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If you’re a true lover of pickles, you’ve probably already been sipping pickle juice. If you’re not much of a pickle lover, this may sound like a strange idea. Nevertheless, drinking pickle juice can provide some significant health benefits. Not only is pickle juice hydrating, but it also soothes muscle cramps; for these two reasons alone, athletes have been drinking pickle juice for decades. Depending on the recipe, pickle juice may contain variations of the following ingredients: vinegar, dill, filtered water, salt, and pickling spices. However, consuming this briny beverage may offer other health benefits that are beneficial whether you’re an athlete or not. Read on to learn some of the ways incorporating pickle juice into your diet may improve your health.
Important Note: All claims made herein are representative of the most current research at the time of this publication.
Soothes Muscle Cramps
Research indicates that drinking pickle juice during muscle cramping can reduce the duration of cramps. It’s a common misconception that the electrolytes in pickle juice are the reason for this, but it’s actually the noxious taste that does so. Apparently, the strong, unpleasant taste of pickle juice triggers a reflexive reaction in the throat that’s connected to a reaction in the brain. This throat reflex causes a reaction in the alpha motor neurons which in turn causes muscles to relax. Interestingly, you don’t even have to swallow the pickle juice to trigger the reaction. Within 3 to 4 minutes of triggering the throat reflex you can expect muscle cramps to subside. One study revealed that only a ⅓-cup serving of pickle juice is enough to signal muscle cramp relief, and pickle juice was more effective in soothing muscle cramps than drinking the same amount of water.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. Dozens of studies tout the effectiveness of ingesting pickle juice to remediate muscle cramps.
While it’s true that moderate exercise output can be well-sustained by hydrating with water, aggressive workouts may require more. Specifically, drinking something infused with sodium and electrolytes can increase hydration more rapidly than just water. Potassium and sodium are electrolytes that are lost through sweat, and pickle juice is rich in both. By sipping pickle juice following an arduous workout, you can quickly recover these electrolytes. Researchers suggest that to obtain the most from drinking pickle juice for hydration, you should choose a juice made with with a vinegar base and with the fewest preservatives.
General Consensus: 4/5 and here is why. While drinking pickle juice can help you to recover sodium and potassium, drinking it in excess could exceed sodium intake recommendations.
Rich in Antioxidants
Pickle juice is rich in vitamins C and E, both of which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants are essential to eradicating the free radicals that may otherwise lead to chronic illnesses. Because all humans are exposed to harmful free radicals, it’s imperative to load up on dietary antioxidants to best protect yourself against disease. Of note, pickle juice is infused with the vitamin C and E antioxidants from the cucumbers that pickle, or soak, in the brine.
General Consensus: 2/5 and here is why. Unfortunately, there is no scientific research supporting the antioxidative effects of pickle juice; it’s simply theorized that because cukes are rich in vitamins C and E, so too is the likelihood that pickle juice is.
Supportive of Weight Loss
While it’s easy to grab electrolyte-packed sports drinks when exercising for weight-loss, that typically comes at the cost of high-calorie, sugary beverages. Choosing pickle juice over sports drinks is just as hydrating but with few calories. Notably, pickle juice is a fat-free exercise recovery drink that contains just a few calories per serving and zero carbohydrates. Moreover, consuming small servings of vinegar is connected to improved weight loss. In a 12-week study of individuals consuming a ½-ounce serving of vinegar, scientists noted greater weight loss than participants not consuming vinegar. Therefore, it stands to reason that consuming a serving of pickle juice, the contents of which is almost entirely vinegar, will deliver the same effects.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. Pickle juice is supportive of weight loss because it’s low in calories and devoid of fat and carbohydrates; furthermore, pickle juice is hydrating, which is a consideration in any weight loss program.
Helps Control Blood Sugar Levels
Similar to the study indicating a correlation between a small serving of vinegar and improved weight loss, a small serving of vinegar before a meal can regulate post-meal blood sugar levels in diabetics. Unregulated blood sugar levels can lead to blindness, cardiovascular disease, and kidney damage, so consuming pickle juice prior to mealtime may reduce your risk for these diseases.
General Consensus: 4.5/5 and here is why. Research indicates that drinking vinegar-based concoctions such as pickle juice can improve insulin sensitivity and lower post-meal rises in blood sugar levels.
Good for Gut Health
Fermented foods such as vinegar, the base for many pickle juices, are beneficial to digestive health. Vinegar, and other fermented foods, feed the good bacteria in your gut. Specifically, pickle juice is rich in lactobacillus, a probiotic that’s good for gut health as well as fighting illness. The only catch to this benefit of pickles is that the live probiotics are only found in refrigerated pickles, not the vinegar-based varieties.
General Consensus: 4/5 and here is why. Some pickle varieties contain active probiotics that are good for gut health; these are typically non-vinegar-based which eliminates some of the health benefits noted above.
Unlikely Benefits: Further Research Needed
General Consensus: 1/5 and here is why. While a number of sources suggest that pickle juice may eradicate the bacteria in your mouth that causes bad breath, there is simply no scientific research on this topic.