Is there anything better than finding out that a favorite food is also good for you? Pickles are more than just the vinegary spears of deliciousness you think they are, and eating them is beneficial for your health in many ways. Through the pickling process, where cucumbers are submerged in a salty brine, they become rich in sodium. And although too much salt can have adverse effects on your health, sodium is also an essential electrolyte that keeps your body hydrated and gives you the energy you need for the day.
If you're someone who loves pickles, you're in luck, because this isn't the only health benefits that these tasty snacks contain. From helping you to lose weight to supporting your immune system, pickles are so much more than just a salty, crunchy snack. They may be a tasty side for your grilled cheese sandwich or a yummy garnish on your bloody mary at brunch, but they're also packed full of nutritional benefits that make them more than worth it to eat. Some even believe pickles can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and help to treat urinary tract infections.
Here are 7 health benefits of pickles to justify you eating a kosher dill pickle spear whenever you feel like it!
1. Full of Antioxidants
One of the most valuable nutritional benefits of pickles is their abundance of antioxidants. Pickles are great sources of both vitamin K and vitamin A, two essential antioxidants that are found in many fruits and veggies. These natural antioxidants fight free radicals, which are chemicals in the body that can cause cancer and heart disease.
According to the National Institute for Health, "Antioxidant molecules have been shown to counteract oxidative stress in laboratory experiments."
2. Good for your Gut Health
Not all pickles are fermented, but the ones that are, such as dill pickles, contain more health benefits than other kinds from the fermentation process. Many options found at the grocery store are not fermented pickles, but instead are fresh-packed, a method of pickling which involves being stored in a vinegar brine. However, more and more companies understand that people want to eat fermented food for the health benefits. If you see pickles in the refrigerated section, you're probably in luck! But be sure to check the label to see if it contains "live cultures." (Additionally, those who make pickles at home will often ferment them, which provides substantial probiotic benefits.)
Fermentation creates good bacteria (you may have heard of probiotics) that support a healthy digestive system and boosts the immune system, which is partly why fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi are so popular.
Best Probiotic Pickles - Olive My Pickle
One of our favorite brands of fermented pickles is Olive My Pickle, which are naturally fermented in salt water. The company, which is based in Jacksonville, Florida, also sells kraut and live culture olives, which encourage gut health. Managing Editor Lyndsay Cordell shares that her favorite flavor is kosher dill!
3. Immune System Booster
Like many fruits and veggies, pickles are a great source of vitamins. Pickles offer a bevy of vitamins, including A and K. In addition to being healthful for their antioxidant content, vitamins are essential for many body functions, along with boosting the immune system, which is especially important during Covid-19 outbreaks.
4. Soothe Muscle Cramps
Pickle juice is a well-known treatment for muscle cramps among athletes, so this is also a health benefit of pickles. Studies have shown that drinking pickle juice is more effective at relieving cramps than drinking the same amount of water. Some speculate that the vinegar used when creating pickled cucumbers is the key in relieving pain, since vinegar blocks the nerve signals that lead to cramping. However, the sodium in pickles also helps with hydration and soothing cramps.
According to this 2010 paper, "ingesting small volumes of pickle juice relieves muscle cramps within 35 seconds of ingestion."
5. Support Weight Loss
Another dietary benefit of pickles is their ability to help with weight loss. This health benefit is also likely due to the vinegar used in the pickling process. Vinegar has been shown to increase fat burning and reduce appetite, so even those who dislike the sour taste of pickles have been known to eat them for weight loss.
Additionally, its believed that pickle juice can help to stabilize your blood sugar, making it easier to control both craving and weight fluctuations, according to this paper in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry.
6. Blood Sugar Regulation
As we mentioned before, pickles are also proven to regulate your blood sugar due to their vinegar content! Vinegar has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels of those with type 2 diabetes. According to this 2013 study, those who consumed vinegar with their meals helped to prevent blood glucose spikes.
Given these findings, the Journal of Diabetes Research recommends having a small amount of vinegar before meals. Regulating blood sugar and minimizing blood sugar spikes are beneficial practices for everyone, even those without type 2 diabetes, because this reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
7. Source of Potassium
Another health benefit of pickles relevant to athletes is their ability to help with electrolyte levels. Pickles and their juice have lots of potassium, which is an electrolyte lost in sweat. Not only does potassium help with electrolyte levels, potassium-rich foods are excellent for lowering high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension. So, the next time you order a sandwich, consider asking for an extra pickle spear on the side. Your body will thank you!
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