Tag Archives: kimchi

Bowl of KimchiIf you’ve ever eaten at a Korean Restaurant, you might have noticed kimchi on the menu. This spicy, fermented side dish is usually made with cabbage and flavored with red pepper, ginger, and garlic for a tangy final product that adds acidity to dishes with meat, eggs, and rice.

While kimchi is technically Paleo-friendly, the extra salt needed to make it, also makes it a little controversial. Let’s dive into how kimchi is made, how it can be beneficial for your health in small doses, and why you shouldn’t go overboard.

 

How Kimchi is Made

You don’t need any vinegar to make kimchi. That’s because it’s made by lacto-fermentation, the same process that creates healthy probiotics in foods like dill pickles, yogurt, and sauerkraut.

Lacto-fermentation works by soaking the cabbage (or other vegetables) in a salty brine to kill harmful bacteria, then rinsing it clean. You’re left with only the salt-resistant beneficial bacteria, or Lactobacillus. When you mix the veggies with the kimchi flavorings and seal them in a jar, it’s this healthy bacteria that converts the sugars into lactic acid. This helps preserve the kimchi while giving it the signature tangy flavor.

 

The Health Benefits of Kimchi

Kimchi’s lactic acid isn’t just responsible for the tangy flavor, it also adds some healthy benefits.

Fermented foods with lactic acid contain promising probiotics that can help strengthen the immune system, ease metabolic disorders, and nourish a healthy gut. [1]

Specifically, research shows that the Lactobacillus probiotic strain can help soothe diarrhea, calm irritable bowel syndrome, and strengthen the lining of the intestines. [2]

 

The Biggest Drawback of Kimchi

While kimchi might sound like a superfood, there is a significant drawback: It contains a large quantity of salt. That’s because most recipes require you to soak your veggies in a very salty brine in order to make it properly.

Some Paleo websites might claim that added salt is okay; however, our stance is a little different. Research shows that too much salt in your diet can lead to hypertension, which is a risk factor for other health issues like stroke and dementia.[3] Low sodium diets are sometimes prescribed in order to ease other ailments, like epilepsy and migraines. [4]

 

So, Should I Avoid Kimchi Altogether?

Since the salt content in most types of kimchi is so high, we don’t recommend that you eat it every day. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t reap its health benefits in small doses.

Plus, one research study found that the high potassium content of kimchi helps to offset the risks of the added salt, and generally didn’t have a big effect on blood pressure levels. [5] While we often look purely at the absolute sodium levels in our diet, the sodium to potassium ratio is also very important to our health. In general, eating more potassium is great, especially if you’re concerned about consuming too much salt, as it partially helps to neutralize the negative effects of a high sodium diet. [6]

Here are some great sources of potassium that you can eat alongside your kimchi to ensure that the added salt isn’t doing more harm than good:

  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Oranges
  • Sweet potatoes

 

Kimchi Variations

Fortunately, it is possible to make kimchi with less sodium. Check out the two recipes we’ve posted on the website for both a low-sodium option and a no-sodium option.

You can also make your kimchi even healthier by adding a variety of veggies to the mix. Typically, kimchi is made with napa cabbage, but carrots, radishes, and kale all work just as well—and even better when you use them together. Scallions are a great addition to any kimchi recipe, as they add a welcome mildly sweet flavor.

When it comes to the spices you’ll use in your kimchi, most anything is game. If you like your kimchi on the non-spicy side, you can omit any red pepper and make a paste using sweet pears instead.

If you really want to go for the spice, use the Korean chili powder liberally. Just be sure to go easy on the ginger, so it doesn’t end up sticky. Likewise, be careful not to go overboard on the garlic.

 

Kimchi Serving Ideas

Stumped on how to serve kimchi? Here are some ideas for keeping things fresh:

  • Stir a bit of kimchi into your scrambled eggs instead of hot sauce. Cook until just heated through.
  • Top your cauliflower rice Buddha bowl with a scoop of kimchi.
  • Add a bit to your miso soup or ramen bowl.
  • Love deviled eggs? Mix kimchi into the creamy yolks for a decadent new spin on finger food.
  • Wrap them in Paleo tortillas with marinated beef for a spicy Korean twist on taco night.
  • Enjoy as a side dish with a drizzle of sesame oil.

 

Other Fermented Foods to Consider

Since most types of kimchi (as well as sauerkraut) are generally high in salt, we recommend eating it sparingly. However, if you’re looking for fermented foods that you can enjoy without the risk of hypertension and other conditions associated with high salt consumption, consider these low-sodium fermented foods:

  • Dairy-free yogurt (just be careful of the sugar content)
  • Kombucha
  • Pickled veggies

And don’t forget to check out both our low-sodium and no-sodium Paleo recipes!

 

References 

1. Zielinska, D. and D. Kolozyn-Krajewska, Food-Origin Lactic Acid Bacteria May Exhibit Probiotic Properties: Review. Biomed Res Int, 2018. 2018: p. 5063185.

2. Robertson, R. 9 Ways Lactobacillus Acidophilus Can Benefit Your Health. 2017; Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lactobacillus-acidophilus.

3. Santisteban, M.M., et al., Abstract 104: Cerebrovascular and Cognitive Dysfunction in DOCA-Salt Hypertension is Mediated by Perivascular Macrophages. Hypertension, 2017. 70(suppl_1): p. A104-A104.

4. MILLER, M.M., Low sodium chloride intake in the treatment of insomnia and tension states. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1945. 129(4): p. 262-266.

5. Song, H.J. and H.-J. Lee, Consumption of kimchi, a salt fermented vegetable, is not associated with hypertension prevalence. Journal of Ethnic Foods, 2014. 1(1): p. 8-12.

6. Frassetto, L., et al., Diet, evolution and aging–the pathophysiologic effects of the post-agricultural inversion of the potassium-to-sodium and base-to-chloride ratios in the human diet. Eur J Nutr, 2001. 40(5): p. 200-13.

The high levels of Lactobacillus probiotics found in kimchi can help soothe diarrhea, calm irritable bowel syndrome, and strengthen the lining of the intestines among other health benefits. The only problem is that typical kimchi recipes are prepared in a salt brine in order to kill harmful bacteria which leads to a high sodium content. Check out our recent article by Lauren Fellows to learn more about kimchi. If you want to be truly Paleo, here’s a kimchi recipe that doesn’t add any salt.

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Paleo No-Salt Kimchi Recipe

Kimchi In JarThe high levels of Lactobacillus probiotics found in kimchi can help soothe diarrhea, calm irritable bowel syndrome, and strengthen the lining of the intestines among other health benefits. The only problem is that typical kimchi recipes are prepared in a salt brine in order to kill harmful bacteria which leads to a high sodium content. Check out our recent article by Lauren Fellows to learn more about kimchi. If you want to be truly Paleo, here’s a kimchi recipe that doesn’t add any salt. Feel this recipe is a little to “hard-core” for your cooking tastes, then try this not-quite Paleo but still healthier kimchi recipe.

Note: You’ll need a full canning/pickling kit for this recipe. Be sure that your kit includes a proper mason jar, a kraut pounder, and a glass weight.

  • Author: The Paleo Diet Team
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Korean
  • Cuisine: Korean
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups of Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage), finely sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled, and coarsely grated
  • 2-inch piece of raw ginger, peeled, and grated
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, finely chopped
  • 4-inch piece of daikon radish, peeled, grated
  • 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ cup dulse, dried (optional, but recommended)
  • ½ cup apple cider or rice vinegar, or ½ a cup of the liquid from previously fermented vegetables

Instructions

  1. Sanitize a wide-mouth mason jar and glass weight by submerging them in water in a saucepan. Slowly bring to a boil, let boil for 10 minutes, then remove with tongs and set aside to cool.
  2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Muddle the vegetables with a kraut pounder to release as much juice as possible.
  3. Transfer the vegetables to the mason jar. Top up with filtered water, if necessary, to fully cover the vegetables. Allow a 1-inch headspace for expansion inside the jar.
  4. Add the glass weight to fully submerge the vegetables under the liquid. Set the fermentation lock in place.
  5. Store in a cool, dry place for five days.
  6. Refrigerate the jar when it’s finished fermenting. Tip: The flavors will become more acidic over time, while the spicy flavors will lessen.

Keywords: paleo, kimchi, fermentation

The high levels of Lactobacillus probiotics found in kimchi can help soothe diarrhea, calm irritable bowel syndrome, and strengthen the lining of the intestines, among other health benefits. The only problem is that typical kimchi recipes are prepared in a salt brine in order to kill harmful bacteria which leads to a high sodium content. Check out our recent article by Lauren Fellows to learn more about kimchi. Here’s a healthy Paleo-friendly kimchi recipe you can enjoy with many of the benefits and without the high sodium content.

Print

Paleo Low-Sodium Kimchi Recipe

Kimchi In JarThe high levels of Lactobacillus probiotics found in kimchi can help soothe diarrhea, calm irritable bowel syndrome, and strengthen the lining of the intestines, among other health benefits. The only problem is that typical kimchi recipes are prepared in a salt brine in order to kill harmful bacteria which leads to a high sodium content. Check out our recent article by Lauren Fellows to learn more about kimchi. Here’s a Paleo-friendly kimchi recipe you can enjoy with many of the benefits and without the high sodium content. Want to be hardcore and purely Paleo, try this no-salt kimchi recipe instead.

  • Author: The Paleo Diet Team
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Category: Kimchi
  • Cuisine: Korean
Scale

Ingredients

  • lbs. Napa cabbage, coarsely chopped into large pieces, about 2x1 inches
  • 1½ Tbsp. Himalayan salt crystals
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp. coconut sugar
  • 4 scallions, cut into 2-inch slices
  • ¼ cup red onion, very thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup apple cider or rice vinegar
  • 2½ Tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Place the cabbage in a large bowl, add salt, and toss. Set aside to wilt for 45-60 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes or so.
  2. Thoroughly rinse the cabbage under cold running water, then set aside in a colander to drain for 30 minutes, saving the water as it drains.
  3. In the meantime, combine garlic, ginger, and coconut sugar to make a uniform paste. Set the mixture aside for 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer the cabbage back into the large bowl, and add garlic-ginger blend, scallions, cayenne pepper, and onion, and combine well.
  5. Pack the mixture tightly into a 1-quart lidded glass jar, leaving about an inch of space at the top.
  6. Use the reserved water to lightly “rinse” the bowl to capture any remaining seasoning. Add the apple cider or rice vinegar and lemon juice to the bowl, then pour this liquid into the jar.
  7. Screw on the jar lid, and let stand at room temperature (65-70°F) for 2 days. Refrigerate when finished.

Keywords: Low Sodium, paleo, kimchi, fermentation

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