Gochujang, Korean hot pepper paste, is Korea’s most famous condiment and for good reason. It’s what makes your mouth water and lips smack, serving as a key ingredient in many Korean dishes from dak-twigim (fried korean chicken wings) to the bibimbap sauce in bibimbap (vegetable rice bowls where beef is optional but commonly added). The blend of fermented soybeans, rice, and Korean chili peppers is what gives gochujang its distinct umami flavor and heat. Read more about 7 popular Korean Dishes Using Gochujang here.
But did you know that besides packing a flavorful punch, there are many health benefits of eating gochujang?
To put it into perspective, picture this: the average South Korean lives four years longer than the average American and the obesity rate in US adults is over 6 times that of the South Korean adult population. While diet may not be the only contributing factor to these statistics, it is a significant one. Here are 4 health benefits of gochujang:
1. Increases metabolism and burns more fat.
Credit: Organic Facts
Want to eat delicious food and lose weight at the same time? Gochujang is your best friend. Research has found that eating spicy food made with gochujang, which contains the compound capsaicin, may lower body weight, speed metabolism, help burn fat and suppress appetite. Capsaicin has been shown to increase the breakdown of fat by inhibiting certain enzymes linked to fat cell formation. So go ahead, skip the gym. Break out a sweat with a bottle of gochujang sauce on your couch.
2. Probiotics and enzymes promote a healthy gut.
Credit: Best Health Magazine
Maybe you don’t want to drink an entire bottle of fermented tea for $5, but what do we know? All we know is that gochujang promotes the same gut health benefits as kombucha due to the fermentation process. And just like kimchi, gochujang’s key fermentation ingredient is Korean chili powder, made from finely ground, sun-dried chili peppers. The fermentation process takes months naturally outside and in the sun packing gochujang with probiotics. In fact, gochujang means “gochu” (Korean chili peppers) and “jang” (fermented). So replace the bubbly, acidic juice and get a healthy gut with some gochujang.
3. Decreases stress levels
Did you just come home after a 12-hour work day? Maybe you came home to a mountain of growing errands and paperwork? Gochujang can’t help you with your workload, but it can help you with your stress. Studies from the Journal of Ethnic Foods show that gochujang consumption helps significantly reduce total cholesterol, low density, and even stress. Many Koreans eat spicy foods when they want to relieve stress. Who knew it really worked?
Check out how Koreans also de-stress through these Korean drinking games.
4. Keeps your heart healthy
Gochujang has zero fat and about 30 calories per tablespoon. Studies have also shown that cultures with an abundance of spicy foods have a significantly lower risk of heart disease.
If gochujang sounds badass, it’s because, well... it is. Korean gochujang is nothing short of a miracle paste, and its delicious flavor and nutritional qualities have hooked the world. So go ahead and lose yourself in gochujang and try some gochujang sauce today!