi recipe roundup without giving you a good recipe for kimchi itself! This one comes packed with Korean motherly love, so you know it’s going to be good.

Quick Kimchi Pancakes

No, not the kind you eat with syrup. These are crispy, salty, veggie-packed fritters you’ll want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Healthy Homemade Kimchi Ramen

The perfect host to usher us into the pending autumn season.

Kalbi-Style Braised Beef Cheek Tacos

Make like rebelliously ingenious chef Roy Choi and give Korean tacos a try. 

Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwich

It’s no secret that we love good comfort food. Kimchi is just the thing to add some kick to your next cozy grilled cheese night.

Don’t stop there! Let’s not forget that kimchi is, after all, a condiment. Get creative! Add it to grain bowls, wraps, sandwiches, stews, or eat it right out of the jar (we won’t judge).

xx, The FabFitFun Team