Pickles have been around for thousands of years, dating as far back as 2030 BC when cucumbers from India were pickled in the Tigris Valley and continues to this very day.

The word “pickle” comes from the Dutch pekel or northern German pókel, meaning “salt” or “brine,” two very important components in the pickling process. Throughout history pickling was a necessity, as it was the best way to preserve food for a long period of time. As one of the earliest mobile foods, pickles filled the stomachs of hungry sailors and travellers, while also providing families with a source of food during the cold winter months. But with the advent of modern technology, do we still need to pickle? And more importantly, is it good for you?

We have oft been told that “fresh is best” where food is concerned and that preserving food could erode its nutritional value or worst still, be unhealthy to consume. What then of pickled vegetables such as Kimchi?

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Here are 5 reasons why pickling may still be relevant.

  1. Low Fat Content

Like most vegetables, pickles are mostly water and have very low-fat content as a result. They are therefore useful to augment a low-fat diet

2. High Vitamin Content

Pickled vegetables have a high concentration of vitamins because the salty brine draws water out from the pickles leaving the contents rich in vitamins per serving. Contrary to what may be said, the pickling process does not destroy the vitamin content.

For example, cucumbers are high in an antioxidant called beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A. Carotene is a powerful compound that’s been shown to help lower your chances of dying of heart disease, cancer or respiratory diseases, and other conditions.

3. Good for Digestion

Fermented vegetables such as Kimchi can help keep your gut healthy. Fermented pickles are full of good bacteria called probiotics which are important for a healthy gut.

But most pickles on supermarket shelves are not fermented, which uses yeast, bacteria, and other microbes to preserve foods. Instead, pickles often get their sharp tang from soaking in a brine of vinegar and spices. So if you are after maximum gut health, look out for labels that say “naturally fermented.” When you open the jar, you should see bubbles on the surface, a sign of live bacteria inside.

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4. Replacing Electrolytes

Some athletes have said that pickle juice relieves muscle cramps and tiredness after a session of heavy exercise due to its claimed abilities to replace electrolytes which are minerals that are vital for health and survival. Electrolytes spark cell function throughout the body. They support hydration and help the body produce energy. They’re also responsible for stimulating muscle contractions, including those that keep your heart beating.

5. Keep Sugar Spikes in Check

Due to the presence of vinegar in many pickled vegetables, it is said that pickled vegetables may help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes

The Negatives

With everything, however, there are pitfalls. Pickled vegetables contain almost zero protein and other foods must be consumed alongside to make up for this lack.

It should also be noted that pickled vegetables contain very high levels of salt. For example, just one large dill pickle has more than 2/3 of the ideal amount of sodium an average adult should have for the entire day. Excessive salt in one’s diet can raise the risk of high blood pressure which can also increase the chances for heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and kidney disease. Too much sodium can also leach calcium from your bones which in turn can weaken the bones

As always, please consult a qualified nutritionist or doctor if in doubt.

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