5 Health Benefits of Pickles & 3 Tips and Recipes
Pickles are one of those appetizers that often divide opinions at a party or family dinner. Some people enjoy indulging in those crunchy tangy cucumbers, while others can’t stand them. In this post, we’ll explore the health benefits of pickles and provide some tips and recipes.
Whether you like to eat them straight out of the jar, add them to burgers, or incorporate them into your recipes, pickles surely deserve a place in your diet. They’re cherished for their nutritional benefits, not just for their unique taste.
Interesting Facts About Pickles
Many people refer to pickles as pickled cucumbers, mainly because it’s the most popular type of pickles. However, pickles can be made out of several vegetables, fruits, and other foods too.
But who came up with pickles in the first place?
The history of pickles can be traced back thousands of years ago. It’s believed that Ancient Mesopotamians were the first to discover pickling as they used acidic brine to preserve cucumbers.
Throughout history, the popularity of pickles spread through different cultures as it became a beloved and essential food item.
Additionally, prominent historical figures such as Cleopatra, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Julius Caesar swore by pickles.
Back then, pickling was necessary because it was the best way to preserve vegetables and fruits for extended periods. As such, it was common for travelers and sailors to carry jars of pickles around during their trips.
Christopher Columbus recognized the value of pickles and brought them to America during his voyages.
Types of Pickles
In the U.S., cucumbers are the predominant type of pickles. Some people don’t even know that other vegetables and fruits can be pickled too.
If you’re a pickle-lover, you must know there are many types of cucumber-based pickles with different textures and culinary purposes.
Here are some of the different types of cucumber-based pickles:
- Dill pickles: One of the most popular types of pickles. They’re cucumbers pickled with seeds and dill weed. They have a firm crunch and a mild flavor.
- Gherkins: Small pickled cucumbers with a bumpy curved appearance. They’re usually pickled with a sweet flavor and used as side dishes or in salads and relishes.
- Kosher pickles: Similar to dill pickles but made using special pickling processes that follow Jewish dietary laws. They’re famous for their garlicky flavor and are widely used as sandwich additives and in tuna salads.
- Cornichons: They’re small tart pickles that are often confused with gherkins due to their similar appearance. They’re often served with cheese plates and salty meals.
- Bread and butter pickles: Thinly sliced tangy and sweet pickles commonly used as burger toppings.
- Sour pickles: They’re cucumber pickles fermented in a salt-based solution for up to 16 weeks, maintaining a sharp flavor.
Pickle Bouncing Law
Legend has it that in Connecticut, people believe the state laws mandate that a pickle must bounce to be called a pickle. But in fact, the Connecticut State Library determined there are no laws explicitly stating such requirements.
However, regulations were implemented in 1948 following the arrest of two pickle packers who were charged with selling pickles that weren’t suitable for human consumption.
In response to this incident, the Food and Drug Commissioner informed reporters that the most convenient way to check the quality of pickles is to observe their bouncing ability when dropped.
As a result, the state of Connecticut adopted the pickle-bouncing regulation.
Popularity of Pickles
The consumption of pickles has been exponentially increasing among U.S. residents in the last few years.
According to Statistica, 245.85 million Americans consumed pickles in 2020. Experts expect the number to grow to 252.73 million in 2024.
The Philadelphia Eagles Using Pickle Juice
On September 3, 2000, the Philadelphia Eagles played the Dallas Cowboys in a scorching game in Irving, Texas. Due to the intense heat, players from the Philadelphia Eagles opted to drink pickle juice to recover and rehydrate.
After the game, the Philadelphia Eagles players attributed their 41-14 victory to pickle juice.
Later, a study by Brigham Young University (BYU) confirmed that drinking pickle juice helps relieve cramps 45 percent faster than drinking no fluids and 37 percent faster than drinking water.
Nutritional Facts, Calories, and Sugar Amount of Pickles
Generally, pickles are packed with nutrients that provide various health benefits. The nutritional facts may vary depending on the product and type of pickle, but in general, pickles are low in calories and fat.
They also contain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin K, sodium, potassium, folate, magnesium, and phosphorus.
According to the USDA, consuming four spears of dill pickles contains the following ingredients:
|Four spears of dill pickles
Dill pickles are arguably the most popular type of pickles. They contain relatively low calories and sugar content, so they’re safe if you’re on a calorie-restricted diet. Pickles are also low in fat and rich in fiber.
While pickles contain a decent amount of beneficial vitamins and minerals, they also have a significant amount of sodium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a maximum daily sodium intake of 2,300 mg.
Looking at the above table, you can see that eating four spears of dill pickles provides you with around 1300 mg of sodium, which is more than half of the recommended daily sodium intake.
That said, if you’re trying to limit your sodium intake, it’s crucial to watch your pickle consumption. Also, note that the above table shouldn’t be your only reference. It’s just a general guideline.
Every pickle brand is different, and inspecting the label before eating is a must if you’re on a low-sodium diet.
Dill pickles are cucumbers, so most of their nutritional value comes from this non-starchy vegetable. The amount of vitamins and minerals in dill pickles isn’t exceptionally high, but vitamin K is the only exception.
One spear of dill pickles can fulfill approximately 7% of your daily vitamin K requirement. Vitamin K plays a significant role in facilitating proper blood clotting and maintaining bone health.
Health Benefits of Eating Pickles
As we mentioned, pickles contain a significant amount of sodium. That’s why people with cardiovascular issues or high blood pressure should avoid pickles.
However, pickles can be nutritional powerhouses, and they aid in controlling blood sugar, reducing inflammation, and treating muscle cramps.
Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of eating pickles:
Promoting Gut Bacteria
Pickles are made using brine, which is water mixed with salt or vinegar. Fermented pickles contain beneficial bacteria, which act as probiotics that improve our overall health and well-being. Let’s explain this further.
Our gut is home to millions of bacteria that aid in food digestion and absorption. They also have other benefits, such as protection against chronic stomach conditions like Crohn’s disease.
As such, a well-balanced microbiome is vital for our overall health and well-being.
Probiotics play a huge role in balancing the gut microbiome and enhancing beneficial bacteria, and guess what? Fermented pickles contain a lot of probiotics. Studies have proved that the microflora of fermented pickles can enhance the gut microbiota.
Like many fruits and vegetables, pickles are rich in antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, which help prevent cell damage.
Moreover, pickles contain folate, cobalamin, thiamine, and riboflavin, which all prevent cellular damage by reducing oxidative stress.
Studies have shown that antioxidants help eliminate free radicals, which are responsible for various health issues such as inflammation, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases.
Other studies linked antioxidants to other health benefits as well. For example, a Cochrane study found a link between low levels of antioxidants and macular degeneration, which causes blindness.
Controlling Blood Sugar Levels
The vinegar used to make pickles lowers the glycemic index of meals and can slow down the absorption of sugars into the blood after meals.
A study conducted in 2013 on 14 adults at risk of type 2 diabetes showed that participants who consumed vinegar before their meals recorded lower fasting blood glucose levels than those who didn’t.
Another Japanese study proved that consuming pickles, soybeans, and other fermented foods reduces the effects and symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
It’s believed that phytoestrogens and bioactive peptides in pickles can regulate blood sugar levels. But more research is needed in this regard.
Relieving Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps usually occur due to dehydration and an imbalance in electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Since pickles contain a significant amount of sodium, they can help balance the electrolytes and improve the cramp situation.
However, a 2010 research suggested that pickle juice promotes recovery from muscle cramps, but not because of the electrolytes or water content in pickles.
Aiding in Weight Loss
Since pickles contain few calories, vinegar, high water content, and a decent amount of fiber, they can help you feel fuller for extended periods.
This makes pickles an ideal choice if you’re watching your weight and aiming to consume fewer calories and eliminate the sense of hunger.
Potential Risks of Pickles
While pickles can be a great addition to your diet, they still have their fair share of drawbacks, especially if you consume them in excess.
Eating one large dill pickle can provide you with around ⅔ of the recommended daily sodium intake. So it’s actually very easy to exceed the ideal sodium intake if you eat pickles frequently. But what does that exactly do to your body?
It contributes to blood pressure problems, water retention, kidney and liver stress, and risk of osteoporosis.
Blood Pressure Problems
Consuming too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure and water retention. So, if you have hypertension or are on a sodium-low diet, consuming pickles can be risky.
Risk of Osteoporosis
It’s no secret that calcium is essential for bone health. When the levels of calcium in the bloodstream are too low, the risk of developing bone problems such as osteoporosis increases.
Since pickles are loaded with sodium, eating too many pickles can eventually deplete the levels of calcium and other minerals in your bones. This leads to weaker bones that are more prone to osteoporosis.
Kidney and Liver Stress
Consuming excess sodium can potentially strain your kidneys and liver, leading to increased water retention.
Additionally, the high blood pressure often caused by consuming too many pickles can put more pressure on the kidneys, liver, and other essential organs.
That being said, if you have kidney or liver problems, it’s best to consume pickles in moderate amounts or opt for low-sodium pickles when possible.
Increasing Cholesterol Levels
Pickles are often soaked in oil during pickling to preserve them and act as a moisture barrier. However, this process can have negative effects on your health as the oil used can increase cholesterol levels in the blood.
When cholesterol levels in the blood are too high, it increases the risk of heart disease and liver damage in the long run.
More importantly, the oil used in making pickles usually contains trans fats, which increase LDL (bad cholesterol) and reduce HDL (good cholesterol) in your body.
Are Pickles in Pregnancy Good For You?
It’s normal for women to develop intense cravings for certain food items during pregnancy, and no, it has nothing to do with the gender of the baby.
Women crave pickles during pregnancy for many reasons, such as hormonal imbalances and emotional stress. But the most important question here is: are pickles good for pregnancy?
Consuming pickles is generally safe in pregnancy, as long as you consume them in moderation. Making them a regular part of your daily diet can do more harm than benefit. But why?
Many pregnant women fancy eating pickles for their briny, salty taste. Since pickles have high sodium, they can help with any electrolyte imbalances during pregnancy.
However, Americans already consume too much salt, more than 3,400 milligrams per day on average. And since the recommended daily sodium intake is 2,300 milligrams, it’s very unlikely that you need to consume pickles for their sodium content.
Accordingly, eating too many pickles during pregnancy might increase the risk of water retention and high blood pressure. So, it would be best to eat them in moderation to satisfy your cravings, but not as a regular part of your diet.
Benefits of Pickles in Pregnancy
Despite the risk of high blood pressure and water retention, you can still reap the benefits of pickles by eating them in moderate amounts.
Here are some benefits of eating pickles during pregnancy:
- Improve digestion: Pickles contain probiotics, which enhance the gut bacteria and improve digestion.
- Antioxidant properties: Pickles are rich in antioxidants, which are known to protect our body from the oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
- Boost immunity: Fresh pickles can be a good source of immune-boosting vitamins such as vitamins K, A, and C, which are all essential during pregnancy.
Can Dogs and Cats Eat Pickles?
We can’t be talking about tasty snacks without mentioning our favorite pets. Your cat/dog must be curious to try new food options, but can dogs and cats eat pickles?
In general, pickles aren’t toxic to your canine friends, and your pup will get away with eating a few pickles without any problems.
However, if your dog consumes too much salt, they might be at risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease due to the high amount of sodium.
Even though your dog has to eat a significant amount of pickles to cause any harm, it’s best to avoid them altogether.
Some types of pickles include unhealthy ingredients and additives that aren’t suitable for your furry friend, such as spices, garlic, onion, sugar, nutmeg and xylitol.
Cucumbers are generally safe and beneficial for cats. They actually contain a high amount of water and beneficial vitamins. But the main problem with pickles is the extra salt.
One study showed that an average pickle includes eight times the recommended amount of sodium recommended for cats. So, obviously, it’s not wise to feed your cat pickles.
In addition, some pickles contain ingredients that are harmful to cats, such as garlic and onions. That’s why we strongly suggest you remove the pickles from your cat’s menu.
Types of Consuming Pickles & Their Health Benefits
Pickles come in various forms, and each has its unique characteristics and potential health benefits. Great examples are pickle juice and dill pickles. But what’s the difference between them?
As the name suggests, pickle juice is the liquid in which pickles are soaked. While drinking pickle juice might seem gross, it actually has a lot of health benefits.
In fact, pickle juice can be a great alternative to other sugary sports beverages.
Benefits of Drinking Pickle Juice Before Bed
Athletes have been consuming briny beverages for years to help them recover faster. At first, researchers and experts didn’t understand how drinking pickle juice can be beneficial after exercise.
But it turns out that athletes were right, and drinking pickle juice can help them recover from cramps much faster than normal.
Other health benefits of pickle juice include:
- Promotes faster dehydration due to the high sodium and potassium content.
- Enhance weight loss if consumed instead of sugary sports drinks.
- A good source of probiotics, which enhance metabolism, mood, and immune response.
- Budget-friendly alternative to expensive sugary sports drinks.
Dill pickles are the most popular type of pickles out there. They’re cucumbers that have been pickled with dill weed and other flavorings such as pepper and mustard seeds.
You can find dill pickles in various shapes and sizes, including spear, chip, slice, or whole form. You can enjoy them with sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs, or as tasty snacks.
While dill pickles can be a refreshing addition to your diet, you should always consume them in moderate amounts due to the risks associated with their high sodium content.
Tips and Recipes for Pickles
If you’re not a fan of commercial dill pickles, you can always try making your own at home. The pickling process is simple and yet rewarding after yielding nice and crunchy pickles.
Here are a few simple recipes you can try out:
Crispy Dill Pickles
A very delicious and easy recipe: crispy dill pickles. It’s a tasty snack for cold days.
- Six pounds of pickling cucumbers
- Three cups of vinegar
- Three cups water
- Four tablespoons. pickling salt
- Four large fresh grape leaves
- Seven peeled garlic cloves
- Seven teaspoons of dill seeds
- Three and a half teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1. Wash and sterilize your jars in the dishwater and ensure they’re hot.
2. Start heating the water bath until it’s close to boiling when you’re ready to add the pickles.
3. Wash the cucumbers thoroughly, cut their ends, then slice or spear them according to your preference.
4. Bring water, vinegar, and salt to boil in a saucepan on medium-high heat.
5. Add one teaspoon of dill seeds, one garlic clove, and half a teaspoon of peppercorns to each jar, then pack the cucumbers tightly.
6. Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers and leave ¼ inch on each jar’s top.
7. Place half of a fresh grape leaf on top of each jar.
8. Place your jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
9. Use a jar lifter to remove the jars from the water bath and let them cool at room temperature.
10. After the jars cool properly, place them in the refrigerator and consume them after 2 weeks.
A tasty side dish for potatoes and co. are fried pickles. Here is an easy instruction on how to make your own fried pickles.
- Dill pickles
- Garlic powder
- Vegetable oil or similar oils suitable for frying
- Hot sauce
- All-purpose flour
- Italian seasoning
- Put the dill pickles on paper towels to absorb moisture until they dry completely.
- Make your batter by combining water, hot sauce, seasoning, and flour in a bowl.
- After the batter is ready, dip the pickles one by one in the batter and make sure they’re completely covered.
- Fry the pickles for about one or two minutes in heated oil until they’re crispy and golden.
- Allow the fried pickles to cool before serving them with your favorite dipping sauces.
Simple Recipe for Homemade Pickles
Want a simple classic recipe for homemade pickles? Check out the following recipe.
- Fresh dill
- Garlic cloves
- Wash the cucumbers properly and cut them into spears or rounds.
- In a saucepan, mix water, vinegar, salt, and seasonings to create a basic brine.
- Place the cucumbers, garlic cloves, and dill into jars.
- Pour the brine mixture over the cucumbers and ensure they’re fully submerged.
- Store in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.