Pickles are often a forgotten food.  Yes, they are critical when you are having hamburgers, but otherwise they are often forgotten. Should pickles have a more prominent position on our table? Let us look.

Most pickles are made from cucumbers, which are low in calories and fat.  They are a good source of fibre as well as vitamins A and K and have antioxidants. However, sweet pickles can be high in sugar while dill pickles are very high in sodium.  One large pickle contains more than 2/3 of a daily dose of sodium, which is a concern for anyone with high blood pressure, cardiovascular or heart issues.

Pickles can be fermented or non-fermented. Fermented pickles are those that are packed in airtight jars with a brine of salt and water.  They are then left to sit at room temperature for a long period. A chemical reaction occurs between the bacteria and natural sugars that creates lactic acid, which keeps the pickles fresher longer.  Fermented pickles are a good source of probiotics, which are good for your brain and gut health.

Non-fermented pickles are made by a process called fresh-pack pickling.  Most of the pickles you buy in grocery stores use this method. These pickles have vinegar and spices added to the brine.  The shelf life of pickled foods is quite long – up to a year if handled properly.

Fermented pickles give you the added benefit of probiotics, however either form of pickles (fermented or fresh- pack pickling) provides some health benefits including:

  • antioxidants which may protect against cancer, heart disease, and other diseases.
  • fibre which helps to keep our bodies regular
  • beta carotene which the body converts to Vitamin A which is good for vision and cell health.
  • vitamin K which is important for heart health

Health benefits differ depending on the type of pickle.  Dill pickles are low in calories, sugars and carbohydrate but high in sodium.  Sweet pickles are high in calories, sugars, and carbohydrates but also much higher in beta carotene and Vitamin K than dill pickles.

Should you eat pickles every day?  That depends on the rest of your diet.  If you do not eat foods that are high in sodium (processed foods, fast food, etc.) then eating pickles daily (in moderation) should be fine. However if your diet is already high in sodium you might want to pass on the pickles.  When buying pickles at the store check the nutritional value of the different types of pickles. Specifically check the percentage of daily value for sodium.  Five percent or less is considered low sodium content, 15% or higher is considered high for sodium.