Gochujang is a Korean condiment that you may be acquainted with if you have ever had Korean barbecue. Its ingredients include red chili pepper, fermented soybean, and glutinous rice. Its name comes from the Korean for chili pepper (gochu) and the Korean for paste (jang). While it is certainly a flavorful addition to food, is it a healthy one? Let’s break down gochujang nutrition and how good for you it really is.
Generally speaking, gochujang is not a great source of any vitamin. It is not a superfood in the sense that there are no high concentrations of anything but that does not mean that it is devoid of nutrients altogether.
Gochujang’s ingredients include chili peppers and soy protein, which are both vitamin-rich foods. Depending on the brand of gochujang and the serving size, you can get small amounts of vitamins from its constituents. Chili peppers are good sources of vitamin A and some gochujang will provide you with small amounts of this vitamin. Vitamin A is important for eye health and cancer prevention.
Some gochujang will also contain vitamin C, which is also from the red pepper used to make the spice paste. Vitamin C is important for immune system health and iron absorption. The pepper and soy in gochujang both contain various B vitamins so you can expect to get a little thiamin, riboflavin, and pyroxidine from each serving.
Lovers of Korean food expect gochujang to provide the umami note along with heat and color. The umami flavor profile comes from the spice paste’s soybean component, but soybeans provide more than just flavor. Soybeans are an excellent source of protein that your body needs to build muscle and other tissues.
Like vitamins, minerals are present in gochujang; however, the condiment does not provide a lot of them. You can expect to get tiny amounts of those that are normally present in red pepper and soybean.
For example, some brands of gochujang will provide you with iron. Your body uses iron to produce red blood cells. The fermented soybeans contain large amounts of calcium, magnesium, and other important minerals so you can expect to get a little of that in the gochujang. Both calcium and magnesium are needed to build strong bones, which means that they are useful for combating the loss of bone density that is a characteristic of osteoporosis.
Similarly, the red pepper in gochujang is a good source of potassium. Potassium is a valuable nutrient for maintaining the fluid volume in cells and for carrying electrical signals.
Gochujang’s claim to fame is as a spicy condiment — some consider it the Korean equivalent of hot sauce. Its heat comes from red chili peppers, which are hot because of the capsaicin they contain. Capsaicin is the compound in all chili peppers that makes them hot and it’s a major part of the gochujang nutrition profile.
Capsaicin offers numerous health benefits in addition to its spiciness. It is a known cancer fighter that can cause cell death in breast cancer cells. It may also be beneficial against prostate cancer. Other benefits include its ability to ease gastric ulcer symptoms by causing the release of mucus and the fact that it has anti-inflammatory effects.
Fat, Sugar, and Carbs
An important part of dissecting gochujang nutrition is looking into how low it is in compounds that can have negative effects on health. The good news is there’s a lot to like here – making this a very usable condiment for many. Gochujang is low in:
- Fat: Gochujang is fat-free, which means that it is also cholesterol-free.
- Sugar: Gochujang contains only a small amount of sugar.
- Carbohydrates: A serving of gochujang includes only a small amount of carbohydrate.