Is this the new kimchi?

Plus, five other Korean ingredients athletes should try now.

While you’re probably familiar with kimchi, Korean cooking is full of nutrient-packed foods that athletes should incorporate into their diets. “Korean dishes are generally grilled, stewed, or boiled, which translates to less oil and less fat,” says Abbie Gellman, RD, a New York City-based chef and owner of Culinary Nutrition Cuisine. Meat is treated more like a side, allowing you to further save on saturated fat, she says.

Here, five ingredients you can find at your local grocery store that will add flavor and health benefits to any meal.


This type of seaweed is made from red algae that traditionally grows in Korea’s southern regions. “It’s a natural source of iodine and offers other nutrients, such as vitamin C and manganese,” says Amy Gorin, MS, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. It adds terrific smoky flavor to salads and you can also enjoy the dried sheets for a nutrient-packed snack.


Because it’s made with soybeans, you get a great pungent umami flavor, which adds a satisfying depth to dishes. A recent study found that these fermented soybean pastes contain lactic acid bacteria, making them a source of gut-friendly probiotics and potentially helpful for warding off the flu. One example is gochujang, a thick, spicy, and sweet fermented chili paste. Add it to miso soup or bibimbop, says Gorin.

black sesame seeds

One tablespoon of roasted black sesame seeds (roasting brings out the nutty flavor) contains just 30 calories, but offers an extra gram of protein and fiber as well as 20 to 45 percent of the daily quota of iron for women and men, respectively. They’ve also been credited with lowering blood pressure and oxidative stress; thanks to their dark hue, black sesame seeds pack a bigger antioxidant punch compared to white ones. Gellman recommends sprinkling them as a garnish on salads, veggie bowls, or over roasted salmon.

pork bone broth

Bone broth has been called the new green juice, but it’s also a typical Korean staple, used as the base for ox bone (seolleongtang) and pork bone (gamjatang) soups. These warming dishes are high in protein and can help keep you fuller for longer, says Gellman, who recommends consuming them post-exercise. It’s also great to use bone broth as the cooking liquid for whole grains like quinoa, she adds.


Also known as Korean hot pepper flakes, these take the traditional kind up a notch. “When you eat spicy foods, it may temporarily give your metabolism a slight boost. In one study, people who ate about a half teaspoon of red pepper had a bigger post-meal calorie burn than those who didn’t consume the spice,” explains Gorin. Use it to increase the spiciness in chili, soups, and stir-fries.