If you are anything like me, then you surely have wondered, are pickles healthy? I love them as a snack, a side dish, an appetizer, or in relish. My fridge is almost always stocked up with pickles and other pickled vegetables.
How Are Pickles Made?
But are pickles healthy? To start, let’s go over what pickles exactly are. When I talk about pickles, I’m referring to pickled cucumbers, but you can also pickle other vegetables and fruits. Often, you can preserve pickles in a solution of vinegar, salt, and seasoning. This brine allows for fermentation to occur, which breaks down the sugar and gives way to that particular sour taste we all love so much.
Not all pickles are fermented; some are just preserved in vinegar, which is what gives them the tart flavor. Some types of vinegar in pickles can also be healthy, like apple cider vinegar.
You may still be wondering, are pickles good for you?
6 things you need to know to figure out if pickles are healthy
Fact #1: They are low in calories
Since cucumbers are very low in calories, it may not come as a surprise that pickles are too. A cup-sized serving of pickles will only give you around 17 calories, with no fat and about 3.7 grams of carbohydrate. Of these carbohydrates, though, the majority comes from fiber.
Fact #2: They are also very high in sodium
Despite being low in calories, however, pickles are very high in sodium. A cup-sized serving has 1.251 grams of sodium, which is over 50% of the recommended daily amount. Excess sodium can cause inflammation, stomach ulcers, and high blood pressure.
While a few pickles now and then won’t hurt, consuming a ton of them may cause you to feel bloated and cause other health problems. Still, when I make pickles myself I can choose how much sodium to add, so it reduces the amount a little.
Fact #3: They are a good source of healthy bacteria after undergoing fermentation
When you make pickles through fermentation, the healthy bacteria can grow and break down sugar. The type of bacteria growing under these conditions is prebiotic. This is healthy for our guts, as it allows for better digestion and absorption, as well as regulation of bowel movements.
Eating pickles can help regulate the number of bacteria in your intestines, which can then help you feel better after eating other foods. After a few weeks of eating prebiotics, you will also see how much more efficient your gut can be.
Fact #4: They can reduce blood sugar levels
Fermented foods are a good natural way of reducing blood sugar levels. This is because prebiotics can help reduce inflammation, while also helping protect your pancreas. This is the organ in charge of releasing insulin, which is the hormone in charge of helping your body use the sugar you consume.
If you eat pickles as a snack, they can not only fill you up but also help your body absorb sugar more efficiently. This in turn can lower your blood sugar levels, preventing complications like diabetes.
Fact #5: They are a good source of electrolytes
My kids love pickle juice these days, and while many may find it odd, this juice is very good for those that need a hydrating boost. Since it has sodium, sugar, and naturally occurring minerals, like potassium, pickles can be a great way to cure a hangover.
If you ever feel dehydrated or dizzy, a good way to refuel is drinking pickle juice. Be careful, though, this isn’t meant to be a replacement for water or a sports drink. Drink this only in addition to the rest of your usual liquid intake.
Fact #6: Your best bet is pickling at home
As with many other products, buying commercial pickles can be tricky, especially because they may contain added sugar and a lot of salt. I recommend that you pickle your cucumbers at home. My favorite recipes include these fermented brined pickles that I find very tasty and healthy.
When you prepare the brine and ferment at home, you are completely in charge of what goes into your pickles. I find comfort in knowing I can experiment with other vegetables as well. Don’t just use pickles; you can make pickled onions, jalapenos, or peppers, which are all healthy foods as well.
Have some pickles in your life!
I don’t recommend anything in excess, but I can say that the next time someone asks me, “are pickles healthy?”, I’ll just have to say, “try making them on your own”. I suggest you add pickles to your list of preserves and try mixing flavors and ingredients. Every time the taste will be different and delicious. So, in moderation, pickles can be a great addition to your diet.