Diabetes Diet

Kimchi Makes People with Diabetes Smile

In America when we want to get people to smile for our photos, we say “cheese.” But in Korea they say “kimchi.”

When I visited South Korea about three years ago, my hosts taught me about that, and it worked for my photos. Kimchi makes people in Korea smile. It can make you smile too.

Kimchi tastes great and is healthful, the two essentials of truly happy foods. Most people who enjoy spicy foods will love the taste of kimchi. At the same time kimchi is a fermented food like yogurt with healthy probiotic lactic acid bacteria. While it is low in calories and carbohydrates, it is nevertheless rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, and minerals.

The main ingredient is napa cabbage, a cruciferous vegetable, but it comes in hundreds of varieties. The best kimchi that I have ever found is Zuké Kimchi, made by a small company in Boulder, Colorado, called Esoteric Food.

They make Zuké Kimchi from organic napa cabbage, organic onion, organic shallot, organic ginger, organic garlic, chile powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, and sea salt. It has just the right about of heat for my taste buds and has a real crunch, unlike the soggy kimchi that is most widely available in this country.

You can find Zuké Kimchi most readily in the Rocky Mountain area. It is available in certain stores in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, South Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Kansas. Esoteric Food also ships their Zuké Kimchi to people in all 50 states, and you can write one of the owners, Mara King, at [email protected] for more information.

Kimchi is a side dish that people in Korea eat at almost every meal. When I visited there, I ate some for every meal, except for the one time when I ate at a restaurant that catered to Westerners, where it wasn’t available.

A new study in Korea compared 50 volunteers who ate 15 grams of kimchi with a similar group who ate 210 grams (which is equivalent to about half a jar of  Zuké Kimchi). “The reason for having a low intake kimchi group in this study instead of no kimchi was that Koreans typically include at least some kimchi with their meals,” the researchers wrote.

They were looking at the effect of eating kimchi on cholesterol levels. The study, “Kimchi, a Fermented Vegetable, Improves Serum Lipid Profiles in Healthy Young Adults: Randomized Clinical Trial,” appears in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Foods. The full-text of the study is online at http://online.liebertpub.com/toc/jmf/16/3

In just seven days the two groups experienced profoundly improved results. This summary finding says it all:

“Concentrations of fasting blood glucose (FBG), total glucose, total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL)-C significantly decreased in both groups after 7 days of kimchi intake, but the effects were dose dependent.”

All of us who have diabetes need to manage our glucose (blood sugar) level, and most of us also need to reduce our LDL cholesterol level. After reading this new study, I increased my “dose” of kimchi. I don’t know yet if my blood sugar and cholesterol levels are down, but the size of my smile is certainly bigger now.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Dave Riley July 25, 2013 at 6:55 am

    Kimchi is indeed fermented food like yogurt but you need to take care that probiotic lactic acid bacteria hasn’t been killed off by pasteurisation.

    Kimchi is also very easy to make. That way you can generate your own preferred spice level.
    Like sauerkraut generating ++++ chilli heat isn’t essential to the preservation…and I started my own kimchis because the bought stuff had been pasteurised and was hotter than I liked.
    I eat kimchi as part of my breakfast everyday. Mine is delicious and I’ll never go back to making and eating sauerkraut.
    I also make my own yogurt and I always use whey — taken from the yogurt — to kick start my cabbage ferments.

    • David Mendosa July 25, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      Dear Dave,

      Thank you for your information. You are so right that pasteurization will kill the good bacteria.



  • Kathy May 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Is all of Kimchi hot and spicy? Can you make your own without it being spicy?

    • David Mendosa May 15, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      Dear Kathy,

      While all of the kimchi that I have ever eaten in Korean restaurants or bought in stores is hot and spicy, I’m sure that it’s not necessarily so. After all, sauerkraut isn’t so different from kimchi, except for the heat. I’m sure that you can find less spicy recipes for kimchi on the Internet.