Table of Contents
The Quick Answer
Is Kimchi Paleo? Yes, kimchi is Paleo.
What Is Kimchi?
Kimchi was first introduced about 3,000 years ago, according to a collection of Chinese poetry. It is believed that the word “kimchi” came from the Korean word “japchae”, which means “vegetables soaked in water.”
Kimchi is commonly associated with Korean culture, as it is a staple food in that part of the world (there’s even a kimchi museum in Seoul). However, today it is more often than not viewed as a condiment.
Kimchi was originally made with veggies and beef stock. The kimchi you are most likely familiar with today is prepared by salting cabbage and adding red pepper, garlic, ginger, scallions, and radishes.
Kimchi is often made with vinegar and salt, which are not typically considered to be paleo foods. This can make it hard to know whether or nor kimchi should be considered paleo.
There are many different kinds of kimchi, as well as different ways to make it:
- Baechu kimchi – fermented cabbage
- Bae kimchi – without hot spices
- Gat kimchi – with mustard leaves
- Disobagi – with cucumbers
You can also find kimchi soup, kimchi stew, and even kimchi fried rice.
Kimchi often comes in a variety of flavors, including salty, hot, sour, and sweet. The flavor depends on the type of kimchi, the way it was prepared, and for how long it was fermented.
Why Is Kimchi Paleo?
Benefits of Kimchi
Kimchi contains tons of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and healthy bacteria.
- Up to seven different amino acids
- Vitamin C
- Lactic bacterium
- Vitamin A
The lactic acid bacteria in kimchi (which give it its sourish taste) may help the body to suppress the growth of certain harmful bacteria. Lactic acid has also been shown to help fight various cancers.
Kimchi consumption can also help to prevent hyperacidity, which is caused by a high intake of low quality meat (think processed or grain-fed) and other acidic food.
Kimchi influences pepsin secretion. Pepsin is a protein-digesting enzyme, so more of it is a good thing.
I have always battled anemia and to help with iron absorption I consume kimchi as a part of my daily nutritional approach.
Fermentation is a process that just about any fruit or veggie can go through to preserve nutrients and healthy bacteria.
The process of fermentation typically follows the steps below:
- Whole, chopped, or grated veggies (or fruit) are soaked in a brine made of salt and water (kosher salt, typically).
- The veggies are then submerged in the brine inside a ceramic or glass container.
- A lid is placed on the container very tightly. Sometimes a heavy object is placed on top of the container, to ensure that it remains tightly shut.
- This is then stored at room temperature for one to two weeks, depending on the fruit or veggie used, the amount of the fruit or veggie used, the exact temperature, and the quantity of salt used.
Fruits take much less time to ferment than veggies do because of their high sugar content. Veggies taste the best and yield the highest level of nutrients after about two to three weeks of fermentation at around 2-7 degrees Celsius, because the brine solution pH levels reach around 4.3 – 4.5, creating a healthy environment for good bacteria to grow in.
Fermented foods provide our bodies with probiotics, which have been linked to many health benefits, especially for your gut.
Eating fermented foods was probably a regular part of a caveman’s diet. As early humans walked and scavenged for foods, they most likely came across fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and animal carcasses that had been sitting for a while. These foods would undoubtedly have come with wild yeasts, which means they would have been fermenting naturally.
In a previous article, I talked about a few supplements someone following the paleo diet might want to take advantage of. One of those supplements was probiotics. Kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods contain probiotics that help to heal your body from the inside out.
Our bodies contain billions of healthy bacteria, most of which can be found in our guts. These healthy bacteria help us to efficiently digest and absorb the nutrients we receive from foods.
Our bodies are also prone to accepting bad bacteria from various sources.
Some grains, legumes, and forms of dairy contain anti-nutrients (lectins, phytates, and gluten) that prevent our bodies from taking in the important vitamins and minerals that help to fend off unhealthy bacteria.
Consuming probiotics or foods rich in probiotics, like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir, promotes healthy bacteria in your system and assists in the fighting off of bad bacteria. Foods like those mentioned above can help with metabolism, digestion, gut health, body composition, energy, vitamin and mineral absorption, and protein digestion.
Start with one to two servings (1/4 – 1/2 cup) of probiotic-rich foods per day, alongside protein-rich meals, to start looking after your body from the inside out.
Kimchi Is Paleo
So, is kimchi Paleo? Yes!
Kimchi is mostly made from foods that are part of the paleo diet and, although the preparation of kimchi can involve ingredients that are not paleo, the fermentation process and the promotion of healthy bacteria growth make kimchi a food that has some great health benefits.
The health benefits of consuming kimchi and other fermented foods cannot be overlooked. As long as your body tolerates them, you should definitely consider adding them to you diet.
How To Know What Is And Isn’t Paleo
Check out Paleo.io, the mobile app that answers the question, “is __ paleo?”. Paleo.io comes with the most comprehensive paleo diet food list out there, so no matter which food you’re confused about, you’ll always be able to find out whether or not it’s paleo.
Is kimchi a part of your diet? Are you thinking about trying kimchi or another fermented food?
Photo credit: Paul Downey
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