Kimchi Makes People with Diabetes Smile

Patient Expert

In America when we want to get people to smile for our photos, we say "cheese." But in Korea they say "kimchi."

When I visited South Korea about three years ago, my hosts taught me about that, and it worked for my photos. Kimchi makes people in Korea smile. It can make you smile too.

Kimchi tastes great and is healthful, the two essentials of truly happy foods. Most people who enjoy spicy foods will love the taste of kimchi. At the same time kimchi is a fermented food like yogurt with healthy probiotic lactic acid bacteria. While it is low in calories and carbohydrates, it is nevertheless rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, and minerals.

The main ingredient is napa cabbage, a cruciferous vegetable, but it comes in hundreds of varieties. The best kimchi that I have ever found is Zuké Kimchi, made by a small company in Boulder, Colorado, called Esoteric Food.

They make Zuké Kimchi from organic napa cabbage, organic onion, organic shallot, organic ginger, organic garlic, chile powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, and sea salt. It has just the right about of heat for my taste buds and has a real crunch, unlike the soggy kimchi that is most widely available in this country.

You can find Zuké Kimchi most readily in the Rocky Mountain area. It is available in certain stores in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, South Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Kansas. Esoteric Food also ships their Zuké Kimchi to people in all 50 states, and you can write one of the owners, Mara King, at for more information.

Kimchi is a side dish that people in Korea eat at almost every meal. When I visited there, I ate some for every meal, except for the one time when I ate at a restaurant that catered to Westerners, where it wasn't available.

A new study in Korea compared 50 volunteers who ate 15 grams of kimchi with a similar group who ate 210 grams (which is equivalent to about half a jar of  Zuké Kimchi). "The reason for having a low intake kimchi group in this study instead of no kimchi was that Koreans typically include at least some kimchi with their meals," the researchers wrote.

They were looking at the effect of eating kimchi on cholesterol levels. The study, "Kimchi, a Fermented Vegetable, Improves Serum Lipid Profiles in Healthy Young Adults: Randomized Clinical Trial," appears in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Foods. The full-text of the study is online at

In just seven days the two groups experienced profoundly improved results. This summary finding says it all:

"Concentrations of fasting blood glucose (FBG), total glucose, total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL)-C significantly decreased in both groups after 7 days of kimchi intake, but the effects were dose dependent."

All of us who have diabetes need to manage our glucose (blood sugar) level, and most of us also need to reduce our LDL cholesterol level. After reading this new study, I increased my "dose" of kimchi. I don't know yet if my blood sugar and cholesterol levels are down, but the size of my smile is certainly bigger now.