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J Med Food. 2014 Jan;17(1):6-20. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2013.3083.

Health benefits of kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) as a probiotic food.

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  • 11 Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Pusan National University , Busan, Korea.


Kimchi is a traditional Korean food manufactured by fermenting vegetables with probiotic lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Many bacteria are involved in the fermentation of kimchi, but LAB become dominant while the putrefactive bacteria are suppressed during salting of baechu cabbage and the fermentation. The addition of other subingredients and formation of fermentation byproducts of LAB promote the fermentation process of LAB to eventually lead to eradication of putrefactive- and pathogenic bacteria, and also increase the functionalities of kimchi. Accordingly, kimchi can be considered a vegetable probiotic food that contributes health benefits in a similar manner as yogurt as a dairy probiotic food. Further, the major ingredients of kimchi are cruciferous vegetables; and other healthy functional foods such as garlic, ginger, red pepper powder, and so on are added to kimchi as subingredients. As all of these ingredients undergo fermentation by LAB, kimchi is regarded as a source of LAB; and the fermentative byproducts from the functional ingredients significantly boost its functionality. Because kimchi is both tasty and highly functional, it is typically served with steamed rice at every Korean meal. Health functionality of kimchi, based upon our research and that of other, includes anticancer, antiobesity, anticonstipation, colorectal health promotion, probiotic properties, cholesterol reduction, fibrolytic effect, antioxidative and antiaging properties, brain health promotion, immune promotion, and skin health promotion. In this review we describe the method of kimchi manufacture, fermentation, health functionalities of kimchi and the probiotic properties of its LAB.

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