Are There Health Benefits to Eating Pickles?

There are a wide variety of foods people pickle, from fermented vegetable products to the standard, brined cucumbers that are common on burgers. When you’re considering the healthiness of pickles, you’re most likely thinking about the spears, slices, or whole, small cucumbers that have been soaked in vinegar, salt, and spices. 

Cucumber pickles are by far the most common type in the U.S., and they’re easily found in every grocery store and many restaurants. These salty, sour snacks are purported to have a number of health benefits. However, while science has supported some of these claims, pickles may also affect some people negatively.

Nutrition Information

A quarter-cup serving of pickles contains:

Pickles are an excellent source of:

Cucumber pickles are a great source of the antioxidant beta-carotene. Beta-carotene has been linked to a lower risk of a number of chronic conditions, including age-related macular degeneration and T ype 2 diabetes.

Potential Health Benefits of Pickles

Pickles are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Research has found a number of potential health benefits to eating pickles, such as:

Lower Risk of Heart Disease

The beta-carotene in pickles is connected to a lower risk of certain forms of heart disease. Eating foods that are rich in carotenoids, such a beta-carotene, is correlated with a lower risk of heart disease and a generally healthy heart.

Reduce Cell Damage

The antioxidants in pickles have a number of benefits. The way they reduce damage-causing free radicals appears to have minor effects on general health. Studies have shown that regularly eating foods with beta-carotene may help improve cognition in people over age 65. These same studies found that eating diets high in antioxidants appeared to be more effective than simply taking antioxidant supplements. This makes pickles an excellent resource for people looking to get more antioxidants naturally. 

Aid Weight Loss

Cucumber pickles are a low-calorie food. Because of their high water content, they may help you feel fuller longer. Pickles also contain vinegar, which has been linked to reduc ed appetite as well. Vinegar may slow the rate at which your digestive system absorbs carbohydrates. This can also help reduce insulin spikes, keeping your energy levels stable and reducing the insulin drop that triggers hunger.

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Potential Risks of Pickles

Because pickles may contain large amounts of sodium, you should consult with your doctor before significantly increasing how many pickles you eat. Consider the following before adding large amounts of pickles to your diet:

Blood Pressure Concerns

Pickles are very high in sodium because it’s an important part of the brining process. Consuming too much salt in your daily diet can contribute to high blood pressure. Anyone who is on blood pressure medication or looking to reduce their sodium intake should eat pickles in moderation or look for low sodium options.

Liver and Kidney Stress

Eating too much sodium can cause your kidneys and liver to work harder. Furthermore, the high blood pressure that often follows diets high in sodium puts even more stress on these organs. As a result, eating too many pickles may be risky for anyone with liver d isease or kidney conditions.

Higher Risk of Gastric Cancer

Diets high in sodium may increase your risk of gastric cancer. High salt intake may damage your stomach directly, leading to cancer, or it may lead to infections and ulcers that eventually become cancerous.

Increased Risk of Osteoporosis

Diets high in sodium may be connected to an increased risk of osteoporosis. If you are not getting enough calcium, high amounts of sodium can further leach the mineral out of your bones, leading to weaker bones and a risk of osteoporosis.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 29, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

BMC Gastroenterology: “Effect of apple cider vinegar on delayed gastric emptying in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus: a pilot study.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Experimental and Clinical Sciences: “An update on the potential health benefits of carotenes.”

FoodData Central: “Cucumber pickles, dill.”

Harvard School of Public Health: “Antioxidants.”

International Journal of Obesity: “Influence of the tolerability of vinegar as an oral source of short-chain fatty acids on appetite control and food intake.”

Journal of Nutrition: “β-Carotene, Carotenoids and the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease.”

National Institutes of Health: “How the body regulates salt levels.”

PBS: History in a Jar: The Story of Pickles.”

World Journal of Gastroenterology: “Review of salt consumption and stomach cancer risk: Epidemiological and biological evidence.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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