Eat Like an Olympian: Best Korean Dishes for Athletes and Fans

With Pyeongchang hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics, find out which South Korean dishes provide the best nutrition and taste for athletes and sports fans alike.

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Various Korean side dishes (banchan) are seen in this Oct. 15, 2017, photo. There are dozens of different banchan that could be served with a traditional Korean meal, including fermented vegetable sides like kimchi to grilled fish and steamed watercress.
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Grilled meat is a popular option for eating out among Korean food aficionados, and lean red meat is a great source of protein for building and repairing muscles, according to the International Olympic Committee's Nutrition Working Group. Order unmarinated cuts to skip out on extra fat, sugar and sodium hiding in the sauce.
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Bulgogi, shredded sirloin beef, is ubiquitous in Korean cuisine. It can be steamed and eaten with rice, stir-fried in noodles or grilled and made into Korean lettuce wraps called ssambap (pictured). Unmarinated bulgogi provides <a href="https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/7338?manu=&fgcd=&ds=Standard%20Reference">approximately 8.5 grams of protein per ounce</a>.
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Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Korean Food Foundation
Kimchi, the Korean superfood found in stews, sides, snacks and garnishes, makes up a large portion of the South Korean diet. A dish of kimchi, made of fermented napa cabbage, is <a href="https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2896?manu=&fgcd=&ds=Standard%20Reference" target="_blank">high in potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K</a> and strains of lactobacillus bacteria found in yogurts, cheeses and kefir.
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Nina Lin/NBC
Various Korean side dishes (banchan) are seen in this Oct. 15, 2017, photo. There are dozens of different banchan that can be served with a traditional Korean meal, including fermented vegetables like kimchi, grilled fish (low in cholesterol) and steamed watercress (high in vitamin A).
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Grilled and seasoned mackerel (saengseon-gui) is a good source of protein (6.76 grams per ounce), vitamin A and vitamin B, but can swing between 24 grams of sodium for lightly seasoned fish to a whopping 1,246 grams of sodium for the salted version.
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Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Korean Food Foundation
Japchae, a savory and filling traditional South Korean noodle dish, is made of potato-starch noodles stir-fried with strips of watercress, leek, carrots, peppers and fried eggs. Potato starch is a gluten-free alternative to refined wheat, as well as a source of potassium.
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Samgye-tang, made by boiling a Cornish hen stuffed with ginseng, is a nutritious soup served during a traditional Korean meal, as seen in this Oct. 15, 2017, photo.
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Pieces of pork belly and short ribs (galbi) are grilled with mushrooms for a traditional Korean barbecue experience, as seen in this Oct. 15, 2017, photo. Galbi, made of the chunk cut, is slighter fattier and contains less protein than an equal serving of bulgogi, at approximately 5 grams of protein per ounce, unmarinated.
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Soondubu-jjigae, a soft tofu stew made with kimchi and shellfish, is one of many Korean stews served during a traditional meal. One 11- to 12-ounce tube of soft tofu provides close to 25 grams of protein — key for vegan and vegetarian athletes — as well as 300 to 400 grams of phosphorus, calcium and potassium, all of which are crucial for bone growth and bone density.
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Don't confuse this treat for sushi! Kimbap is a healthy alternative to fried and processed snacks commonly found in Korean restaurants and food stalls. A roll of kimbap typically includes fermented radishes, carrots, watercress, strips of pan-fried eggs and shredded beef for a low-fat boost of essential vitamins and minerals.
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