Kimchi is a traditional Korean food prepared by fermenting vegetables. The basic version combines cabbage and radish with garlic, salt, vinegar, chili peppers and other spices. It is consumed with every meal. It has been touted as the Korean secret to preventing obesity. Korea has one of the lowest obesity rankings of industrialized countries.
Research on kimchi has shown it possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity as well as enhanced immune response and anti-diabetic effects. Other studies have found it reduces body fat. Scientists have yet to determine why fermented foods are beneficial at keeping us lean, but as more research unfolds regarding gut flora and the microbiome answers should start to unfold. They do know that fermented foods produce beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that have been shown to help improve digestive health.
Fermented foods are not unique to Korea. Every culture seems to have a traditional gut friendly food of its own. In India, Lassi is a fermented yogurt drink commonly consumed before meals. In Eastern Europe, Kvass a fermented beverage made from rye bread, is commonly sold in the streets. In the United States, millennials have fallen in love with Kombucha, a fermented tea touted as a beauty drink by celebrities Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon and Azealia Banks.
As the evidence continues to mount on the benefits of the daily consumption of fermented foods, some researchers are encouraging the addition of fermented foods as a separate category in food guide recommendations. India and Japan are leading the trend; government food guides now encourage fermented and probiotic food sources for certain targeted groups.
Bottom Line: Include fermented foods as part of a healthy lifestyle. There are flavors and bases to please even delicate palettes, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Written by: Wendimere Reilly, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern