Eat like a Korean, it’s far healthier!

If you were to name something that came to mind when you hear about Korean food, what would you think? Barbecued meat, spicy food, dog meat and maybe kimchi would all come to mind. Did you know that Korean food is also one of the healthiest cuisines in the world? Most dinners have a maximum calorie intake of less than 600 calories. Compare that to eating a pizza that has well over 1,000 calories and it’s not hard to see why Koreans aren’t known for being obese.

Here are a number of reasons why Korean food can be great for you:

  • Soups – A meal isn’t a meal in Korea without some kind of soup. They’re a great way of filling yourself up without providing huge amounts of calories.
  • Meat – Meat isn’t the focal point of a meal in Korea, it’s an accompaniment. This means the amount of saturated fat that a Korean eats is very low. On the occasions that a Korean may have plenty of meat in their meal, like samgyeopsal, it is usually grilled to well that the fat has rendered off the meat.
  • Lack of oil – Many Korean dishes are stewed, grilled or boiled which means there isn’t a need to cook the food in high in fat oils. Not only is it healthier but it tastes better too!
  • Kimchi – An acquired taste for some, kimchi is one of the healthiest foods in the world as it contains plenty of minerals and vitamins, as well as aiding digestion. Some Koreans go as far as to claim it can ward off a number of major diseases like bird flu, but as of yet there is no evidence to support this.
  • Vegetables – Korean foods have a large variety of vegetables in them. Mushrooms, potatoes, leaves of some kind and cabbage are all found in most dishes.
  • Spice – Koreans love spicy food. There aren’t too many dishes in the Korean kitchen that come out without some form of chilli heat to it. Given that chilli is known to speed up the metabolism, it’s a great way of making sure those extra calories are burned off.
  • Dessert – Koreans aren’t big on desserts, in fact they aren’t massive on sweet food either. A typical dessert in Korea consists of an orange, some watermelon or another kind of fruit. Not only is this healthy, but it leaves your palate clean and you feel refreshed, instead of bogged down by the meal you’ve just had.
  • Teas – Green tea is well-known for its health benefits but Korean also drink a lot of barley tea. This delicious drink helps the digestive system and is frequently found consumed with a meal.
  • Snacks – You could walk down any street in Korea and instead of children with their heads in a packet of crisps, you’ll see them peeling a freshly baked sweet potato, or some cooked squid. These foods are obviously much healthier alternative and fill you up for longer.

These are some of the reasons why Korean food is so healthy. You have to watch the amount of rice you eat, but if you were to stick with a Korean diet for a month, most people would find they start to shed the pounds. Rather depressingly, the increase in Western food chains in Korea has seen a rapid increase in obesity with burgers, chips and snacks finding their way into school lunchboxes.

Given that January is meant to be a health conscious month, why not give it a go?

James learnt to cook in the restaurants of Seoul and now back in the UK. He teaches Korean cooking classes in London, as well as blogging about Korean food on his website. You can visit his website for more information and recipes.

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  • Liv

    You gotta watch out for the salt though. I’ve found that some kinds of Korean food can be very heavy on the sodium. Despite this, my diet now is still much healthier than when I lived in the States.

  • Cassie

    Like Liv said, a lot of salt. Particularly in any kimchi-like dishes or anything fermented, but if you make foods yourself and make sure to hold back on the salt it’s definitely much healthier than most north american diets

  • Slingerss

    Korean food is one of my favorite foods. Very filling and healthy too. Love the Jang Jigae stew, I now make this once or twice a week. Spicy, hot, vegetables in a stew base. So, good.

  • Angie

    On the contrary.. I think Koreans love sweet things.. a little too much. They make everything from garlic bread to main meals sweetened with honey and sugar. Its nearly impossible to find proper bread without sugar in it.. It makes me a little sick since I don’t like sweet things very much. I am Korean too so please don’t be offended lol.

  • Shawn Morrissey

    I enjoy Korean food, but the idea that it’s so healthy is a myth. It seems it comes from the idea that Korean food – for the most part – isn’t overly fattening (of course, all of the Korean street food is very fattening). Drawing a parallel between obesity and food isn’t wise from a health stand point: that is, just because a food doesn’t make you fat doesn’t inherently mean it’s healthy. It’s a false equivalency. Koreans have one of the highest rates in the world of stomach cancer (and death from stomach cancer), and it comes from their food. Korean food is full of salt. Korean food is delicious, no doubt, but let’s squash this idea that it’s spectacularly healthy.