One key ingredient to many of the Korean dishes you’ll find on this site is gochujang – a spicy, fermented soybean paste that has become increasingly more popular here in the States. In fact, I was shocked when during a recent trip to Food Lion (a grocery chain here in North Carolina), I saw a bottle of gochujang! This is great because there’s no substitute you can use to match its flavor.
If you visit a Korean store, you’ll find a whole section dedicated to different brands and spice levels in small, medium and large-sized containers.
Gochujang is made with fermented soybean powder, barley malt powder, glutinous rice, as well as salt and Korean chili powder or “gochujaru” (jang means fermented). It is sweet, savory and spicy, and while it is a wonderful ingredient to use in sauces or stews, it is also a healthy one.
As it comes to nutritional breakdown, gochujang has both fat and protein, as well as vitamin B2, vitamin C and carotenes. These last two nutrients, in addition to other antioxidants in gochujang, have anticarcinogenic and antimutagenic properties that neutralize free radicals in the body.
Like all foods made with peppers, it has the compound capsaicin which is not only anti-inflammatory, but can also speed up the metabolism and suppress appetite. It’s the compound that gives peppers their spice, so if you don’t like spicy foods, you’ll be missing out.
Several studies show gochujang is a “fat-burning” food due to the benefits of capsaicin. One study from Pusan National University in Korea found that fat cells treated with gochujang extract showed a decrease in fat accumulation and even blocked the formation of new fat cells. This was also reported in another study published by the Journal of Food Science and Technology that found gochujang decreased body weight while also inhibiting the formation of certain fat cell forming enzymes. Another study found adults who took a gochujang supplement for 12 weeks had a decrease in visceral fat, as well as triglyceride levels.
Capsaicin is also said to help with blood sugar spikes by decreasing blood sugar levels while also increasing the levels of insulin. Of course, you’ll have to eat gochujang with foods that also do not increase blood sugar levels in order to get the full benefit!
Similarly to kimchi, gochujang’s primary fermentation ingredient is Korean chili powder made from finely ground chili peppers that have dried in the sun. The natural fermentation process also takes place outside in the sun, providing a ton of probiotics just like kimchi. We love probiotics because we know that having a healthy gut is linked to your body’s overall health, and can even affect your mental clarity.
Eat More Spicy Foods
While there are multiple health benefits to gochujang in disease prevention and having a healthy gut, it’s also an obesity-fighting food thanks to capsaicin. This is great news for you spicy-food lovers out there! I love any ingredient that enhances the flavor of my dish, but when it also provides healthy nutrients and compounds – you can’t beat that. Basically, I <3 gochujang.