Food Focus: Kimchi!

by Sandy Todd Webster on Oct 21, 2013

Food for Thought

For the past few years, Americans have sought culturally inspired foods and condiments that challenge the palate, Korean and Latin flavors primary among them. Kimchi, Korea’s national dish of fermented vegetables, has emerged as one of the most popular of these “new-ancient” foods. Its versatility boosts flavor and texture in almost any dish, and its health benefits are numerous.

History. Conceived in Korea around the 7th century, kimchi was developed as a vegetable storage method for cold winter months when fresh veggies could not be cultivated. Originally preserved with just salt, it did not see the addition of hot red pepper as a major ingredient until about the 18th century. Since then, it has retained most of the same characteristics and prep methods to this day.

Koreans love this food so much that in 1986 they established the Pulmuone Kimchi Museum in Seoul to study the culture of kimchi and to promote it both in Korea and internationally.

Types of kimchi. Most often described as salty, sour or spicy, kimchi has literally endless permutations. It is made with vegetables ranging from Napa cabbage and daikon radish to scallions and cucumbers. Some kimchi is stuffed or wrapped.

Making and storing. Traditional methods saw kimchi fermented and stored underground in jars for months (and some purists still make it this way). According to the website, the yearlong process of making and storing kimchi in Korea is called kimjang, and it relies on the seasonal harvesting and combining of ingredients.

“The important aspect of making kimchi is the fermentation of the vegetables,” says the website. Salt is the catalyst to perfect fermentation. With just the right amount of salt, lactic acid and probiotic bacteria begin to form and fermentation will happen naturally. The ideal salt concentration is around 3% and the ideal storage temperature is about 50 degrees.” Recipes for kimchi can be found on and all over the Web.

Nutritional impact. A host of research studies have been done on this food. It is credited with preventing various cancers and drawing out heavy metals from the liver, kidney and small intestines. The organic acid, lactobacilli and lactic acid produced during kimchi fermentation have been shown to suppress harmful bacteria and to stimulate beneficial bacteria, prevent constipation, clean intestines and prevent colon cancer. One study showed that it slowed skin aging, while other research found that it lowers cholesterol and helps prevent high blood pressure and diabetes. Nutritionally speaking, it contains calcium, copper, phosphorus and iron; it is also rich in vitamins A, C, B1 and B2.

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.