Is Kimchi Keto-Friendly?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 09/04/2023

Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made from fermented vegetables. It’s a potent probiotic food with many health benefits—but is kimchi keto-friendly?

Yes, traditional kimchi is keto-friendly and an excellent addition to a nutritious ketogenic diet plan. 

Discover six reasons why you should eat kimchi regularly on a low-carb diet.   

Jars of kimchi

What is kimchi?

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish comprising fermented vegetables such as Napa cabbage, onions, and radish. 

While many kimchi recipes use different seasoning blends, most kimchi products include fish sauce, minced garlic, ginger root, and red pepper flakes.

During the fermentation process, lactic acid bacteria that are naturally present on the vegetables convert carbohydrates into lactic acid, which is responsible for kimchi’s tangy and slightly sharp flavor.

Fermentation has been used for centuries to preserve various foods, including vegetables, fruits, meat, soybean sprouts, and dairy products.

“Lactic acid has potent antimicrobial properties that inhibit the growth of microorganisms that cause foods to rot and become moldy,” explains Dr. Berg. “That’s why fermented vegetables can last several months without spoiling.”   

Kimchi is typically topped with green onions and served as a condiment or side dish, or it can be used as an ingredient to make kimchi jjigae, a popular Korean cabbage stew. 

Watch the video below to learn why you should regularly incorporate kimchi into your keto diet plan.

How many carbs are in kimchi?

The exact carbohydrate content of kimchi depends on the fermentation period and the specific recipe of the kimchi brand you plan to use.

According to data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup (150 grams) of kimchi typically contains:

  • 15 calories 

  • 0 g total fat

  • 1 g protein

  • 2.4 g total carbs

  • 1.6 g fiber

  • 0.8 g net carbs

Woman preparing traditional kimchi

Is kimchi keto-friendly?

Yes, kimchi is keto-friendly and an excellent choice for a nutritious low-carb diet like Healthy Keto®.

Kimchi is very low in carbs and on the keto food list. One cup (150 grams) of kimchi contains less than one gram of net carbs, making it an exceptionally nutritious low-carb food you can safely enjoy on keto.

Kimchi is excellent paired with grass-fed beef or oily fish rich in healthy fats and makes a delicious addition to many keto soup recipes

Kimchi is widely available—you’ll most likely find it at your local grocery store, farmers market, or health food store.  

However, store-bought kimchi can contain added sugars, glutinous rice flour, or cornstarch, which can significantly increase the carb content of these products.

Check the nutrition label and opt for kimchi brands that are traditionally prepared and don't contain additives and sugars. 

Fermented cabbage leaves

Six health benefits of eating kimchi on keto

Kimchi consumption has long been associated with various health benefits. 

A study published in Medicine investigated kimchi’s effect on physiological functions and concluded, "Biological compounds in kimchi stimulate immune function and reduce free radicals, certain cancers, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome risks.” 

Here are six health benefits of kimchi! 

1. Nutritional powerhouse 

Not only is kimchi packed with essential vitamins, but it also contains various natural acids, antioxidants, and phytonutrients with profound benefits for cellular health, cardiovascular function, and metabolic processes.

Kimchi is an excellent source of:

  • Vitamin C

  • Vitamin K2

  • B vitamins

  • Calcium

  • Iron

  • Magnesium

  • Potassium

  • Dietary fiber

  • Quercetin

  • Catechins

  • Lactic acid 


2. Source of probiotics  

Kimchi’s fermentation process promotes the growth and proliferation of beneficial microorganisms, especially lactic acid bacteria, such as lactobacillus plantarum and lactobacillus sakei.

Regularly consuming dietary probiotics promotes diverse gut bacteria, which helps prevent the intestinal overgrowth of potentially harmful bacteria, also known as dysbiosis. 

Research published in Molecular Science confirmed that a balanced gut microflora plays an essential role in nutrient absorption, immune defenses, and digestive function and may lower the risk of intestinal inflammation, colon cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

3. Supports digestive health 

Kimchi is a rich source of lactic acid and probiotics, and regularly consuming fermented vegetables has various benefits for digestive health.

Lactic acid helps create an optimal pH level in the intestines, which increases the effectiveness of digestive enzymes and boosts nutrient absorption.

Kimchi may also help prevent leaky gut, a condition characterized by the breakdown of the intestinal barrier, which allows potentially harmful substances to cross into the bloodstream.

Liver illustration

4. Aids detoxification 

Most kimchi products contain sulfur-rich vegetables, including radishes, cabbage, garlic, and onions.

Sulfur is a crucial trace mineral needed to produce glutathione, a powerful liver enzyme and antioxidant that neutralizes and eliminates toxins, heavy metals, and other harmful compounds from the body. 

5. Improves blood sugar control 

Regularly eating kimchi may be especially beneficial for individuals with metabolic syndrome and those at risk of diabetes.

Kimchi is rich in quercetin, a potent polyphenol that has been found to enhance cellular sensitivity to insulin, a key hormone needed for blood sugar control.

Lack of insulin sensitivity, also known as insulin resistance, increases the risk of weight gain and diabetes. This may explain why regular kimchi consumption is linked to healthy body weight and a lower risk of metabolic diseases. 

6. Strengthens immune defenses 

Your immune system is mostly gut bacteria, and kimchi’s microbiome-boosting properties help promote strong immune defenses. 

Lactic acid bacteria regulate the activity of immune cells in the gut, which promotes a balanced and appropriate immune response. 

Well-balanced immune responses are essential for defending against pathogens while avoiding chronic inflammation and lowering the risk of autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s disease.

And, what's more, kimchi is the best food for chronic sinus issues

Research published in Healthcare found that Lactobacillus sakei, a common bacterial strain in kimchi, can improve inflammation in the nasal cavities and is an effective remedy against microbial infections linked to persistent sinus issues.  

chopsticks and traditional kimchi

Key takeaways

Is kimchi keto-friendly? Yes, kimchi is an excellent choice for a nutritious high-fat diet like Healthy Keto.   

Not only is kimchi incredibly low in carbs, but it’s also a rich source of essential nutrients, probiotic bacteria, and potent antimicrobial compounds with impressive health benefits. 

Regularly consuming kimchi supports a diverse intestinal microflora, boosts immune defenses, and is linked to a lower risk of diabetes and autoimmune conditions.    


1. Is kimchi keto-approved?

Yes, kimchi is low in carbs and an excellent choice for the keto diet.  

However, some store-bought kimchi can contain added sugar or sweet rice flour that can quickly exceed your daily net carb count and interfere with ketosis. Check labels and opt for kimchi products without added sugars and carbs.  

2. Is kimchi healthy on a keto diet?

Yes, kimchi is an incredibly nutritious low-carb food that has many health benefits. 

Regularly eating kimchi promotes a diverse gut microflora, supports digestive function, can help strengthen immune defenses, and may lower the risk of metabolic syndrome and Crohn’s disease. 

3. How many carbs are in kimchi?

Traditional kimchi contains less than one gram of net carbs per cup (150 grams), making it a low-carb probiotic food you can safely enjoy on keto.   

4. Is kimchi high in carbs?

Traditional kimchi is a low-carb food with less than one gram of net carbs per one cup serving.

However, some commercial kimchi products can contain added sugars and rice flour, which significantly increases the amount of net carbohydrates. 


5. Is kimchi low-carb?

Yes, kimchi is a low-carb fermented vegetable product. One cup of traditionally prepared kimchi contains less than one gram of net carbs.

6. Can I eat fermented foods on keto?

Yes, fermented foods are typically low in carbs and an incredibly nutritious keto-friendly choice. 

Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, pickles, kefir, and kombucha are excellent low-carb additions to the Healthy Keto diet.  


7. What is in kimchi?

Kimchi is made by fermenting vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, radish, onion, and garlic. It’s a staple in Korean cuisine and is typically served as a side dish or added to soups and stews. 

8. What are the benefits of eating kimchi?

Eating kimchi has been linked to several health benefits, including healthy digestive function and strong immune defenses, a diverse microbiome, and may lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. 

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