The Benefits of Kimchi this Summer
This summer the fermented foods trend is still on the rise. Buzz words like “focus”, “immunity”, and “clarity” are seen more on shelves than “gut health”, “microbiome” but the microbiome is actually involved. Unlike it’s boring cousin, sauerkraut, kimchi is packed with spicy flavor and it’s fun to say. This might be the perfect time to add kimchi to a burger or replace hot dog relish with something a little more flavor. When the microbiome comes up, it’s helpful to remember that the human body has more bacteria cells than human cells. Kimchi and other fermented foods are mostly known for their beneficial probiotics. The fermentation process means that kimchi is loaded with good bacteria that help balance the digestive system. There’s a reason it seems like so many people have IBS or imbalances and kimchi is here to help. What may be less obvious is that fermented foods can give the immune system a boost. A lot of immune function takes place in the microbiome. It’s a difficult subject to research because the interaction of bacteria to the immune system is a relatively new discovery with a lot of variables to consider. According to a Johns Hopkins article titled, “The Gut: Where Bacteria and Immune System Meet”: “A huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract,” says Dan Peterson, assistant professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “The immune system is inside your body, and the bacteria are outside your body.” And yet they interact. For example, certain cells in the lining of the gut spend their lives excreting massive quantities of antibodies into the gut. “That’s what we’re trying to understand—what are the types of antibodies being made, and how is the body trying to control the interaction between ourselves and bacteria on the outside?” Maybe we don’t have details yet, but we do have enough evidence that the microbiome is a MVP for immune health. Along a similar line, gut health can also improve cognitive ability. It’s been recently found that there is a huge amount of neurons in the gut. In what ways those neurons interact with probiotics is still being studied, but we know they do. Kimchi and fermented foods may also help with cholesterol, heart health, and inflammation. Plus, kimchi provides all the nutrients and vitamins derived from the raw vegetables. Is it a super food? Maybe. Kimchi can be enjoyed on it’s own, with eggs, in stir fries, garnish for soups or salads, and a great summer BBQ side or condiment. In Korea, it’s traditionally been eaten with every meal, so there is really no limit to throwing a little kimchi into… everything. Put it on a pizza.