Candy Checks: Does Kimchi Really Help With COVID-19?

Is there any truth behind the claims?
by Mylene Mendoza   |  Jul 23, 2020
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Our love for Hallyu does not stop with K-drama and K-pop, it also extends to Korean food. From samgyeopsal to kimchi, we're sure Hallyu fans have tried incorporating K-food into their regular consumption. 

Speaking of kimchi, the staple Korean side dish is getting plenty of attention recently after stories poppped up claiming that it helped lower COVID-19 riskOne study that has been recently gaining media attention focuses on the association between COVID-19 mortality rate among countries that have a regular consumption of fermented food.

The study, conducted in France, pointed out that countries with regular consumption of fermented food also seem to have low COVID-19 mortality rates. The study further states, "Though our results don’t allow to infer causality, they do reinforce our a priory hypothesis that the ingestion of fermented food may have reduced the severity of the COVID-19 due to its antioxidant activity."

Many people are now wondering, can kimchi help with COVID-19?


What is kimchi?

Kimchi is a widely popular South Korean food made of salted and fermented vegetables like cabbage and Korean radish. There are many variations of making kimchi depending on the different regions, but most recipes use gochugaru (Korean chili pepper flakes), garlic, ginger, and various salted seafood. 

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Kimchi is classified as a banchan, which literally translates to "side dish" in Korean. It is often served in small plates along with other side dishes which you can enjoy together with your favorite Korean cuisine like samgyeopsal. It's also used as an ingredient in various dishes like kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew) and kimchi bokkeumbap (kimchi fried rice).

Making kimchi has been a tradition among Korean families. Called kimjang, it's been a yearly tradition for families to gather to make copious amounts of kimchi in the late fall or early winter which they share among relatives and friends.

Health benefits of kimchi

Plenty of studies have explored the positive contributions of fermented food like kimchi on one's immune system. One study conducted by a group of Korean researchers and published in the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences suggests that the consumption of kimchi among its participants kept the growth of harmful intestinal microorganisms under control and promoted the buildup of beneficial microorganisms.


The fermentation process used to make kimchi also involves various lactic acid bacteria (LAB), which studies have found to help "enhance" the differentiation of immune cells (aka the process that allows lymphocytes to develop into specialized immune cells).

Relation to COVID-19

COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, a new strain of coronavirus. Scientists all over the globe have been quick to conduct research about COVID-19, but not much is still known about the continuously evolving disease, its possible effects on human health, and its potential cure.

While scientists are hard at work in developing a possible vaccine for COVID-19, individuals are advised to take necessary precautions to help protect themselves and others against the virus, including strengthening one's immune system. And because bodies of research claim that kimchi has health benefits, many people have turned to incorporating them more into their daily diets in an attempt to boost their body's immune system.


Still, it's important to note that there is still no scientific proof that kimchi prevents COVID-19. Simply eating kimchi and other fermented food won't make you immune to the virus. Science says it may help strengthen your bodily defenses, but it won't be of any use if we ignore other precautions such as regular disinfection, social distancing, and wearing of masks.  


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Mylene Mendoza
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