An Unexpected Benefit Of Eating Kimchi

Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish that dates back to the 12th century. A culinary staple of South Korea, kimchi is made by combining salted and fermented vegetables with a blend of spices and seasonings (via Healthline). While there is certainly more than one variation of kimchi, the tasty side dish is most commonly made with cabbage seasoned with ginger, garlic, chili pepper, salt, and sugar. It may also include other vegetables such as scallions, carrot, radish, celery, eggplant, bamboo shoots, spinach, and beets.

"The process to make kimchi begins with brining or salting the vegetables to draw out the water, which aids in the preservation and allows the seasonings to easily penetrate," nutritionist Mia Syn told Women's Health. "Then, the vegetables are fermented by lactic acid bacteria." Depending on the amount you're making, the fermentation process can take days or even weeks before it is finally ready to eat (via Healthline).

Kimchi can boost mental health

While eating kimchi can benefit your health in a number of ways, its most surprising and unexpected advantage is its impact on mental health. According to a study published in the medical journal Psychiatry Research, kimchi and other fermented foods can potentially improve mental health (via Lifehack). After surveying more than 700 undergraduate students at the College of William & Mary over the course of 30 days, researchers found that students who eat more fermented foods, like kimchi, yogurt, and miso soup, tend to have fewer symptoms of social anxiety.

This is largely due to the high concentration of probiotics in fermented foods and drinks. Probiotics reduce inflammation in the gut and increase the presence of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain. GABA can help reduce feelings and symptoms of anxiety. While past studies have examined the connection between probiotics and gut health, the gut-brain connection is a new, yet growing, frontier that is quite promising but will require further research to confirm.