Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, warns the American Diabetes Association, with more than 30 million adults having the disease.
Combined, the disease costs the country $245 billion in medical costs a year. But studies show that a cheap and healthy Asian snack may be the key to bringing down diabetes-related medical costs and improving the lives of millions of diabetic patients.
If you’re a fan of Korean cuisine, you’re likely already very familiar with kimchi. And this spicy dish offers many benefits to people with diabetes.
If you have diabetes, you are at a much higher risk of high cholesterol-related diseases like strokes and heart attacks, warns Diabetes Canada. Diet may play a big role in managing your cholesterol, and kimchi specifically can help. In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods, scientists studied people who ate 210 grams of kimchi a day with those who ate just 15 grams of kimchi. After only one week, the researchers found that those who ate the most kimchi had lower low-density lipoprotein (the bad form of cholesterol) and lower total cholesterol.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials looked at how probiotics (supplements that provide healthy, beneficial bacteria to your gut) influence glucose metabolism and insulin resistance. These are two key factors in diabetes risks and symptoms. The research suggests that probiotics can help prevent insulin resistance, which is good news for diabetics.
And a study in the Journal of Medicinal Foods noted that kimchi is rich in probiotic lactic acid bacteria, with the scientists writing that kimchi “contributes health benefits in a similar manner as yogurt as a dairy probiotic food.”
But it doesn’t stop there. Kimchi’s benefits create quite an extensive and impressive list.
“Health functionality of kimchi,” the scientists write, “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.”
While everyone knows about probiotics, prebiotics are also essential. Prebiotics are foods that help feed your beneficial gut bacteria and keeps your gut bacteria flourishing, which is essential for long-term health benefits for diabetics and the general population.
Some of the best prebiotics include cabbage, onions and garlic, which are all common ingredients in traditional kimchi recipes. This means kimchi doesn’t just populate your gut with probiotics that help with diabetes, but kimchi also keeps those bacteria happy!
“Losing just a few pounds…can help with your diabetes control and can reduce your risk for other health problems,” advises the American Diabetes Association. A combination of exercise and diet can get you to your weight loss goals, and when it comes to diet, kimchi is your ally.
According to a study in the Nutrition Research medical journal, kimchi can help you to not only lose weight, but also improves your body fat percentage.
You can find kimchi in most Asian supermarkets, or in the refrigerated ethnic section of your local grocery store. Enjoy it as a spicy appetizer or side dish, or as seasoning on top of a bowl of brown rice.