The health benefits of kimchi

Discover the nutritional profile of this fermented vegetable dish. We look at the calorie, protein, fat and salt content, plus how kimchi affects digestive health.

Kimchi in a glass jar

What is kimchi?

Kimichi is a traditional Korean dish that is made from fermented vegetables. There are hundreds of different varieties available which include a range of vegetables such as cabbage, onion, radish, and carrot, and various different spices. The taste can vary depending on what ingredients are used and how it is made, but it typically has a spicy yet sour taste to it.

In can be eaten by itself, as a condiment or used in cooking such as stews and noodle dishes.

Kimchi is made but cutting the vegetables into slices or strips, massaging them with salt to create brine to start the fermentation process, adding in the spices, and then packing it tightly into a jar and leaving to ferment for a week or two at room temperature.

If you don’t want to make your own, then kimchi is readily available in jars, in health food shops, larger supermarkets and online.

Nutritional profile of kimchi

This can vary slightly depending on the ingredients used, but a standard cabbage kimchi will contain 40 calories per 100g. It has about 1.1g of protein, 0.4g fat and 7g of carbohydrates of which just 0.3g is sugar and 0.8g is fibre, making it a low sugar product.

Kimchi is a good source of folate which is important in pregnancy to reduce the risk of central neural tube defects, potassium that helps control the body’s balance of fluids and calcium which is important for muscle contractions as well as strong teeth and bones.

Kimchi is quite high in salt though and should be used sparingly, especially for those with high blood pressure. Just 2 tbsp kimchi can provide around 2 tsp salt, so check the labels and look for lower salt varieties.

Kimchi in a bowl

Is kimchi good for gut health?

There is growing evidence that fermented foods such as kimchi may improve intestinal health and as a result support the immune system and anti-inflammatory responses. Kimchi can also improve levels of good bacteria in the gut, and may help improve symptoms such as constipation and diarrhoea

Does kimchi count as one of your 5-a-day?

80g (around 5 tbsp) counts as one portion of your 5-a-day.

Is kimchi safe for everyone to eat?

Generally, kimchi is safe for everyone to eat unless you have a specific allergy to the individual ingredients. It may also cause a few side effects such as gas and bloating for those who are not used to fermented foods or high fibre foods in the diet.

How to buy the best kimchi?

Generally, this comes down to taste preferences. Kimichi should carry a good balance of spice and sour, but with so many varieties available, it is more of a case of trial and error to see which ones you prefer.

Just keep an eye on the salt content, as some of them can contain as much as 3% salt, and look for unpasteurised varieties as pasteurisation kills off some of those good bacteria benefits.

Kimchi recipes

Quick kimchi
Kimchi fried rice

Now read...

The health benefits of fermenting
The health benefits of kefir
The health benefits of kombucha


This article was published on 20 September 2019.

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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