Love your kimchi, achaar, pickled mangoes and sauerkraut to the moon and back? We do too! On top of how delicious they are with their crunchy, tangy taste profile, pickled food possesses many nutrients, like antioxidants, prebiotic fibre and probiotic bacteria, all of which are great for your overall health. Read on to find out what they are!
What are Pickles?
They are a prebiotic food that is loaded with nutrients, low in calories and is excellent for our stomach, gut and overall health. They are usually a single or variety of fruits, spice and vegetables being preserved.
Pickled vs. Fermented
So what is the difference between these two ancient food preservation methods? The mix-up exists because these two techniques actually overlap with each other. Yes, there are some pickled foods that are fermented, and some fermented foods are pickled.
An ingredient that has been preserved in brine — salt or salty water — or an acid, like lemon juice and vinegar, is known as the pickle, much like the cucumber pickles in your hamburger.
Fermented food, on the other hand, requires the preserved ingredient to be transformed by benign bacteria. This transformation process often involves lactic acid bacteria breaking down the sugar and carbohydrates present in the food and converting them into alcohol, carbon dioxide and acids. So when you consume kimchi, you are partaking of the flourishing colony of good bacteria that have preserved the cabbage for you — it’s a circle of life. Many types of fermented foods begin their first stage from being pickled. They start with food covered in brine, then are left to ferment. Hence, this makes them fermented pickles. One such example would be the traditional dill pickles. They are made by soaking cucumbers in salt water and left to ferment. But why do the traditional dill pickles taste so tart, if there is not a single drop of vinegar added to the mixture? It is because one of the by-products produced in the fermentation process is acid. This happens to most fermentation processes, and thus fermented food usually ends up tasting sharp, tart and yes, acidic.
Why Eat Pickles?
Improves Digestive Health
It could be due to stress, low fibre intake or chowing down your food too quickly that is causing you to experience indigestion from time to time. Consuming pickles is likely to resolve these issues. They are prebiotic in nature and with the inherent fibre content that fruits and vegetables are known for, you would get to iron out indigestion issues in no time.
Rich in Antioxidants
There are many fruits and vegetables that are well known to deliver a huge amount of antioxidants into your body. However, many of them actually lose their antioxidant benefits when they are exposed to high heat in cooking. Thus, pickling is a great way to avoid this loss, since the fruits or vegetables are placed in the solution mixture and away from high heat. Thus, the antioxidant profiles of the ingredients are kept potent. If you have yet to know the benefits of antioxidants for your body, they basically forestall free radical damage in your body, including wrinkles on your skin and pigmentation on your skin.
Good For Weight Loss
A ‘decadent’ way of including fruits and vegetables in your diet, pickles are usually low in calories and high in fibre. This makes them ideal for keeping you full and impeding the urge to raid the snack pantry. Here’s a heads up though, that pickles are loaded with sodium, so consume them in moderation or you will find yourself with unsightly dimpling, due to water retention.
Forestalls Yeast Infections
Yeast infections can be a source of huge irritation for a woman. It is an overgrowth of yeast in a woman’s private parts. The infection causes discomfort and awkward moments in public, where there is a constant desire to literally scratch what’s down below. Pickles help to maintain optimal levels of favourable probiotic bacteria in the microflora, thus helping to lower the chances of getting the nasty infection.
Promotes Stomach Health
Did you know that vinegar acts as the base compound to help line your stomach walls and safeguard it from acid damages? While pickles may be associated with heartburn caused by increasing stomach acidity, it is anything but that, due to the vinegar content present in the pickled ingredient.
To Pickle or Not to Pickle
That is the pickle, I mean, question.
Though with all the great benefits and the indulgent aspect of pickles, we cannot deny that they are high in sodium. This is caused by the process of immersing ingredients in the high salt content of brine. A diet loaded with sodium would lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. You would not want that for sure! The solution? Keep an eye on your daily intake, or start pickling your own at home.
It may be tough to walk away from a delicious plate of kimchi or sauerkraut. But if you consume them in large quantities, pickles may actually do you more harm than good.