When you think of pickles, you probably think of a tasty side to your sandwich or a sweet relish condiment. You may enjoy them alongside your lunch fare, or enjoy munching them straight out of the jar. Whether you prefer dill, bread and butter, sweet pickles, or gherkins, you probably have one nagging question: Are pickles healthy?
We want to answer that question by discussing the health benefits of pickles that you probably never thought of before. And, if you’re lacto-fermenting your pickles, the benefits go up even more.
13 Amazing Health Benefits of Pickles
Are Pickles Good for You?
The good news is that pickles have many health benefits that you may never have thought of. They provide many of your daily nutritional needs, including vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function properly. The nutritional value of pickles varies depending on which kind you’re eating.
The popular dill pickle contains vitamins B1 and B2, which are important for the development and function of the body’s cells,1,2 and vitamin B6, a nutrient that’s important for the metabolism, immune system, and infant brain development.3 Dill pickles are rich in vitamin K, which is vital for healthy blood clotting.4 They also provide calcium, a necessity for strong bones,5 and potassium, a mineral that’s important for many bodily functions.6,7
Other pickles boast their own unique nutritional value. Sweet gherkin pickles have added sugar, but are a good source of fiber.8 Bread and butter pickles are an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin K.9 No matter what your favorite pickle is, you’re sure to find something in them that serves your body well.
Regular commercial pickles contain many vitamins and minerals. However, fermented pickles, like many other lacto-fermented foods, present even more amazing health benefits. This is because fermented foods contain enzymes and good bacteria that help to keep your body in tip-top shape.
Fermented pickles can help with digestion. The enzymes and lactic acid contained in lacto-fermented pickles can help to break food down into tinier pieces, helping your body to digest them more easily and absorb the nutrients in the food.10
What’s more, the friendly bacteria in fermented pickles, otherwise known as probiotics, serve a vital role in overall gut health. Fermented pickles provide the additional immune-boosting support that comes with the help of probiotics. The microorganisms in fermented foods colonize and strengthen the barrier lining in the gastrointestinal tract, helping your body keep out unwanted pathogens that make you sick.11, 12
On their own, cucumbers are high in beta carotene, which is the main dietary source of vitamin A. It’s an antioxidant that can help to neutralize free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells.13 Beta-carotenes, along with other cartenoids, may help to protect against heart disease,14 certain types of cancer, and eye disease.15 Note that most research suggests that beta-carotenes from fruits and vegetables like cucumbers are likely beneficial in this respect, as opposed to beta-carotene supplements, which may pose some possible risks.16
Additional Health Benefits of Pickles
Pickles may also be able to help restore electrolytes and even ease muscle cramps. They are high in both sodium and electrolytes and can help to restore an electrolyte balance to a person who is dehydrated or sick. One study even suggested that a small amount of pickle juice could relieve muscle cramps for a person within 35 seconds of drinking it.17
Pickles that are made with vinegar may help with controlling blood sugar. One study showed that people with type 2 diabetes who consumed vinegar twice daily at mealtimes had lower fasting blood glucose than those who did not.18
Are Pickles Good for Weight Loss?
Pickles are a low calorie, low fat food, making them an ideal snack for those trying to lose weight. They contain less than half a gram of fat and only 12 calories per serving.19 Additionally, the vinegar found in many pickles may be useful in reducing body weight, body fat mass, and triglyceride levels.20
Fermented pickles in particular may help with weight loss. Why do fermented foods help you to lose weight? Evidence suggests that some strains of probiotics may be anti-inflammatory and weight-reducing. This is because of the effect they have on the gut microbiota and on short-chain fatty acid production, which plays a role in metabolism.21,22
How Much Sodium is in Pickles?
Pickles have a high sodium content. A 100 gram serving of dill pickles contains 35% of the recommended daily sodium intake.23 Does that mean that pickles are bad for you?
Do Pickles Affect High Blood Pressure?
The evidence suggests that the regular consumption of high-salt content foods like pickles may affect high blood pressure. However, pickles are only one small part of what you eat, and the total consumption of sodium should be taken into account when considering how your diet might affect high blood pressure.24
It’s true that too much salt in your diet can put you at risk for high blood pressure. In turn, high blood pressure can lead to a higher risk of heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease. But sodium in the diet is only one risk factor out of many for high blood pressure.25
Like any other part of your diet, moderation is key. If you enjoy pickles but have concerns about high blood pressure, you can consume pickles less frequently, choose a smaller portion, and make sure that other parts of your diet are not too high in sodium. You can also choose to purchase or make your own low-salt or no-salt lacto fermented pickles, so that you can still enjoy the benefits of eating pickles without adding more sodium to your diet.
How Do You Make Fermented Pickles?
The exact recipe you choose to follow will depend on which variety of pickle is your favorite. However, the process for each kind is similar. To experience the health benefits of pickles, click the photo below and choose a recipe that’s best for you. Or, choose a few from this round-up of some of the best pickle recipes we’ve found.
- Scrub cucumbers and remove stems.
- Slice cucumbers into disks or spears or leave whole, as desired.
- Pack cucumbers into wide-mouth mason jars.
- Add the spices as per your desired pickle flavor.
- Prepare a brine of salt and water and pour over the cucumbers and spices, being sure to leave 1” headspace at the top of the jar.
- Use a Fermentools airlock kit to ensure proper fermentation. Leave at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, for about 5 days.
Are you ending up with mushy pickles? Be sure to follow these 5 Tips for Lacto Fermented Crunchy Pickles.
The Amazing Benefits of Pickles: A Summary
Pickles are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fermented pickles have the additional perk of friendly microorganisms that benefit many aspects of human health. Whether you want to eat pickles to help you control blood sugar, lose weight, or just enjoy the delicious crunch of these popular snacks, pickles are a tasty, healthy treat that everyone can enjoy.
When you have a variety of several different foods to ferment, or a few different pickle recipes you want to try, you need to keep more fermentation lids for Mason jars on hand. Fermentools lids are made to last a lifetime, of surgical steel. Get a 12-pack in our store!
1) “Office of Dietary Supplements – Thiamin.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 11 July 2019, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Thiamin-Consumer/.
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11) ML;, Lei YM;Nair L;Alegre. “The Interplay between the Intestinal Microbiota and the Immune System.” Clinics and Research in Hepatology and Gastroenterology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25481240/.
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17) Miller , Kevin C, et al. “Reflex Inhibition of Electrically Induced Muscle Cramps in Hypohydrated Humans.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19997012/.
18) Johnston, Carol S., et al. “Vinegar Ingestion at Mealtime Reduced Fasting Blood Glucose Concentrations in Healthy Adults at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes.” Journal of Functional Foods, Elsevier, 30 Aug. 2013, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464613001874.
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Abigail is an aspiring homesteader, homeschooler, and music-maker. She lives with her husband and three children on her acre-and a half homestead in scenic Pennsylvania. You can visit her blog about living the homegrown life (and seeking contentment while doing it) at They’re Not Our Goats.