Study: Eating More of This Tangy Condiment Could Help You Lose Weight

A new study in the British Medical Journal suggests a little of this fermented superfood could yield some appetizing results for your waistline.

What do Squid Game and a healthy food you should be eating more of have in common? They both originated in South Korea. Korean pop culture has seen a surge in popularity in the United States in recent years, and along with it has come a voracious appetite for the Korean veggie dish, kimchi.

In 2023 alone, more than 10,000 tons of kimchi were imported to the US, according to VOA. Kimchi is a dish made by salting vegetables, often cabbage, and adding spices like garlic, ginger, and Korean red pepper along with fish sauce. The mixture is then left to ferment for several days before appearing on the table as a side or a condiment.

If you haven’t tried kimchi, a new epidemiology study published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal might be your wake-up call to give it a taste. The study set out to see if the consumption of different types of kimchi could have an effect on weight.

The study narrowed in on over 100,000 Koreans aged 40 to 69 years, with an average age of about 52, who were enrolled in a long-term study that tracked their diet and health metrics in an attempt to identify risks for common diseases. For this study, participants were categorized by how many servings of different types of kimchi they consumed per day and then analyzed for their likelihood of being obese or gaining weight as they aged. 

Overall, consuming moderate amounts of kimchi was associated with weight loss, but the effect of kimchi and the type consumed varied between men and women. In men, consuming one to three servings of any type of kimchi was associated with a healthier weight. Men who ate the most kimchi made with cabbage had a 10% lower risk of becoming obese or developing abdominal obesity. Consuming kimchi made with radish lowered the risk of obesity for men by about 10%, and for women by about 8%.

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The sweet spot for kimchi consumption appeared to be between one and three servings per day. Eating more than five kimchi servings per day was associated with an increase in weight. That may be because kimchi is often consumed with other foods, such as rice, too much of which could lead to a consumption of excess calories, the researchers theorized. They also noted that kimchi is relatively high in sodium, which could lead to greater detriments to health. “As kimchi is one of the major sources of sodium intake, a moderate amount of kimchi should be recommended for the health benefits of its other components,” they concluded.

Regarding the reasons that kimchi contributes to weight loss and stability, several studies have pointed to the beneficial bacteria that thrive when kimchi ferments. The condiment has also been shown to improve fasting blood glucose, which can contribute to weight loss. In addition, the spices traditionally used to make kimchi—garlic, ginger, and red pepper—have been shown to have beneficial effects on weight in some studies.

If you want to try kimchi, you could always make your own. For the less adventurous, most supermarkets now carry at least one variety. You can use it as a topping for rice, mix it into a sauce, spice up a soup, mix it into scrambled eggs, or eat it for a snack. Just be sure to consider it as you monitor your sodium intake for the day.

Meaghan Cameron, MS
Meaghan has more than 15 years of experience in writing and editing food, travel, fitness, sports, and lifestyle material. Her professional journey began at Reader's Digest, where she honed her skills and developed a passion for creating engaging content. Throughout her career, she has contributed her expertise to renowned platforms such as Food Network, Martha Stewart, Outside Television, and Eat This, Not That! Additionally, Meaghan has valuable experience in radio and video production. Before entering the world of content creation, Meaghan spent more than a decade working in the restaurant industry. This hands-on experience has provided her with insider knowledge and secrets about the workings of the industry. Meaghan holds a bachelor's degree in English from the State University of New York (SUNY) Purchase and a master's degree in publishing from Pace University.