Former Roman consul and military general Julius Caesar is believed to have fed them to his troops to boost their vigour, while Cleopatra is said to have favoured them as a beauty aid.
Pickles have long been an ancient favourite and are considered a health food for centuries. It is not uncommon to assume that the pickles slipped into your sandwich or burger are merely another condiment to enhance the flavour of your foot-long Italian sub. However, contrary to popular belief, pickles offer more than just zesty flavour — contemporary studies have revealed that fermented foods such as pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut are chock-full of health-promoting gut probiotics. Pickles are filled with healthful antioxidants and may also help with weight loss, enhance athletic performance, regulate blood sugar levels and have the potential to combat certain types of cancer.
Yes, despite the high sodium content, which is unhealthy for the body if taken in large amounts, the health benefits of pickles are real.
Do our pickles tickle your fancy yet? Read on to decide whether to chew or spew on the next dill you see!
What are Pickles?
Pickles are low in calories, rich in nutrients and are an exceptional food source to the good bacteria that dwell in your stomach, hence claiming the ‘probiotic food’ title. What most people fail to realise, however, is that pickles essentially denote the method of preservation for a variety of fruits and vegetables. When we mention pickles, the ingredient in question is typically a cucumber, although it is not unusual for mangoes, rambutans and many other food items to be pickled as well.
Each pickle contains varying amounts sodium, calories and fats, so make a habit to examine the nutrition facts on the label to better moderate yourself when indulging in this half-sour, half-salty green-banded ‘armadillo’. Generally, a single cucumber pickle may contain up to 35 calories with minimal fat, but expends a third of your daily recommended sodium intake.
Rich Source of Antioxidants
While there are numerous vitamins and bioactive compounds in certain fruits and vegetables that provide antioxidant benefits, most of these nutrients are lost in conventional food preparation, as many of these nourishing compounds are temperature-sensitive — they neutralise or break down under the influence of high heat.
The pickling process prevents this breakdown of nutrients, since the main preserved ingredient is placed into the solution mixture raw and uncooked. This allows the particular fruit or vegetable to retain their complete antioxidant profile. Consuming an ample amount of antioxidants minimises the damage from free radicals, maintains your well-being and even revitalises dull-looking skin.
Aids Weight Loss
Pickles present themselves as a delightful alternative to getting more fruits or vegetables in your diet, if you are bored of the same predictable methods of preparation. For instance, cucumber pickles are rich in water content, low in calories and immensely filling, making them an ideal snack option when our cravings or hunger pangs strike. Having said that, be mindful not to over-soak them with sodium or you may find yourself having to deal with unsightly water retention in certain body parts.
Decreases Risk of Spleen Cancer
Although some may perceive it as an ineffectual organ that serves no tangible function, the spleen actually has an important role to play in your immunity. The spleen is made up of a reservoir of good bacterial colonies and immune cells, both of which support the health of your intestines and reduce the risk of contracting infections. Pickles are a good source of probiotic bacteria and prebiotic fibre that aid in regulating the spleen’s health. Weak cultures of probiotic bacteria have been linked to an amplified risk of spleen cancer.
Pickles make perfect foods for diabetics, due to their low-calorie and low-carbohydrate nature. On top of that, the acetic acid, combined with the fruits or vegetables, is believed to have the potential to decrease haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels, which translates into better blood sugar control. HbA1C is basically an indicator of long-term blood sugar control — the lower the number, the better your glucose control.
Promotes Liver Health
While there are numerous variations of pickles that possess the ability to aid in the removal of toxins from the bloodstream by improving the efficiency of the liver, the pickled gooseberry is favoured in this department, as it is able to reset hepatotoxicity. This trait of pickled gooseberry may prove valuable in helping alcoholics evade liver damage, while going through a rehabilitation plan.
To Pickle or Not to Pickle
Pickles are actually a health food with excellent benefits, although some consider them as an indulgence. However, be mindful of its high sodium content — it can be detrimental to your health if consumed in large amounts.
Therefore, do not emulate a certain Peter Piper — the one who picked a peck of pickled peppers — who got a tad too obsessive about pickles, since an entire peck is the equivalent of two gallons. While Peter lost his, a passionate you might just trickle your fingers down an entire peck while on Netflix.