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5 Fantastic Health Benefits Of Pickles

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5 Fantastic Health Benefits Of Pickles

Pickles not only add a lovely burst of freshness, sour-sweet flavor to your meal, they also offer many health benefits. Considered a good source of probiotics, antioxidants, both pickle and pickle juice (which is often tossed out!), can help relieve nausea, morning sickness, and muscle cramping as well. Clearly, pickles can pack quite a punch - as long as you don't overdo it!

Pickles are usually slipped into a burger or sandwich without a second thought. Because they lend a lovely freshness that’s pleasantly tart and mildly sweet, it is easy to think of them as just another condiment or a garnish in a dip. But unlike a dollop of ketchup or mustard, which offers little beyond zesty flavor, pickles can ease nausea and stop muscular cramps. They can even provide a dose of probiotics and antioxidants and do your body a world of good. Read on to find out more!

What Counts As A Pickle?

Western-style pickles usually involve a brine solution, vinegar, or a sugar and salt solution to preserve the vegetable. Quick-processed pickles sold in jars in supermarkets are usually made by heating the packed jar of pickled vegetables to 160ºF, a pasteurization process used to kill bacteria. Fermented pickles use salt or brine to slowly soften the vegetable and preserve it through controlled decomposition. If they retain the probiotic bacteria, they can double up as a dietary source of probiotics. Pickles that use vinegar or alcohol use acids to kill bacteria and preserve the vegetable for longer than in its fresh state.

Aside from spicing up your favorite dish, a pickle can help your health flourish. Here’s how.

1. Offers Antioxidants And Nutrients

Pickled gherkins, dill pickle, pickled garlic, pickled chillies, bread and butter pickles, kosher pickles, sweet pickles, and sour pickles – the choices are seemingly endless. So how do these stack up on the nutrition stakes? Most pickles contain a lot of water along with sodium or sugar to preserve them. On the upside, these pickles are often low calorie and have little to no fat. Most of the nutrients from the vegetable it is made from are preserved as well. So if you’re having a cucumber pickle, you’ll get the vitamin K, vitamin A, potassium, and other micronutrients from the cucumber. Although water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C may leach out in the pickling process, some amount is retained.1

Antioxidants like vitamins C and A or beta-carotene from these pickled vegetables are excellent for your body. They fight free radical damage and oxidative stress associated with diseases such as cardiovascular problems, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.2 Plus, because they’re full of nutrition, they do count toward your “five a day” serving of fruit or vegetables. Just be sure to eat fresh produce to balance things out.

2. Delivers A Probiotic Punch

Some pickles, including traditional versions like Korean kimchi or European sauerkraut, are made using a fermentation process. Popular American kinds like dill pickles also use this method. During fermentation, sugars in the vegetable are broken down to lactic acid. Specifically, lactic acid bacteria are probiotics (“good bacteria”) that can help gastrointestinal issues, including irritable bowel syndrome.

Research also points to how such foods can enable the body to ward off allergies in kids. They can even help women stave off urinary or vaginal infections.3

3. Eases Nausea And Morning Sickness

Nausea can be debilitating. You may find it hard to keep anything down when you’re hit with a particularly bad episode. This can kick in during pregnancy in the form of morning sickness, especially during the first trimester. There’s a good reason for the lore on pregnant women and pickle cravings. The tangy, tart flavor of a pickle tingles the taste buds, revives the appetite, and eases nausea. The American Pregnancy Association suggests sour foods, such as lemon or ginger flavors, to curb nausea. Pickled lemon or ginger may be just what you need when that wave of nausea hits you.4 In combination with lots of water for rehydration, eating salty foods and ginger is also suggested by the UK National Health Services for easing nausea.5 Take care to not have too much, too often – high sodium and sugar levels can mess with blood pressure and blood glucose, putting you and your baby at risk. Rehydrating with water is especially crucial if you have been throwing up.

4. Cures Muscular Cramps

Pickle juice is also being studied for its possible benefits. This includes the ability of pickle juice to resolve a bout of cramping. In one test, researchers studied the effect of consuming a 1.5oz serving of pickle juice per 100 lb of body weight, compared to drinking plain water or no liquid. They found that test subjects recovered 36 percent quicker when they drank pickle juice compared to plain water. This recovery was also 45 percent quicker than when no liquid was consumed. The underlying cause for this has yet to be understood. However, one theory is that the mouth signals a reflex message to the nerves of the muscle. This stops neurons from firing, resulting in a cessation in cramping.6 Another study found that this natural remedy could relieve muscle cramping in as little as 85 seconds.7

5. Exerts An Antiglycemic Effect

If you’re having a pickle that includes vinegar as an ingredient, you could also tap into the benefits of delayed gastric emptying. As one study showed, acetic acid from the vinegar in the juice can reduce the insulin demand on your body and lower glycemia, a benefit especially if you’ve eaten a carb-heavy starchy meal.8 This antiglycemic effect has potential for those with insulin resistance and at risk of type 2 diabetes. The benefits for someone who already has type 2 diabetes needs further investigation, though.9

Don’t Get Yourself In A Pickle

While there is goodness in pickles, there are also side effects to watch out for. They aren’t ideal for everyone thanks to the high sodium content. Remember, excessive intake of sodium can interfere with your blood pressure regulation, causing it to spike. This is bad news, especially if you have a history of cardiovascular problems. Some varieties like sweet pickles also have a high sugar content. All those additional calories and the risk of heart disease is something you should be wary about. Eat pickles in moderation. This way, you can make sure your body doesn’t take a beating even as you reap the benefits.

References   [ + ]

1. Pickles, cucumber, sour,National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. USDA.
2. Antioxidants: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
3. Health benefits of taking probiotics. Harvard Health Publications.
4. Morning Sickness Relief. American Pregnancy Association.
5. Nausea and vomiting in adults. NHS.
6. Miller, Kevin C., Gary W. Mack, Kenneth L. Knight, J. Ty Hopkins, David O. Draper, Paul J. Fields, and Iain Hunter. “Reflex inhibition of electrically induced muscle cramps in hypohydrated humans.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 42, no. 5 (2010): 953-961.
7. Miller, Kevin C., Gary W. Mack, and Kenneth L. Knight. “Gastric emptying after pickle-juice ingestion in rested, euhydrated humans.” Journal of athletic training 45, no. 6 (2010): 601-608.
8. Liljeberg, H., and I. Björck. “Delayed gastric emptying rate may explain improved glycaemia in healthy subjects to a starchy meal with added vinegar.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 52, no. 5 (1998): 368-371.
9. Johnston, Carol S., and Cindy A. Gaas. “Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect.” Medscape General Medicine 8, no. 2 (2006): 61.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.