Photography: Maya Visnyei | Food Styling: David Grenier | Prop Styling: Catherine Doherty
For nearly 10,000 years, humans have used fermentation to preserve foods and enhance flavour. This process can also improve the functional properties of foods.
Kimchi is one example: Typically made with napa cabbage (baechu) as well as other vegetables like radish, carrot or beet, it’s a naturally fermented pickled food. Traditionally served as a side dish, kimchi can also be added condiment-style to eggs, rice or soups.
- Fresh or Fermented: On its own, cabbage is loaded with fibre, vitamins and minerals, all of which help support a healthy body. Raw cabbage contains soluble fibre that serves as an important source of fuel, or prebiotics, for beneficial gut bacteria. In its fermented form, kimchi contains probiotics, living microorganisms, that can aid in the prevention and treatment of many conditions from the common cold to certain types of cancer. Current science supports the idea that a diet high in prebiotic fibre and probiotic-rich foods, like kimchi, could play a role in preventing heart disease by promoting a healthy gut microbiome.
- Boss Bacteria: Raw cruciferous vegetables in kimchi provide the source of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) required for fermentation; it occurs spontaneously! While several bacterial species are present in the fermentation process, LAB are the dominant species. These bacteria synthesize vitamins and minerals, producing biologically active peptides with associated benefits to human health. LAB fermentation produces peptide-based products that can be used in the food, animal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Perhaps the most interesting are antimicrobial peptides called bacteriocins, which have been proposed as a replacement for chemical preservatives. These peptides may also have anticancer applications: New discoveries show great potential in future alternatives for cancer therapy.
- Multipurpose Molecules: The fermentation process also generates short-chain fatty acids and converts plant compounds into molecules with added biological value; all while reducing sugar content. This transformation helps to break down these molecules into smaller sizes, increasing the bioavailability of nutrients so they can be better absorbed by the body. Kimchi is documented to possess anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and cholesterol-reducing properties, seen, for example, in its effect on glucose metabolism-related factors in those with prediabetes. Several studies show that eating kimchi can positively impact fasting blood glucose concentration, glucose tolerance, blood pressure and cholesterol.
Try this superfood in our Homemade Kimchi (pictured above).