Study: Eating Kimchi May Deter COVID-19

Apr 02, 2021 12:29 AM EDT | By Zyanya James (

Study: Eating Kimchi May Deter COVID-19
Eating a lot of kimchi may keep COVID-19 away.
(Photo : Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

A recent study showed that kimchi may help lessen the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. Last year, USA Today reported that Dr. Jean Bousquet, an honorary professor of Pulmonary Medicine at Montpellier University in France, theorized that there may be a "a link between low COVID-19 fatalities and national dietary differences, specifically fermented cabbage." This study was published by the Clinical and Translational Allergy journal in May 2020.

In this study, Dr. Bousquet proposed that regional differences and diet may also have an impact on how people can be affected by the coronavirus. As Dr. Bousquet's article suggested, "Foods with potent antioxidant or anti ACE activity — like uncooked or fermented cabbage — are largely consumed in low-death rate European countries, Korea and Taiwan, and might be considered in the low prevalence of deaths."

The article also mentions that other countries that have very low death rates include Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Turkey. Cabbage is a commonly consumed in Romania while fermented milk is common in Bulgaria and Greece. Turkey consumes a lot of both.

The published article drew various reactions from social media. Facebook users pointed out that COVID-19 "spread like wildfire in South Korea," a country most known for eating kimchi. However, USA Today says the health benefits of fermented foods are now being recognized by the scientific community. Popular fermented foods like yogurt, miso and sauerkraut reportedly help with digestion, weight loss, heart health and immune function. Kimchi, the main food in question, is said to have many health benefits, including reducing cholesterol and colorectal health. It's also said to have anti-aging and anti-cancer properties.

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December 2020 Study

Dr. Bousquet was able to move forward with his first theory and published a second article in the same scientific journal. As Inquirer reports, "The study found that the intake of kimchi could lead to a milder case of the coronavirus due to the bioactive compounds present in the dish." These compounds, a result from fermentation, contains properties that help reduce inflammatory responses and oxidative stress.

As mentioned in Dr. Bousquet's first article, diet may be correlated to low fatalities in certain countries and these countries consume large quantities of fermented food. While further studies are needed to be conducted, it doesn't hurt to add fermented foods in your diet. Inquirer adds many Korean institutes are studying the effects of their country's beloved kimchi against the coronavirus. These include the Jeonbuk National University, Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology and the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology.

How To Make Kimchi

While its effects against COVID-19 is still in question, Korean Bapsang writes that kimchi is a good source of lactic acid bacteria that Healthline says may help reduce cholesterol, prevent diarrhea, and promote weight loss. Korean Bapsang adds that kimchi "has excellent anti-oxidation and anti-cancer effects and helps prevent aging." Here's an easy kimchi recipe to try at home.


1 medium head napa cabbage (about 2 pounds)

1/4 cup iodine-free sea salt or kosher salt (see Recipe Notes)

Distilled water

1 tbsp grated garlic (5 to 6 cloves)

1 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger

1 tsp granulated sugar

2 tbsp fish sauce or salted shrimp paste, or 3 tablespoons water

1 to 5 tbsp Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)

8 ounces Korean radish or daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks

4 medium scallions, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces


Cut the cabbage lengthwise through the stem into quarters. Remove the cores from each piece. Cut each quarter crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips.

Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften. Add enough water to cover the cabbage. Put a plate on top of the cabbage and weigh it down with something heavy. Set aside for one to two hours.

Rinse the cabbage under cold water three times. Set aside to drain in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes.

Make the spice paste. Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting. Add the garlic, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce, shrimp paste, or water and stir into a smooth paste. Stir in the gochugaru. Depending on your preference, use one tablespoon for mild and up to 5 tablespoons for spicy. Set the spice paste aside until the cabbage is ready.

Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and add it to the spice paste. Add the radish and scallions.

Mix thoroughly. Using your hands, gently work the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. Using gloves is recommended.

Pack the kimchi into a one-quart glass jar. Press down on the kimchi until the brine rises to cover the vegetables. Leave at least one inch of space at the top and make sure to seal the jar tightly.

Let it ferment for up to five days. Leave the jar in a cool room and out of direct sunlight. Place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch any overflow. You may see bubbles inside the jar and brine may seep out of the lid.

Check it daily and refrigerate when ready. Check the kimchi once a day, opening the jar and pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to keep them submerged under the brine. (This also releases gases produced during fermentation.) When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. You may eat it right away, but it's best after another week or two.

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