Does kimchi have lots of carbs?

Kimchi is a popular Korean side dish made of fermented vegetables like napa cabbage, radish, green onions, and garlic. It’s often eaten along with rice or noodles and can be an integral part of Korean cuisine. Many people wonder if this tasty side dish is relatively low in carbs or if it contains a significant amount of carbohydrates. The carb content of kimchi can vary considerably depending on the ingredients used and how it’s prepared. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the carb content of different types of kimchi and examine how its nutritional profile fits into different diets like keto. We’ll also provide tips for enjoying kimchi as part of a low-carb lifestyle.

What are the main ingredients in kimchi?

The primary ingredients used to make traditional kimchi include:

– Napa cabbage – This is the main vegetable used to create kimchi. Napa cabbage is packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals with only around 18 calories per cup. It has about 4 grams of carbs per cup, mostly from fiber.

– Radish – Korean radish, also called mu, adds crunchy texture. It contains about 5 grams of carbs per cup, mostly from fiber.

– Salt – Salt is used heavily in kimchi for flavor and to help draw out moisture from the vegetables as part of the fermentation process.

– Garlic – Minced or grated garlic is added for a pungent flavor. Garlic is very low in carbs.

– Ginger – Grated ginger adds a punch of flavor and aids digestion. It contains minimal carbs.

– Green onions – Green onions provide an oniony flavor. They have around 5 grams of carbs per cup, including 2 grams of fiber.

– Sugar – A small amount of sugar is sometimes added to kimchi to help kickstart fermentation. Granulated sugar has 15 grams of carbs per tablespoon.

– Chili pepper flakes – These provide signature heat to kimchi. Chili peppers are very low in carbs.

– Fish sauce or shrimp paste – These savory condiments provide a boost of umami flavor. They contain minimal carbs.

– Other vegetables – Carrots, white radish, green cabbage, and Asian pear may also be included, depending on the recipe. They have around 5-6 grams of net carbs per cup.

So the primary low-carb vegetables in traditional kimchi are napa cabbage, radish, garlic, ginger, green onions, and chili peppers. The ingredients that add more carbs are sugar and fruits/vegetables like carrots, cabbage, radish, and Asian pear.

How many carbs are in kimchi?

The total carb count in kimchi can range quite a bit based on the specific ingredients used and how it’s prepared:

– **Plain napa cabbage kimchi** – Since napa cabbage has about 4 grams of net carbs per cup and napa cabbage makes up the bulk of most kimchi, a basic kimchi with just napa cabbage, radish, garlic, ginger, green onions, and chili pepper can have around **5 grams of net carbs per cup**.

– **Kimchi with extra veggies** – When kimchi includes higher-carb vegetables like carrots, daikon radish, cabbage, and Asian pear, the carb count may increase to around **8-10 grams of net carbs per cup**.

– **Sweetened kimchi** – Some types of kimchi have larger amounts of sugar added to help with fermentation. This can increase the carb count to around **15 grams of net carbs per cup**.

So on average, plain kimchi tends to have around 5 grams of net carbs per cup, while veggie-heavy or sweetened kimchi may have 8-15 grams.

For comparison, here are the carb counts for some common foods:

– 1 cup cooked white rice: about 45 grams net carbs
– 1 cup cooked noodles: about 40 grams net carbs
– 1 cup cooked quinoa: about 39 grams net carbs
– 1 cup black beans: about 41 grams net carbs

So kimchi is very low in carbs compared to other side dishes like grains, beans, and noodles. Even veggie-heavy kimchi has a fraction of the carbs found in starchy foods.

Kimchi Nutrition Facts

Here is the full nutrition breakdown for a 1 cup serving of napa cabbage kimchi based on data from the USDA:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 34
Protein 2.2 g
Carbohydrates 5.6 g
Fiber 3.6 g
Sugar 1.5 g
Fat 0.4 g
Vitamin A 26% DV
Vitamin C 58% DV
Calcium 9% DV
Iron 8% DV

As you can see, 1 cup of kimchi is low in calories, fat, and carbs, while providing a good amount of fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. Its nutritional value is derived mainly from the napa cabbage.

Does kimchi have probiotics?

Kimchi is packed with probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that support healthy digestion. When cabbage and other vegetables are salted and left to ferment, probiotic lactic acid bacteria like Lactobacillus kimchii naturally develop.

These probiotics are responsible for the sour flavor of kimchi and help make it easier to digest. They may also boost immunity and prevent yeast infections and urinary tract infections.

However, the probiotic content of store-bought kimchi varies considerably. Homemade kimchi and artisanal varieties sold in refrigerated sections tend to have higher amounts of live probiotic cultures. Mass-produced kimchi that’s pasteurized and sold in jars on shelves likely has lower probiotic levels.

For the maximum probiotic benefits, look for refrigerated kimchi clearly labeled as “unpasteurized” or “raw”. Or better yet, make your own kimchi at home using fresh napa cabbage and other veggies.

Is kimchi keto-friendly?

Kimchi can certainly be part of a keto diet. Traditional kimchi made primarily with napa cabbage contains about 5 grams of net carbs per cup. When you consider that most keto dieters aim for around 25-50 grams of net carbs per day, kimchi can fit well into a low-carb ketogenic eating plan.

It provides a nice crunchy texture and spicy kick of flavor to replace higher-carb sides like rice, pasta, or bread. Kimchi is great served alongside keto-friendly proteins like meat, fish, tofu, and eggs.

Some tips for enjoying kimchi on a keto diet:

– Stick to about 1/2 to 1 cup of plain napa cabbage kimchi per meal
– Avoid sweetened or veggie-heavy varieties that have more carbs
– Pair it with non-starchy veggies like leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, etc.
– Mix kimchi with cauliflower rice for fried “kimchi rice”
– Add to lettuce wrap sandwiches instead of bread
– Use as a topping for keto-friendly bowls or stir fries
– Garnish keto-friendly soups with a spoonful of kimchi
– Combine with avocado, greens, meat, and mayo for a keto kimchi salad

So with a little creativity, kimchi can be deliciously incorporated into low-carb keto meals and snacks. Just watch your portions and stick to lower-carb varieties.

Does kimchi have anti-cancer benefits?

Some scientific studies have suggested that kimchi may have anti-cancer properties. The fermented cabbage contains certain health-promoting compounds that show potential cancer-fighting effects in laboratory research:

– **Probiotics** – The beneficial bacteria in kimchi produce bioactive compounds that may inhibit cancer cell growth and development. More research is needed on the anti-cancer effects.

– **Antioxidants** – Compounds like phenols and flavonoids in kimchi have antioxidant capabilities that help fight oxidative damage from free radicals. This oxidative stress is linked to cancer.

– **Fiber** – The high fiber content of kimchi may help regulate digestive health and remove toxins, possibly reducing colorectal cancer risk.

– **Vitamin C** – High levels of vitamin C have antioxidant properties that may lower inflammation involved in cancer progression.

– **Garlic** – Organosulfur compounds found in garlic are biologically active and have demonstrated anti-tumor effects.

– **Chili peppers** – Capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their heat, exhibits anti-carcinogenic properties according to some studies.

However, human clinical trials are still needed to directly establish kimchi’s cancer-fighting abilities. The current evidence is promising but preliminary. In any case, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, probiotics, and fiber like that provided by kimchi is beneficial for overall health and cancer prevention.

Is kimchi good for weight loss?

Kimchi may potentially promote weight loss in a few ways:

– **Low in calories** – With only about 30 calories per cup, kimchi is a flavorful side dish that won’t break the calorie bank. You can fill up your plate with its low-cal crunch.

– **High in fiber** – The fiber content of kimchi helps you feel satiated after meals. This may lead to eating less overall.

– **Probiotics** – The probiotics are associated with a healthy gut microbiome, which may promote weight management.

– **Spices** – Chili peppers and garlic in kimchi may help slightly boost metabolism through a process called diet-induced thermogenesis.

However, there are no specific studies that confirm kimchi or other fermented foods directly lead to weight loss. Any effect would likely be very modest and not a magic bullet for losing weight.

Kimchi is, however, a tasty low-calorie side dish that can fit well into an overall healthy diet and lifestyle focused on weight management through portion control, vegetables, lean proteins, and exercise.

As part of a weight loss diet, enjoy kimchi in moderation along with plenty of non-starchy vegetables as well as high-fiber whole grains, legumes, fruits, and lean proteins. A sustainable, balanced approach focused on whole foods is key for long-term weight loss success.


Kimchi can be a nutritious, low-calorie, and probiotic-packed side dish when consumed in moderation. Traditional kimchi made primarily from napa cabbage contains about 5 grams of net carbs per cup, but veggie-heavy and sweetened varieties may have more. While kimchi shows potential anti-cancer and weight loss benefits in preliminary studies, more research is needed to confirm these effects directly. However, when paired with a balanced diet, kimchi can be a tasty way to add beneficial probiotics and nutrients into your meals and support overall health, especially as part of a low-carb ketogenic diet. Focus on plain, napa cabbage-based kimchi and keep portions around 1 cup per meal to be able to enjoy its unique crunch and zesty flavor while managing carbs.

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