Pickles: 7 Health Benefits, Nutritional Profile, And Possible Risks

Written by Gayathri Vijay

No good burger or sandwich is complete without a few slices of tangy pickles. The beautiful blend of all sweet, salty, sour, and hot tastes makes pickles one of the best additions to your dishes.

But, what nutrition do you get from pickles? Are they good for your health? Can they cause any side effects? This article has the answers to all these questions along with some delicious recipes for you to try. Read on!

A Brief History Of Pickles

Pickles have been around for ages. People first started pickling fruits and vegetables in the Indian subcontinent, but soon after, the concept became famous in other parts of the world.

The ways of pickling may have changed as it crossed boundaries into different countries, but the end goal has remained the same – to extend the shelf life of certain fruits and vegetables.

Pickling improves not only the taste of the foods but also keeps their nutrients intact. Learn more about the nutritional profile of the popular dill pickle in the next section.

Nutrition Profile Of Dill Cucumber Pickle

When you think of pickles, dill pickles are the first to come to your mind. Dill cucumber pickles are the most commonly made pickles that contain healthy nutrients. One large dill pickle is (44.6 g) contains the following nutrients (1):

  • Sodium (326 mg) and potassium (46.2 mg) are abundantly found in dill pickles. Calcium comes third at 21.8 mg. Phosphorus and magnesium are next (46 mgand 2.87 mg, respectively). Trace elements like zinc, copper, manganese, and iron are also found in these pickles.
  • Dill pickles are low on carbohydrates (8 g) and fats (0.7 g).
  • It contains only 0.4 g of fiber.
  • When it comes to vitamins, one dill pickle has 848 µg of vitamin C, 81 µg of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), 44 µg of niacin (vitamin B3), and 18.2 µg of beta-carotene. It also contains 6.87 µg of vitamin K, 48 µg of vitamin E, and 1.68 µg of vitamin A. Other vitamins are present, too, but in trace amounts.

How do these nutrients work? Keep reading to know how pickles benefit your health.

Health Benefits Of Pickles

From helping maintain a healthy gut to preventing colorectal cancer, pickle consumption has many purported health benefits. Check them out below.

1. May Promote Gut Bacteria

Pickles contain good bacteria that help in breaking down sugars in food. This process adds a sour taste to pickles and improves your body’s probiotic health, which is important for maintaining a healthy gut (2). In addition, multiple studies have concluded that the microflora in fermented pickles improve the gut microbiota (3).

2. May Help Regulate Blood Sugar Levels

A study conducted on Japanese adults with diabetes showed that consuming fermented foods, including soybeans and pickles, lowered the effects and symptoms of type 2 diabetes (4). In addition, the phytoestrogens and bioactive peptides present in pickles may help regulate blood sugar levels. However, research in this regard is limited.

3. May Help Reduce Cholesterol Levels

Research suggests that eating gherkins helps reduce cholesterol levels, thanks to the fermentation caused by the lactic acid bacteria found in these pickles (4).

4. May Help Manage PMS Symptoms

An experimental study suggests that drinking pickle brine may help in reducing muscle cramps (5). Your muscles cramp up when there is a lack of hydration, which causes an imbalance in the electrolyte levels in your body. The sodium and potassium present in pickle brine may help improve this situation by balancing the electrolytes and improving hydration in the body. However, research in this regard is limited.

5. Help Maintain Electrolyte Levels While On A Keto Diet

The low carbohydrate intake in the ketogenic diet leads to a reduction in glucose production. This reduction triggers the production of ketone bodies and may cause dehydration. Pickles are rich in sodium and potassium. Intake of these foods rich in these minerals may help maintain a balance in electrolytes and keep your body hydrated (5), (6). However, more research is required to prove this effect of pickles.

6. May Reduce Oxidative Damage

Pickles contain high amounts of vitamins C and E, which have antioxidant properties. In addition, fermented foods contain essential antioxidants like riboflavin, folate, cobalamin, menaquinone, and thiamine. All these antioxidants help reduce oxidative stress that can cause damage to your body at the cellular level (3).

One study suggests that traditional Indian pickles contain antioxidants that may help prevent benzene formation, thus reducing cellular damage (7).

7. May Prevent Certain Cancers

Pickles are a powerhouse of probiotic bacteria. According to a study conducted in India, probiotic bacteria may help in the prevention of cancerous tumors in the colon, liver, and bladder (8).

Fermented pickles also contain certain probiotic strains that may help prevent colorectal cancer (3).

Preparing pickles at home is one of the best ways to derive all these benefits without losing too many nutrients to processing. Read on for some simple recipes.

How To Make Pickles At Home

While the traditional dill pickles are made by fermenting cucumbers in saltwater, you can make instant pickles simply by pouring hot vinegar on them.  

Let’s check out how to make some good old dill pickles at home.

You Will Need

  • 1½ pounds of Persian or Kirby cucumbers
  • 4 cloves of garlic (peeled and smashed)
  • 2 teaspoons of dill seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of red chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 cup of rice vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1½ tablespoons of pickling or kosher salt

Before Making The Pickles

  1. If you are planning on storing the pickles long-term, wash and sterilize two wide-mouthed pint jars by boiling them and their lids in water for about 10 minutes. Sterilizing makes sure that no contaminants spoil your fermentation process.
  2. If you plan to simply refrigerate your pickles, wash your jars and continue on to the pickling process.

Process

  1. Wash and dry the cucumbers and cut off their tops and bases to remove the enzymes responsible for the pickles becoming limp.

You can cut them in any shape you like.

  1. Split the dry ingredients (except salt) between the two jars.
  2. Pack the cucumbers tightly in a jar, but make sure they don’t get crushed.
  3. In a pot, bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a rolling boil. Pour this brine into the jars, filling them just up to within half an inch below the mouth.
  4. Gently tap the sides of the jars to remove any air bubbles.
  5. Screw the lids on tightly.
  6. You can store the processed pickles at room temperature until you open them, after which they need to be refrigerated.
  7. If you do not plan to process them, let the jars cool down and refrigerate them directly.

Most foods cause certain side effects. Read on to learn about the side effects of eating pickles.

Side Effects Of Pickles

The excess sodium and histamine in pickles may cause issues with your liver and kidneys, though there is not enough research to prove the same.

Various studies have found that excessive pickle consumption may increase the risk of gastric, stomach, and oesophageal cancers (9).

More research is needed to know if there are any more side effects of eating too many pickles. You can consume two teaspoons of traditional pickles from time to time. It will add a good nutrient balance to your diet.

In Conclusion

Pickles are and will always be a great addition to your burgers, sandwiches, and salads. They enhance the flavor profile of any food you add them to. They also contains many nutrients that contribute to your overall health. However, excess consumption of pickles is not advisable as they may put you at risk of certain cancers. So, enjoy them in moderation every few days.

References:

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Pickles cucumber dill or kosher dill
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/324653/nutrients
  2. Fermented Foods as a Dietary Source of Live Organisms
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6117398/
  3. Traditionally fermented pickles: How the microbial diversity associated with their nutritional and health benefits?
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S175646462030195X
  4. Determining the probiotic potential of cholesterol-reducing Lactobacillus and Weissella strains isolated from gherkins (fermented cucumber) and south Indian fermented koozh
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resmic.2015.03.002
  5. Reflex inhibition of electrically induced muscle cramps in hypohydrated humans
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19997012/
  6. Ketogenic Diet
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
  7. Antioxidant Compounds in Traditional Indian Pickles May Prevent the Process-Induced Formation of Benzene
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26735038/
  8. Cancer-preventing attributes of probiotics: an update
    https://doi.org/10.3109/09637480903455971
  9. Pickled Vegetables
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513652/
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