Maintaining a history that spans over 3,000 years, kimchi is hands down one of the more known and popular dishes in society today. It is arguably one of the healthiest dishes one could eat. Unlike other prepared foods that have their benefits but also their drawbacks
if one were to overindulge in them, kimchi has developed a stigma of being the one food, if prepared correctly, that can be over abused and will cause no detriment to one’s health. Another uncommon advantage kimchi has over its culinary competition is that in-spite its major health benefits, it is also a quite tasty snack. This dish is growing in such popularity that the public may one day find it served along side most meals in western restaurants.
Kimchi, also known as gimchi, or kimchee is a Korean fermented meal made of seasoned vegetables. The chi in the spelling translates as nature energy. Some of the dishes known to be made from Kimchi are kimchi stew, and kimchi fried rice. It is known as being a very flavorful and healthy substance, which only adds to its popularity.
It is considered to be Koreas best known food. In fact, the name kimchi is a generic label applied to a multitude of seasonal and regional fermented, or pickled, vegetables flavored with seafood and spices. It is high in vitamins, minerals and lactic acid. It is usually produced in late autumn and stored during the long cold Korean winters. Kimchi has been such an influential part of Korean culture that there is a museum devoted entirely to the fermented dish. The Kimchi Field Museum located in Seoul has documented as many as 200 distinct types of kimchi.
Historically, Kimchi can be traced as far back as ancient times, almost 3,000 years ago. In the very first Chinese poetry book, ShiKyung, a reference to kimchi was made. It was referred to as Ji, which was the term used before it was known as Chimchae. The most primitive use of kimchi consisted solely of salted vegetables. It wasn’t until the 12th century that people started to include other spices with kimchi, such as sweet and sour, or colors of kimchi, like orange and white.
One very ironic fact pertaining to the popular growth of this dish can be seen in the fact that chili peppers have become a standard contemporary ingredient to use with kimchi, but they were unknown in Korea until the early 17th century. They originated in the New World and they were introduced to East Asia by through western trade. Kimchi made with chili peppers and Napa cabbage/ Chinese white cabbage developed popularity in the 19th century. Referred to as baechu kimchi, it continues to be the more commonly used form of kimchi to date.
It is a popular concept that one can eat as much Korean food as they want without gaining weight. This is thought to be due to the fact that there is virtually no fat in Korean dishes. On top of this, the use of meat in most Korean meals is balanced and thought to complement the meal as opposed to dominate it.
Among the family of Korean dishes, kimchi is thought to be the most energizing and wholesome. A common argument in favor of kimchi as the best health food is that it keeps for weeks in the refrigerator without losing potency. It is said to eliminate cholesterol, and promote intestinal health. These benefits are considered coincidental additives to the fact that it contains a high concentration of dietary fibers; it’s very low in calories and provides 80% of the daily required
A popular method of preparing kimchi, specifically cold cabbage kimchi, is to clean the cabbages and soak them for several hours in salt-water brine. Once the cabbages have softened the complimentary ingredients are applied. Ground pepper powder, garlic, and ginger the more common spices added to this dish. Pickled baby shrimp and other pickled seafood are also added to contribute taste.
The health benefits of Kimchi are vast and they stem from the diverse variety of vegetables and spices added to the dish. Its ability to eliminate cholesterol is credited to the use of garlic and onions. The powerful healing effects of garlic have become an inherent part of contemporary dietary knowledge. Garlic is a powerful anti-oxidant, which means it prevents oxygen from combining with things keeping the kimichi fresh.
Vinegar and oil are also known to do this. Just in the sense of it being a preservative, garlic is major contributor to kimchi. Garlic also provides major support for one’s dietary health, after it has been digested. The oil in garlic is 60% allicin, which is a substance that reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels and the major causes of heart attacks and strokes (Klein, p.30). There is no other food that can claim a substantial amount of fresh garlic other than kimchi.
Garlic is such a powerful dietary supplement that it is said to combat allergies, regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics and hypoglycemics and reduce stress, while boosting energy. The substantial amount of garlic alone has caused many critics to argue that kimchi should be eaten with every meal. On top of allicin, garlic also has selenium, which is a key ingredient the body uses to keep the skin and hair healthy as well as prevent wrinkles. Jack Challum in The Nutrition Detective found that selenium deficiencies are responsible for ailments like the flu, the Ebola epidemic, and AIDs.
Selenium, found in garlic, is also a major source of glutathione, which is a substance the body makes from amino acids glutamine, cysteine, and glutamic acid. Glutathione peroxidase is a vitamin C booster. Therefore, since garlic’s selenium boosts and preserves the amount of vitamin C in the body and vitamin C is responsible for transporting fat molecules across cell walls to fuel muscle cells, both garlic and vegetables keep the body thinner and more energetic.
Another kimchi ingredient that vitamin C is very common in is chili peppers. Hot peppers are known to have the highest concentration of Vitamin C out of every known food (Pauling, p.61). It is considered to be a well known fact in the dietary world that peppers have ten times the amount of Vitamin C than any other food, and good Korean kumchi is known to use a lot. In addition to this, capsaicin, the ingredient that makes the peppers hot is also known to alleviate the pain of arthritis.
The core source of kimchi’s health benefits can be found in the fact that its ingredients are traditionally organic and 100% natural. The fruits and vegetables of which kimchi consists are all major sources of fiber, minerals, enzymes, phytochemicals, and vitamins. As previously shown this is especially true of Vitamin C. Broccoli is an example that is very commonly used to prepare kimchi, and it known to have more vitamin C than can be found in an orange, while still being a substantial source of minerals and phytochemicals. This also puts kimchi at a disadvantage competing with most western foods, considering that a large majority of our foods are inorganic. Kimchi isn’t nearly as beneficial to one’s health if the substances it is composed of are not 100% natural.
Phytochemicals are plant compounds that form to protect the plant from sunlight. They act as antioxidants, and also help preserve and protect Vitamin C. (If you take a Vitamin C supplement, as you should, then you should accompany it with a phytochemical supplement, in a 1:1 ratio.) There are a dozen amino acids, a couple dozen vitamins, and about as many minerals. But there are 2,000 phytochemicals we understand, 200,000 we know about, and more than 2,000,000 possible combinations of the fundamental elements that go into them. (Pauling, p.61)
As shown in Linus Pauling’s article, How to Live Longer and Feel Better, phytochemicals are very important to the human body, and a core part of fresh produce. Pauling goes on to point out that many of the most important phytochemicals don’t form until the last few stages of the ripening process. Western consumers are put at a disadvantage in the fact that the majority of the produce they eat is being picked prematurely. This kills a major part of their nutrients and also makes it virtually impossible to prepare authentic kimchi anywhere other than Korea.
In sum, kimchi is an invaluable additive to the complete diet. It serves too many needs and provides too much cleansing of the body for it to just be treated as an occasional snack. Kimchi should be eaten with every meal, and if done so will undeniably the healthiest part of one’s complete diet. The ability of this dish to provide so much energy for the body while at the same tame being composed of virtually no fat is only more reason for it to be applied to the daily diet of a workout plan. The final trait that kimchi has working in it favor is its flavorful applicability. It can basically be added to, or compliment any meat or seafood with appetizing results. The dish has no weak points, and one would be foolish not to make kimchi a daily part of their diet.
Klein, p. 30 and “Garlic: Modern Application of an Ancient Food,” Total Health
magazine, Vol. 12, April 1990, p. 49.
Lee, Florence. Kimchi: A Natural Health Food, Hollym International. New York.
Matucci-Cerinic, et al. “Effects of Capsaicin on the Metabolism of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Synviocytes in Vitro,” Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, Vol. 49, August 1990, p.598
Pauling, Linus. How to Live Longer and Feel Better. W. H. Freemand and Co., NY, p. 61