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Pickles are simply fresh cucumbers that have been soaked in vinegar or brine and left to ferment for a time. Pickles are crunchy, sour and sometimes sweet. They are a delicious snack in their own right but are commonly used to top burgers, salads, sandwiches, and beyond. Pickle juice has become popular to sip in recent history as well. While not all pickles are fermented, those that are have some exceptional health benefits. However, whether fermented or not, pickles are full of vitamins, antioxidants, probiotics, and other nutrients that all play a significant role in your overall wellness. Check out how!
Important Note: Each of the claims cited in this article are reflective of the most current research on each subject at the time of this publication.
Good For Digestion and Gut Health
Depending on the brand of pickles you purchase or how you make your own pickles, these sour spears may be fermented. Fermentation breaks down sugars, creating probiotics that are good for gut health. If you’re not eating fermented pickles, you still benefit from fermentation. The vinegar that cucumbers soak in to create pickles is fermented. Likewise, the vinegar in pickles and the pickle juice itself are all good for well-balanced gut health. Essentially, fermented foods give your gut a boost of live microorganisms that are integral to digestive health. Two simple ways to benefit from the digestive uses of pickles are by eating fermented pickles or drinking pickle juice. Furthermore, pickles are typically seasoned with dill weed which has benefits to gut health and digestion as well. In fact, scientists have linked dill to remediating indigestion, alleviating stomach cramps, reducing gas, and aiding in other digestive conditions.
General Consensus: 4/5 and here is why. While fermentation and dill are both connected to digestive and gut health, it’s important to distinguish between fermented and unfermented pickles when shopping to reap optimal benefits in this regard.
High in Antioxidants
One of the greatest benefits pickles can provide is the antioxidants present in pickle juice. Antioxidants are responsible for reducing free radicals that may lead to a bevy of diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancers, and diabetes. Because everyone is exposed to free radicals, everyone needs to consume antioxidants to stave off disease. Of note, pickles contain high levels of vitamins A and K, both of which are essential antioxidants to human biology. Additionally, pickles are full of the antioxidant beta-carotene which is linked to reduced risk for cancer, type 2 diabetes, macular degeneration, and other chronic illnesses.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. Pickles are full of essential antioxidants, such as beta carotene and vitamins A and K, all of which have long been linked to protecting against chronic illness.
Ease Muscle Cramps
One of the most popular, and possibly surprising, benefits of pickles is their ability to relieve muscle cramps. It seems that pickles’ ability to hydrate (read more below) has a lot to do with their ability to alleviate cramping. One of the primary reasons people experience muscle cramps is dehydration; the hydrating properties of pickles can reduce cramping pretty quickly. In one study, researchers found that just a ⅓ cup serving of pickle juice was able to alleviate cramps more readily than an equal serving of water. One school of thought suggests that the vinegar in pickle juice diverts the nerve signals connected to muscle cramps.
General Consensus: 2.5/5 and here is why. Although the current research on this topic is promising, there are only about 20 studies that investigate pickles and muscle cramping. More research is indicated.
Control Blood Sugar
Some studies have drawn a connection between eating pickles and regulating blood sugars in individuals with type 2 diabetes. An interesting 2013 study shows that drinking vinegar prior to a meal can avert sugar spikes in diabetics. Researchers extended this finding to drinking pickle juice, which is certainly more palatable than straight vinegar, prior to a meal; the results were similar to the first study, suggesting that drinking pickle juice before eating may also curtail sugar spikes. As a result, the Journal of Diabetes Research suggests drinking vinegar or pickle juice prior to big meals to better manage blood sugars. As a diabetic, the importance of managing blood sugars and avoiding sugar spikes can’t be overstated. Pickle juice is a tasty and natural way to aid in blood sugar management.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. Hundreds of scientific studies tout the benefits of drinking vinegar to manage blood sugar. Essentially, pickle juice is simply a more palatable vinegar that has the same positive effect.
One of the ways that pickles can contribute to the health of your immune system is with those free radical-fighting vitamin A and K antioxidants. These antioxidants fend off the chemicals in your body to keep you at optimal health. Furthermore, some store-bought but most homemade pickles are rife with probiotics. In addition to neutralizing bacteria in your gut, the probiotics in pickles also improve the functionality of your immune system. Finally, well-rounded vitamin intake is important to a healthy immune system. Pickles are loaded with vitamins and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, folate, and vitamins A and K which contribute to a healthy immune system.
General Consensus: 4/5 and here is why. Although there are only about 50 or so studies attesting to the immunity benefits of pickles, they’re quite convincing. It’s well known that probiotics, antioxidants, and vitamin-intake all contribute to a healthy immune system; pickles contain all of these and more.
Support Weight Loss
For starters, pickles are low in calories, high in vitamins, and have zero carbohydrates or fat, all of which are supportive of weight loss. A tasty snack with little impact on weight management, pickles are a great addition to your diet. Furthermore, some studies indicate that drinking a small serving of vinegar each day contributes to weight loss. One study in particular showed that subjects who consumed a small serving of vinegar achieved greater weight loss than those who didn’t. Essentially, the vinegar in pickle juice acts as an appetite suppressant and a fat burner.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. Pickles are not only a low-calorie, no-fat food option, but the vinegar in pickle juice has other beneficial attributes when it comes to weight-loss.
Cucumbers are 96% water making them uber hydrating in and of themselves. When pickled, however, they’re soaked in vinegar and brines that are also effective at hydrating. Although it’s important to drink plenty of water when working out, if you’ve had an arduous workout, it’s important to replenish your electrolytes. By drinking something with potassium and sodium, both of which are lost through sweat, something such as pickle juice, you can more efficiently replenish electrolytes and hydrate your body.
General Consensus: 2/5 and here is why. While it logically makes sense that pickles may help to replenish electrolytes and boost hydration, unfortunately, there are fewer than 5 studies drawing this conclusion. More research is needed.
Unlikely Benefit: Further Research Needed
Sweetens Your Breath
General Consensus: 2.5/5 and here is why. That’s up for debate; if you despise the smell of pickles, you may disagree with this statement.