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If you’re a fan of Korean cuisine, you might already be familiar with kimchi, a mixture of salted and fermented vegetables, because it has been a staple for centuries. But if it’s your first time reading about it, you’ll be glad to discover that kimchi benefits not only those at risk of heart disease and diabetes, but also for those looking to lose weight, improve digestion, promote skin health, and so much more.
Kimchi is a nutritious vegetable probiotic food
Kimchi is a low-calorie, low-fat, nutrient-dense source of vitamins (especially vitamin C and beta-carotene), minerals, fiber, important phytochemicals (including beta-sitosterol, sulfur compounds, and capsaicin), and, perhaps most importantly, numerous probiotic strains (including Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus brevis). Researchers have compared kimchi to yogurt, stating that kimchi can be considered a vegetable probiotic food, while yogurt is a health-promoting dairy probiotic food.
Kimchi for weight loss
Studies have reported numerous health benefits of kimchi and other fermented vegetables. For instance, eating kimchi can help obese people decrease body weight, body mass index, waist-hip ratio, and percentage of body fat.
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Kimchi nutritional benefits also improve a number of metabolic factors associated with being overweight that increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes: fasting blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. In diabetic rats, kimchi improves insulin function and lowers average blood glucose levels. In healthy young people, kimchi helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
Other kimchi benefits
Besides its effect on weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, kimchi benefits that have been reported in the scientific literature include:
- Increased antioxidant status 
- Protection from asthma 
- Anti-aging properties [1,6]
- Anti-cancer benefits [1,7]
- Protection from atherosclerosis 
- Anti-constipation effects 
- Colon health promotion 
- Brain health promotion 
- Skin health promotion 
Immune stimulating effects of kimchi need further study
One of the other possible benefits of eating kimchi is immune system stimulation, potentially decreasing the risk of viral infections such as the flu. In animals, kimchi stimulates the growth of immune cells such as spleen cells, bone marrow cells, thymus cells, and B cells. The probiotic strain lactobacillus plantarum isolated from kimchi increases the production of immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody that plays a critical role in immunity, in mice.
Only one human study, which was small and of short duration (4 weeks), has examined the immune effects of kimchi in humans. Results did not show any clear effects of kimchi on the immune systems of healthy college students. Further studies that are larger and of longer duration are needed to determine the immune enhancing effects of kimchi.
The best kimchi for health
There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi, each with varying types of fermented vegetables, seasonings, and cooking methods. Tastes range from bland to spicy. Good kimchi is often described as having a balanced sour, salty, and spicy flavor and has a crunchy texture. Experiment to find brands and varieties that suit your taste, but make sure you’re purchasing fermented kimchi, as non-fermented varieties are also available. Also, avoid kimchi that contains MSG, excessive amounts of sodium, and/or preservatives. There are many recipes to make you own, like this one.
The benefits of eating kimchi daily can vary from person to person. Share your experience on kimchi benefits in the comments section below.
Originally published in 2015, this post has been updated.
 J Korean Soc Food Sci Nutr. 2002;31:117–123.
 J Korean Soc Food Sci Nutr. 1995;24:169–182.