Pickles - Excellent Health Benefits Of Pickles

In This Article
What is Pickles?
What is Pickling Process?
Nutrition Info
Popular Pickles around the World
Health Benefits of Pickles
The Downside

As pickles retain the nutrients of the veggie, they have antioxidants like vitamins C and A. The fermented varieties like kimchi and dill pickles can boost your gut flora with probiotics, or good bacteria, while vinegary pickles can lower your blood sugar after meals. Have salty lime or ginger pickles to allay morning sickness and nausea.

It is easy to think of the pickles you slip into a burger or sandwich almost by habit as just another condiment to enhance the flavor. But unlike a dollop of ketchup or mustard, which offers little beyond zesty flavor, health benefits of pickles are a real thing. The health benefits of pickles include a good supply of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which contributes to diabetes control, improved digestion, liver protection, a supply of probiotics, and the ability to heal ulcers.


What is Pickles?

Pickles are excellent health foods- loaded with nutrients, low in calories, and also an excellent food source to the good bacteria that live in our stomachs, known as a prebiotic food.

What most people don’t realize however, is that pickles actually refers to a method of food preservation, using a variety of fruits, spices and vegetables. When we say pickles, most of the time the ingredient in question is the cucumber, though it is not uncommon for mangoes and many other products to be pickled as well.

Most pickles are made by preserving in a mixture of salt, pepper and vinegar, though fermented pickles are also extremely popular in Asian cultures.


What is Pickling Process?

Pickling is one of the oldest methods of food preservation. Before the invention of modern refrigeration, pickling was the only way to preserve various foods for future consumption. Generally, pickling began as a method to preserve foods that are either exotic or seasonal and limited by nature and cultivation.

The process of pickling can be generally traced back to India, as it is believed to have originated about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. With hot summers and a lack of water during summers, food production decreased during the summer. Thus, there was a need to preserve excess food produced during winters and hence, the process of pickling was invented to overcome this problem.

The traditional way of preparing long-lasting pickles in the oriental style uses ingredients such as salt, oil, and dry chili powder mixed with condiments. These ingredients are added according to set proportions.


Nutrition Info (per cup, chopped)

  • Calories-17.2
  • Total Carbohydrate3.7g
  • Dietary Fiber-1.6g 6% RDA
  • Sodium-1250mg 52% RDA
  • Potassium-132mg 4% RDA
  • Vitamin A -262IU 5% RDA
  • Vitamin C-1.1mg 2% RDA
  • Phosphorus-17.2mg 2% RDA
  • Manganese-0.1mg 3% RDA
  • Vitamin K-55.8mcg 70% RDA
  • Calcium-60mg 6% RDA
  • Iron-0.5 mg 3% RDA
  • Magnesium-10mg 3% RDA

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 160 ºF, 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 – the good bacteria that help your gut bacteria – they can double up as a dietary source of probiotics.
  • Vinegar- or alcohol-based pickles use acids to kill bacteria and preserve the vegetable for longer than in its fresh state.


Popular Pickles around the World

  • Indian Pickles
    In India, unripe fruits such as mangoes, Indian gooseberry, unripe tamarinds, and lemons are traditionally used. Apart from these, various vegetables such as gherkin, bitter gourd, carrot, cauliflower, ginger, garlic, onion, jackfruit, and citron are also pickled. In most cases, only one vegetable or unripe fruit is used for pickling. But occasionally, a mix of two or more vegetables or unripe fruits are also made. Generally, pickles made from vegetables and unripe fruits are prepared with utmost care so that they don’t spoil and can be preserved all year long. Non-vegetarian ones are also popular. These pickles are made from chicken, fish, prawns, and mutton.
  • Korean Pickles
    In Korea, kimchi is a common pickled product that is made with fermented spicy cabbage and it also includes a wide variety of vegetables including soybean, fish, oysters and many different ingredients. The Korean pickling process owes its origins to Chinese, but unlike the common Chinese cabbage pickles, the Korean pickling process has its own variations according to the local flavor and available ingredients. Korean pickling processes usually involve two types, one in which the ingredients along with spicy chili pastes are fermented, while the other involves milder varieties pickled in water.
  • Japanese Pickles
    In a similar manner, even the Japanese have their own version of pickles, which include ingredients such as ginger, gingko nut, carrot, eggplant, radish, plum, green apricot, and soybean paste along with parboiled vegetables.
  • Chinese Pickles
    In Asian countries such as China, pickles are very popular and have also been prepared for thousands of years. Chinese pickles include vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, bitter melon, cucumber, carrot, and shallot.These and other vegetables are mixed with sugar and salt and put in vinegar. Apart from vegetables, eggs (particularly duck eggs) are stored by applying salt, earth, hay, and other ingredients and sealed to mature for about one month. Some pickling processes include soy sauce for fermentation instead of vinegar and in other varieties, condiments such as ginger, garlic, chili, or peppercorns are also added for a hot and characteristic flavor. 
  • Fresh Pickles
    On the other hand, instant or fresh pickles, known as chutneys, are also prepared. These instant chutneys are prepared to last only for a couple of days. There is a wide range of choice in the preparation of instant pickles. Many vegetables, herbs, and condiments are used for preparing chutneys. Chutneys are very similar to sauces and ketchup.
  • Western Pickles
    In the west, pickles are generally made from salted cucumbers, gherkins and various vegetables which are soaked in vinegar. Apart from cucumbers and gherkins, fruits such as peaches, pears, and apples are also pickled. Western pickles generally have flavours of sweet, sour, and salty. On the other hand, Indian pickles are generally pungent in taste.
    Cucumber pickles can be generally divided into:
  1. Fermented or crock pickles
  2. Fresh pack or quick process pickles
  3. Refrigerator pickles
  4. Freezer pickles

       Each of these pickles is made in different ways. For example, in fermented or crock pickles, either vinegar is                 added or the vegetables are preserved in salt brine for several weeks. Salt-resistant bacteria present in the                   vegetables help in converting the sugars into lactic acid or the acetic acid present in the vinegar accelerates the           process of fermentation. This is the reason why most cucumber pickles have sour and salty tastes.

       Fresh pack or quick pickles, on the other hand, are also very popular, as they are very easy to prepare and are             ready to eat. Fresh or quick pickles are not fermented, but heated vinegar and salt solutions are poured onto the           vegetables. Fruit pickles and relishes are also prepared in this manner.

       Refrigerated and frozen pickles are prepared using the fermentation process. However, instead of storing them at         room temperature, they are stored in refrigerators and freezers.


Health Benefits of Pickles

  • Excellent Sources Of Anti-Oxidants
    In addition to vitamins, there are many bioactive compounds found in fruits and vegetables that deliver anti-oxidant benefit, but which are sadly lost in traditional food preparation. This is because many of the compounds are temperature sensitive, being broken down or deactivated under the influence of high heat. However the pickling process avoids this occurrence, since the fruits or vegetables are placed into the solution mixture uncooked, and hence retaining their complete anti-oxidant profile. Consumption of adequate amounts of anti-oxidant reduces the damage that free radicals can cause on the body, and helps preserve your well-being.
  • Serves As ProbioticThanks To The Helpful Bacteria
    Some pickles, including traditional versions like Korean kimchi or European sauerkraut (both usually made from cabbage) 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. Vinegar-based pickles will not have this effect.

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

  • Improves Digestive Health
    We all can benefit from improved digestion, since from time to time most of us experience gastrointestinal disturbances resulting from imbalanced bacterial cultures, or poor fiber intake. Luckily, pickles can likely help solve both of those problems. While vinegar helps slow the growth of bacterial colonies, left long enough probiotic bacteria will grow on this fermented food. Plus, pickles by themselves are prebiotic in nature, so you can eat it any time you want and not only after it is aged. Fruits and vegetables are also known for their inherent fiber content, helping you accomplish multiple goals with one simple food. This alone should make pickles worthy of a spot in your diet.

  • Supply Essential Minerals & Vitamins
    Fresh pickles, dips or chutneys are made from leafy vegetables or herbs such as coriander, curry leaves, spinach, parsley, and amaranth. These fresh pickles are interesting and appetizing ways of making children eat their share of leafy vegetables and herbs, which are otherwise boring for them. Eating freshly made pickles not only tastes good, but also supply essential vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, and minerals like iron, calcium, and potassium. Vitamins and minerals are vital micronutrients which protect us from diseases, help us build immunity, strengthen bones, enhances vision, cure anemia, and various other problems.

  • The Fight Against Spleen Cancer
    Japanese pickles have recently been cited for their health benefits and their ability to fight certain types of cancer. A 2014 study found that probiotics in Japanese traditional pickles were found to fight spleen cancer cells in mice. This finding could lead to new human spleen cancer treatments in the future.

  • Eases Nausea And Morning Sickness
    There’s a good reason for the lore on pregnant women and pickle cravings. Nausea that can kick in during pregnancy in the form of morning sickness, especially during the first trimester, can be relieved with pickles. 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.4
    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.

    However, if your nausea is caused by gastritis, skip the pickle. The salt can damage the gastric lining further.

  • Can Help Control Your Diabetes
    Pickles are naturally low calorie and low carbohydrate, making them perfect foods for diabetics, but they also do more to help diabetics, and on a much larger scale. HbA1C, which is hemoglobin that has been bound to glucose, is an indicator of longer term blood sugar control, with higher numbers indicating poor glucose control over a long period of time.  It is believed that acetic acid combined with the fruits or vegetables is responsible for this phenomenon of improving HbA1c levels, which equates to improved blood sugar control.

  • Improve Digestion
    In India, Indian gooseberry or amla (Phyllanthus emblica) is one of the favorite fruits that are pickled. This fruit is believed to possess several health benefits according to Ayurveda treatments and moreover, since amla is a seasonal fruit, unripe amla pickles are prepared and preserved. It is a customary practice in some Indian families to have amla pickle as the first course or an appetizer as it is believed that amla pickle improves digestion.

  • Can Promote Liver Health
    While many varieties of pickles have the ability to assist in removal of toxins from blood via improving efficiency of the liver, pickled gooseberries are particularly helpful at assisting with liver function, being able to reset hepatotoxicity. This may prove useful in helping alcoholics avoid liver damage while going through a rehab plan.

  • Reduce Ulcers
    Ulcers are internal wounds caused due to a failure of mucous membranes and acid interaction on tissues. Particularly, gastric ulcers are caused by a weakening of mucous membrane and hyperacidity. Regular consumption of amla or Indian gooseberry pickle also helps in reducing ulcers, if any.

  • Good For Weight Loss
    Pickles offer an attractive way to get more veggies or fruits in your diet, if you are tired of the same old methods of preparation, or just like to eat them via that method. Cucumber pickles, for example, are low calorie, rich in water content and extremely filling, making them ideal for snacking or when cravings strike. Be careful to not load them up with sodium however, or your desire for water may cause unsightly retention in the peripheral body parts.

  • Helps Lower Risk Of Developing Yeast Infections
    Yeast infections are the bane of a woman’s existence it seems, causing undue discomfort and awkwardness in public due to the constant desire to scratch the privates. Yeast are a normal part of the vaginal microflora, but can overgrow and become pathogenic for any number of reasons. This is especially common following anti-biotic therapy or scenarios that can adversely affect bacterial colonies, which are largely responsible for keeping the yeast in check. Pickles help reinforce optimal levels of these good probiotic bacteria, keeping yeast under control and significantly decreasing the risk of yeast infections.

  • Pickles Help Prevent Constipation
    Pickles are high in fiber, water content and probiotic bacteria, which all help to preserve the function and health of the gut and intestines. This helps the unobstructed movement of food and then subsequently waste through the body as efficiently as possible, reducing the likelihood of constipation and exposure of toxins to healthy cells.


The Downside


  • Stomach Cancer Risk?
    The findings aren’t all good, however. Extremely salty pickled foods may put you at risk for stomach cancer. In Turkey and Japan, where pickled foods are very popular, gastric cancer is also significantly higher.

    Recently, a team of doctors in Turkey looked at the diets of gastric cancer patients and discovered that while they ate significantly less bread, cereal, milk and orange juice, they ate a lot more pickles than the cancer-free participants in the survey.

  • Blood Pressure Woes
    Preserving any kind of food requires the addition of salt, and salt makes up about 5 percent of most pickling recipes. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one dill pickle can contain between 500-1100 milligrams of sodium — that’s almost half of the recommended sodium allowance for an entire day!

    Not all pickles are saturated in salt, however. In fact, studies have shown that a certain kind of Japanese rice bran pickle, nukazuke, contains enzymes that can contribute to the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure.

Excess salt consumption through pickles can cause problems of its own.Hypertension is one of the major risks of eating excess salt. It is known to be one of the major reasons causing strokes and heart attacks, especially in older people. Also, hypertension increases with increased age.

Apart from the risk of hypertension, Indian pickles may contain high quantities of oil, which increases the risk of fat and cholesterol development in our body. Hence, the regular intake of these delicious foods must be reduced and must be limited to only occasional consumption.

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