I began taking an interest in food and nutrition after an injury at the age of 18 left me unable to dance. Since then, I have developed a passion for cooking delicious, healthy meals, and embarked on a lifelong journey to learn more about nutrition and wellness. As a result, I’ve created a collection of recipes to help you cook nourishing meals. And one dish I think you should know more about is kimchi. Known as a probiotic superfood, it can be extremely beneficial for some people’s health, while also a cause of problems for others. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about kimchi.
What is kimchi?
Kimchi is a fermented vegetable dish, and a staple of Korean cuisine. It’s incredibly versatile, and the best thing about it is that there are endless possibilities when it comes to recipes. It can be incorporated into every meal — even breakfast! However, it’s most commonly found in stews like kimchi-jjigae, stir-fry recipes, or served on its own, accompanied by fried rice or noodles. It also works as a condiment or side dish, and can be eaten as a snack right out of the jar. You’ll find kimchi in Asian grocery stores and health food shops
What is kimchi made of?
Kimchi is most commonly made using cabbage, garlic, ginger and fish sauce. However, many different vegetables can be used, including carrots, radish, cucumber or scallions. There are hundreds of kimchi varieties, depending on the region of Korea in which it was produced, or even the season it was made. For instance, a delicious option for spring and summer would be a cool cucumber kimchi, which can be stuffed with seafood and chilli paste.
What does kimchi taste like?
Kimchi offers a complex mix of flavours, simultaneously tasting sweet, sour and spicy. However, you can adapt this by shaking up the combination of vegetables you use, and how you incorporate it into your meals. For instance, white kimchi contains milder ingredients like fruit, giving it a sweeter taste. The flavour is also affected by the fermentation process, and will intensify the longer you let it sit, while adding more or less salt and sugar will also have an obvious impact on the taste.
What are the health benefits of kimchi?
Kimchi has plenty of health benefits, as it’s a fermented food which contains natural probiotics, helping to breed friendly bacteria in your gut to aid digestion. Probiotics are also said to improve mental health, and help to stave off certain cancers and the common cold. They can also lower your risk of heart disease thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties. On top of all these benefits, kimchi is also low-calorie and nutrient dense, packed with vitamins A, C and K, as well as iron. It also contains B6 which is essential for vegetarians and vegans who can’t source the vitamin from fish, beef and other organ meats in which it naturally occurs. B6 helps the body to use and store energy, form haemoglobin, and underpins the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. With so many advantageous benefits, there’s no question that kimchi is a great dish to bring into your diet.
Are there any reasons not to eat kimchi?
While kimchi does have its benefits, you should still eat it sparingly, especially if you are at risk of heart disease. This is thanks to its high salt content, as a sodium-rich diet can lead to increased consumption of fatty foods, elevated blood pressure and higher excretion of calcium, which can weaken your bones. Furthermore, the process of fermentation affects people differently, and can cause uncomfortable bloating in some due to the excess gas it produces during digestion. Fermented foods can also cause headaches and migraines, as they naturally contain histamine and tyramine, chemicals within the body which some people can be sensitive to.
Overall, however, kimchi is hugely beneficial as part of a healthy diet, thanks to the good it can do for your gut, the fact that it counts as part of your five a day, and — most importantly — is extremely delicious.