Boost your health and reduce your waistline with kimchi.
This Korean favorite isn't just delicious, it apparently boasts a punch of health benefits. Going by recent research, these pungent, fermented and salted vegetables might just help prevent weight gain.
What research says
A spicy ally in both weight management and overall health, is how Grace Fabrizia Graziani, a Dubai-based specialist in family medicine at Aster Royal Clinic, describes kimchi.
She cites the ample research done on the intricate link between kimchi and weight prevention. For the past decade, studies have been trying to see whether this tangy side-dish can actually prevent a person from gaining weight. The results seem promising.
According to a 2024 article published in the British medical journal BMJ titled Association between kimchi consumption and obesity based on BMI and abdominal obesity in Korean adults, cabbage kimchi was found to lower men’s risk of obesity, while radish kimchi, which is also known as water kimchi, was beneficial to both men and women.
However, as the study emphasised, you would need to eat a lot of kimchi. Men had around three servings in a day, and they were observed to have 10 per cent lower odds of obesity and excess fat around their stomach and abdomen. For women, they had a 9 per cent reduced risk of fat around the middle and abdomen. The study used data from 115,726 participants, with an average age of 51. One serving of cabbage kimchi was regarded as 50g, and one serving of water kimchi was 95g.
In 2013, a study titled Fermented kimchi reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight and obese patients published in Nutrition Research, a US-based academic journal, said that consumption of kimchi for 12 weeks straight, significantly reduced body weight, body fat percentage and waist circumference in overweight and obese individuals.
In 2018, another study titled Effects of Kimchi on Human Health, published in Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, an international academic journal, noticed that the kimchi intake for four weeks reduced visceral fat and improved metabolic parameters in overweight adults. And, in 2020, a review published in the Journal of Ethnic Foods, studies noted the potential of kimchi to suppress appetite, increase satiety and promote fat metabolism, all of which could contribute to weight management.
The studies will continue. Nevertheless, they have raised a question: Does kimchi actually prevent weight gain? Or, does it contribute to a healthy diet that promotes weight loss?
There appears to be some difference in opinion.
‘Kimchi helps for a weight-conscious diet’
The healthiest thing about kimchi? It has a low calorie content. As experts explain, it is packed with vitamins A, B and C as well as probiotics. Moreover, it supports digestion and strengthens the immune system.
The fermentation process for kimchi also creates live bacteria, which benefits the gut microbiome. This increases nutrient absorption, which leads to a sense of satiety and reduced caloric intake...
Yet, does it mean that it actually prevents weight gain? “Kimchi alone doesn’t possess magical properties to prevent weight gain,” explains Nur Al Abrach, a Dubai-based clinical nutritionist at Nabta Health Clinic. However, as she and Graziani explain, the low-calorie content and high fibre can be a promising part of a weight-conscious diet. “The spicy kick in kimchi, comes from capsaicin, known for its metabolism-boosting properties, which can assist in weight management,” says Al Abrach. This increases energy expenditure and promotes the burning of calories.
Feel full after a bowl of kimchi? Here’s why
You might find yourself politely declining to eat more after a bowl of kimchi. You’re full.
There are several reasons why. Kimchi has high quantities of fibre, which creates an overall feeling of satiety, explain Al Abrach and Graziani. This reduces overall food consumption.
The spicy kick in kimchi, comes from capsaicin, known for its metabolism-boosting properties, which can assist in weight management...
“Moreover, the fermentation process for kimchi also creates live bacteria, which benefits the gut microbiome,” adds Graziani. “This increases nutrient absorption, which leads to a sense of satiety and reduced caloric intake.” The fermentation process not only produces probiotics, but also generates bioactive compounds with antioxidant properties. “Antioxidants help neutralise free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress. This may contribute to a lower risk of chronic diseases and support overall well-being,” she says.
A flavourful contribution to overall well-being
“As with any food, moderation is key,” explains Al Abrach. “While the impact on weight management is indirect, kimchi has a rich combination of probiotics, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. This is what makes it a valuable component of a health-conscious diet,” she adds.
Gut health powerhouse: Packed with probiotics, kimchi supports healthy digestion and nutrient absorption.
Immune system booster: Vitamins A, B, and C in kimchi strengthen your immune defenses.
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory: Fight free radicals and reduce inflammation with kimchi's unique compounds.
Heart health ally: Garlic in kimchi may positively impact cholesterol and blood pressure.
Low in calories and fat: A guilt-free addition to weight-conscious diets.
Packed with essential minerals: Get your daily dose of potassium and calcium.
Flavorful and versatile: Enjoy kimchi as a side dish, condiment, or ingredient in various recipes.
Moreover, kimchi is a “nutritional powerhouse”, packed with vitamins A, B and C. While Vitamin A is crucial for vision and skin health, Vitamin B has a vital role in energy metabolism. On the other hand, Vitamin C supports the immune system. And if that weren’t enough, kimchi also contains essential minerals such as potassium and calcium.
Protection from inflammation and heart health
You can also thank kimchi for reducing the potential for harmful diseases like heart diseases and cancers. “Ingredients like garlic and ginger, commonly found in kimchi recipes, have anti-inflammatory properties,” explains Al Abrach. So, the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods like kimchi might even help in calming the inflammation in the body.
Kimchi contains garlic, which benefits heart health, as Graziani explains. “Garlic is believed to have a positive impact on cholesterol levels and blood pressure, contributing to cardiovascular well-being,” she says.
Ready to add kimchi to your diet? Explore diverse varieties, moderate your intake, and enjoy its delicious contributions to your overall well-being!