Top Kimchi Benefits + Side Effects

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 11/11/22 •  10 min read

What are kimchi benefits and side effects every ethical consumer must know? Here are kimchi pros and cons and how buying them will impact your health, the environment, animals and laborers. 

kimchi benefits and side effects

Food is something we consume every day and if you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on kimchi benefits and side effects.

You are going to learn all about kimchi benefits and side effects. This will include kimchi benefits for your health and potential risks, kimchi water footprint and kimchi carbon footprint, kimchi sustainability, if kimchi are vegan or impact animals in other ways, and much more. 

After learning if kimchi are good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.

This post is all about kimchi benefits and side effects that every ethical consumer should know.

Must-Know Kimchi Benefits And Side Effects

Health

Kimchi health benefits may include:

Additionally, kimchi is typically…

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Environment

Water footprint: low, it takes 280 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of cabbage / 34 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cabbage

Carbon footprint: low, 0.12 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of fresh cabbage, a car driving equivalent of 0.25 miles or 0.5 kilometers

Destruction: low-high, kimchi production is relatively sustainable without fish sauce, fish past or fish oil but destructive if fish products are ingredients because they have a negative impact on marine ecosystems that involve discarding fishing nets that pollute oceans, fishing which damages coral and sponges and is an overall severe threat to marine habitats

Kimchi is…

Animals

Kills: fish, unless stated otherwise

Harms: fish, unless stated otherwise

Indirectly kills or harms: if fish oil is an ingredient: sea-life, such as dolphins, sea turtles, protected fish, whales, seabirds etc. known as “bycatch” (unwanted marine life caught, hooked and entangled in fishing nets)

Kimchi is typically…

Laborers

Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often subject to exploitation, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits

Kimchi…

Where does kimchi come from?

Kimchi origin and production is mostly in Korea.

Is kimchi good for you? Healthy? Nutritious?

Yes! Kimchi is high in nutrients like iron, folate, and vitamins B6 and K. Be cautious of high sodium content and added sugar in kimchi.

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kimchi is alkaline. kimchi benefits include fitting into an alkaline diet.

kimchi benefits include fitting into an alkaline diet.

Is kimchi alkaline or acidic?

Kimchi is alkaline.

What is the pH level of kimchi?

Kimchi has a 10.0 pH level once digested. All fermented vegetables are alkaline.

When you eat food, it breaks down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

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kimchi is gluten free. kimchi benefits include fitting into a gluten free diet.

kimchi benefits include fitting into a gluten free diet.

Is kimchi gluten free?

Yes, kimchi is naturally gluten free. Kimchi recipes do not contain glutinous ingredients.

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

kimchi typically contains a common food allergen: fish.

side effects of common food allergens like milk, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and crustaceans

Is kimchi a common food allergen?

Yes, kimchi contains a common food allergen: fish. Many people experience allergic reactions to kimchi.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

kimchi is a fermented food.

kimchi benefits include being fermented

Is kimchi a fermented food?

Yes, kimchi is a fermented food.

Fermentation is an old process that can extend shelf life, provide healthy probiotics and add nutritional value. One notable nutrient is vitamin B12, which is especially desirable for vegans and vegetarians, as it is typically not in plant foods.

Fermented foods help the body:

When too many bad gut microbes exist it can create an imbalance between beneficial and harmful gut bacteria, which leads to health problems. In some cases intestinal walls can weaken and their contents may leak into the bloodstream, commonly referred to as leaky gut syndrome. Fermented foods strengthen intestinal walls. For optimal gut health and overall wellbeing fermented foods are a great daily addition to your diet.

Common fermented foods include:

Check out this Fermented Foods List to see them all.

Here’s an amazing cookbook filled with delicious fermented recipes: Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes by Christopher Shockey and Kirsten K. Shockey

kimchi is unsustainable unless made without the use of fish products.

side effects of seafood, unsustainable food that pollutes oceans with plastic

Overall, is kimchi eco friendly and sustainable?

Kimchi production is relatively unsustainable unless made without the use of fish products.

Whether farmed or wild caught, the seafood industry is environmentally destructive due to its direct impact on decreasing marine populations, polluting waters and habitat destruction.

Wild-caught fish and seafood is destructive due to overfishing (when populations die at a greater rate than they are able to replenish). Degraded ecosystems occur as a result and creates an imbalance that impacts important food chains. Consequently, vulnerable aquatic species like sea turtles and coral suffer. Scientists predict oceans will be fishless by 2048. Such a major loss in biodiversity would be catastrophic, as oceans regulate temperature and contribute to half of our oxygen on Earth.

Fish farming, or aquafarming, is not a sustainable alternative. Not only do farmed fish need to be fed fish to eat (perpetuating a never-ending cycle of fishing) but waters become contaminated with antibiotics (to prevent disease that inevitably occurs with overcrowded fish confinements), pesticides, parasites and fish feces. The toxic water then spreads to waterways and oceans, polluting ecosystems and eventually killing off wild fish populations.

All of the aforementioned fishing practices occur in order to meet global demand. The obvious solution for protecting our Earth’s oceans and waterways, marine habitats, ecosystems and wildlife is for consumers to significantly reduce or eliminate their seafood demand entirely.

Read more about ‘What Makes Food Sustainable Or Unsustainable?’

kimchi is typically not vegan but can be vegan without fish products.

seafood and fish is not vegan

Is kimchi vegan?

Typically, kimchi is not vegan. Kimchi is fermented cabbage that traditionally includes fish sauce, the byproduct of a marine animal, therefore it is a non vegan food. However, if fish sauce is not an ingredient, kimchi is likely vegan. 

Go vegan for animals!

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non-Vegan Foods List

kimchi has labor issues and human rights concerns unless made without fish.

labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues for the fishing industry

Is kimchi a product that has known labor issues?

Yes. There are reports of serious worker mistreatment regarding the seafood industry. Kimchi is a product that has human rights concerns unless made without fish ingredients.

There are high numbers of trafficked people promised work but then held at sea against their will. Boats filled with trafficked migrants do not dock, sometimes for years on end, keeping slave workers unseen and trapped at sea, continuing the forced labor. Recruiters trick migrants into thinking they must work to pay off their debts, referred to as “debt peonage”. There is little to no compensation for their work. Seafood caught illegally from slave worker boats mixes in with legal, commercial fishing boats in order to remain undetected.

Fishing industries around the world are responsible for systematic, illegal fishing practices and human rights abuse. Fishing workers are vulnerable to human trafficking and slave labor, especially in countries like Thailand (the third largest seafood exporter in the world), Burma, Indonesia and Fiji. Seafood slavery is a major issue for migrant workers originally from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

So we can improve lives around the world if we boycott problematic foods that are difficult for human rights authorities to regulate.

Be sure to read up on this list of ‘Foods You Should Always Buy Fair Trade

This post was all about kimchi benefits and side effects.

Sources:

Harvard Medical School: Fermented foods can add depth to your diet

korean kimchi probiotic fermented

Cabbage, kimchi – FoodData Central

Health Benefits of Kimchi (Korean Fermented Vegetables)

Adriane Marie

Hi, I'm Adriane, creator of HEALabel! I organize info for you to comprehensively see how purchases impact health, environment, animals and laborers. Stay aware because you care! Subscribe below to get my weekly newsletter with tips, new info and other ethical consumer insight.

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