Can kimchi help you lose weight?Packed with These Vitamins and Minerals in Just One Spear

Whether you love them or hate them, pickles are having a moment. This salty, crunchy snack is a fridge staple that everyone seems to be making at home and sharing the results on social media.

“Kimchi” usually refers to pickled cucumbers, although many other vegetables and fruits can also be pickled. Cucumbers become pickles when preserved in vinegar or a solution of salt and water. This technique gives kimchi its signature salty, sour, tangy taste.

Are pickles good for you? Is eating kimchi every day good for your health? We spoke to the experts to find out.

Kimchi nutrition overview

The nutritional content of kimchi varies depending on the type, shape, flavor and brand. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a standard serving of store-bought dill or kosher dill cucumber pickles states:

  • 5 calories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates
  • 0 grams protein
  • 0 g fat
  • 0.3 g fiber
  • 325 mg sodium
  • 0.5g sugar

Registered dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth told TODAY.com that one serving of pickles is about 1 ounce, which is equivalent to a spear or one-third of a whole large dill pickle.

The serving size of kimchi may vary depending on the size or cut of the kimchi, but is generally around 28g to 40g. If the pickles are sliced ​​or flaked, this will be about five slices.

Lageman-Ross added that sweet pickles, often called bread-and-butter pickles, contain more sugar and more calories than the standard dill variety.

Kimchi is generally divided into two categories based on how it is made.

Vinegar pickles

Lagman-Ross says most commercial dill pickles you find in grocery stores are pickled in a vinegar brine. Brine also contains water, salt, sugar, and spices, but the difference is the acidic vinegar.

“They are then pasteurized to kill any harmful bacteria, which also kills any good bacteria,” Lageman-Ross adds. (Probiotics are microorganisms found in fermented foods that promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the body.)

Vinegar pickles are shelf stable but need to be refrigerated after opening.

Lageman-Ross explains that quick pickles prepared at home also fall into the vinegar pickle category because they are typically fresh cucumbers soaked for a short period of time in a solution of salt, vinegar and seasonings.

fermented kimchi

Julia Zumpano, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic’s Institute of Digestive Diseases, told TODAY.com that fermented pickles are put into a brine of salt and water and left in an airtight jar at room temperature for several weeks or longer.

“A chemical reaction occurs between the bacteria and the natural sugars, producing lactic acid, which keeps the kimchi fresher longer,” Zupano explains.

The lacto-fermentation process gives kimchi a sour flavor, and they are often called “sour” or “semi-sour” kimchi.

You can make it at home or buy it. Experts note that they are often sold in the refrigerated section or deli counter of stores.

Fermentation can create probiotic bacteria in the brine, but the kimchi needs to be kept in the refrigerator to maintain the benefits of the probiotics, Largeman-Roth said. “When you open a can of fermented sauerkraut, you should see some bubbles on the surface,” says Lageman-Ross.

No matter where you buy your fermented pickles, keep them refrigerated after opening the jar.

Health benefits of kimchi

“Kimchi is made from cucumbers, which are a low-calorie, fat-free food and a source of fiber, vitamins A and K, minerals and antioxidants,” says Zumpano.

Zumpano adds that kimchi is a good source of beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. According to the Cleveland Clinic, vitamin A supports healthy vision and immune function.

Vitamin K is good for bones and plays a key role in blood clotting and wound healing, Largeman-Roth said.

“Cucumbers themselves are very low in calories, and the seasonings and spices added when making kimchi are generally calorie-free,” Zupano says.

Experts say that if your goal is weight loss or weight loss, pickles may be a good choice for a low-calorie snack. In this case, Zupano recommends salty pickles over sweet pickles.

The sodium in pickles “may be beneficial for people who are physically active, such as running or engaging in high-intensity activities and sweating a lot,” Zupano says. She added that sodium is an electrolyte that is lost through sweat.

According to a previous report by TODAY.com, some athletes also swear by drinking pickle juice to relieve muscle cramps.

Zumpano says pickles may also be a smart snack choice for people who require higher sodium intake, such as those with POTS (postural tachycardia syndrome).

Regardless, kimchi should be consumed in moderation.

Are kimchi good for gut health?

Experts point out that if kimchi has been fermented, they are a good source of probiotics, which are good for gut health.

“The probiotics in fermented kimchi help maintain a good gut microbiome,” says Zupano. “Probiotics improve the good bacteria in your gut and help create better bacterial diversity.”

Lagman-Ross says pickles in a vinegar brine are pasteurized, which kills the probiotic bacteria that support gut health.

health risks

When consumed in moderation, sauerkraut is generally a safe and healthy food for most people, but sauerkraut may be risky depending on a person’s underlying health.

“The main issue is the sodium content, which adds up quickly. In just 4 spears you can get 1,000 milligrams, which can easily put you over the recommended daily intake of 2,300 milligrams,” says Largeman-Roth.

According to the American Heart Association, 90% of Americans consume too much sodium.

Experts say that if you have heart failure, high blood pressure or kidney disease, eating too much salt can make these conditions worse. “In this case, you definitely don’t want to overdo it or not eat any kimchi at all,” Zupano says.

Due to its high sodium content, sauerkraut may also be risky for people with liver disease such as hepatitis or cirrhosis, Largeman-Roth said.

The vitamin K content in sauerkraut may also be a drawback for some people, Largeman-Roth said, because vitamin K can interfere with anticoagulant medications like warfarin and coumadin.

Is it okay to eat kimchi every day?

Yes, experts say it’s OK to eat kimchi every day if you stick to the recommended serving sizes and if the kimchi doesn’t push you over your recommended daily sodium intake.

“Most pickle lovers dip into the jar multiple times, which will definitely increase the sodium content. If you like pickles, keep portion sizes in mind,” advises Lageman-Ross.

Experts recommend thinly slicing or chopping the kimchi to extend the portion size.

If you’re on a low-sodium diet, you shouldn’t eat pickles regularly, Zupano says. People with high blood pressure, heart failure, kidney or liver disease should only eat pickles occasionally, Lagman-Ross said. If you have concerns, always talk to your doctor.

If you eat pickles regularly, it’s also important to balance the sodium content with plenty of fresh, low-sodium produce, such as fruits and leafy greens, Lageman-Ross said.

Moderation is key. If you notice swelling in your hands and feet or are very thirsty, your body may be telling you to eat less salt, Zupano says.

Which pickles are the healthiest?

In stores, you’ll find pickles in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. If you’re choosing between brands, Zumpano recommends comparing labels and choosing pickles that are lower in sodium and sugar.

“Look for pickles that don’t contain high-fructose corn syrup, and try to avoid pickles with added yellow dyes,” Zupano adds.

Experts believe the healthiest pickles will be probiotic-rich fermented varieties, such as deli-style kosher dill.

Experts note that making kimchi at home, whether fermented or pickled in vinegar, may also be the healthiest option because it allows you to control the sodium content. “Marining it yourself is ideal. Then you can add other herbs and seasonings like garlic or turmeric… to maximize the nutritional value,” Zupano says.

Experts add that low-sodium fermented kimchi may also be a better choice for those watching their sodium intake.

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