Originally published by PINKVILLA on August 10, 2023
Written by Varsha Patnaik
Check out the health benefits of dill pickles – a flavorful and nutrient-rich food that supports digestion, provides antioxidants, promoting overall well-being.
Photo by PINKVILLA
Dill pickles are tangy and crunchy condiments that offer a plethora of benefits beyond their mouthwatering flavor. We will discuss the numerous health benefits of dill pickles in depth that might surprise you. These preserved cucumbers are packed with essential nutrients, probiotics, and antioxidants, and have attracted the attention of nutritionists and health enthusiasts all around the world to better understand their contribution to human health.
Pickling is a century-old method of preserving the harvests long after the season had passed. Traditionally they are preserved in a brine of vinegar, dill, garlic, and other spices which not only add a burst of flavor but also benefit health and wellbeing. However, it should be noted that dill pickles made with natural fermentation are more beneficial than store-bought pickles made with added preservatives. So let us talk about the benefits you can gain from the nutrient content and fermentation process of munching on a tasty dill pickle.
What Are Dill Pickles?
Traditional dill pickles are cucumbers that have been preserved through the process of pickling. The pickling process involves soaking cucumbers in a solution of vinegar or brine, along with various spices and seasonings. The key ingredient that gives dill pickles their distinctive flavor is dill weed, which imparts a slightly tangy and aromatic taste to the pickles.
Dill pickles can be made using different methods, such as:
Fermented Dill Pickles:
Fermented Dill Pickles:
These pickles are made by allowing the cucumbers to ferment naturally. During fermentation, beneficial bacteria break down the natural sugars in the cucumbers, producing lactic acid. This process gives fermented dill pickles their characteristic sour taste and offers a rich source of probiotics.
Also known as refrigerator pickles, these are made by soaking cucumbers in a vinegar-based brine and refrigerating them for a short period. Quick pickles do not undergo the fermentation process and are ready to eat after a few hours or overnight.
Olives Dill Pickles:
Olives Dill Pickles:
Olives are small, oval-shaped fruits that grow on olive trees. They have a distinct taste and are often used in various culinary applications. When they are added along with cucumbers to be preserved either by fermenting or soaked in preservatives such as vinegar or brine, they are called olive dill pickles. You can enjoy this as a snack, served alongside sandwiches, or use them to add a tangy taste to various dishes.
What are the health benefits of dill pickles?
1. Boosts Gut Health:
Dill pickles that are made from the fermentation process are packed with probiotic bacteria. These healthy bacteria which are usually present in all fermented foods provide numerous benefits to your gut health ranging from maintaining the right balance of digestive enzymes, boosting immunity, and preventing pathogenic or bad bacteria from flourishing in your gut. They protect your gut against pathogenic bacteria by producing bacteriocidal substances and competing for adherence in the gut (1).
2. Provides Antioxidant Properties:
Dill pickle is a good source of Vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, folate, beta-carotene, and phosphorus impart antioxidant properties to the dill pickles. These antioxidants are proven to fight free radical damage caused to the cells, preventing cell damage and early death. Therefore prolonged consumption of these may result in delayed aging and a lower risk of cancers, chronic disease, and age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases (2).
3. Strengthens Immunity:
Cucumbers are known to be rich in an antioxidant called beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A by our body (3). Carotene is a powerful compound that fights free radical damage caused to your cells, thus helping to improve heart health, stroke, cancer, respiratory diseases, and other age-related conditions (4).
4. Eases Muscle Cramps:
There are scientific pieces of evidence stating that consuming pickle brine might aid in alleviating muscle cramps. One of the factors that lead to muscle cramps is dehydration which is the resultant effect of an imbalance in electrolyte levels within the body. The high sodium and potassium concentration present in pickle brine may potentially help in rebalancing electrolytes and enhancing overall hydration. Nonetheless, there is limited research available on this topic (5).
5. Manage Insulin Resistance:
Consumption of pickle and pickle juices on a daily basis has been directly associated with lower insulin resistance. The main reason behind this is said to be the balance of normal gut microbiomes brought about by the probiotic organisms. This is because constant changes in gut microorganism colonies increase diabetes risk by enhancing insulin resistance and thus maintaining a healthy blood sugar level (6).
6. Help in Weight Management:
The main ingredient of dill pickles is cucumber – an extremely hydrating and low-calorie food. Therefore it offers a prolonged feeling of fullness (7). Moreover, pickles that are preserved in vinegar may help in healthy weight management as vinegar is known to have a direct correlation with the reduction of body fat mass. It reduces the body’s ability to absorb carbohydrates and stabilizes insulin spikes, both of which are related to offering a feeling of fullness to the body (8).
7. May Lower Cholesterol Levels:
Vinegar has shown positive results in reducing cholesterol content (8). Moreover, the probiotic bacteria in the fermented pickles are also responsible for reducing the bad cholesterol (LDL) in our bloodstream (1).
8. Efficient Wound Healing:
Pickles are a rich source of Vitamin K which makes up for 20% of the daily recommended. Vitamin K is an important nutrient required for the effective stimulation of the blood clotting process. Therefore, consuming the recommended amount of Vitamin K ensures efficient wound healing in people (9).
Side Effects of Dill Pickles
While dill pickles can offer some health benefits when consumed in moderation, there are also potential ill effects associated with their consumption, particularly if consumed excessively or by certain individuals:
1. High Salt Content:
Dill pickles are typically high in salt found as sodium due to the brine solution used in their preparation. Excessive salt intake can lead to increased blood pressure, and water retention, and potentially exacerbate cardiovascular issues, especially in individuals with hypertension or those at risk of heart-related conditions. The high sodium content may also put patients suffering from chronic kidney disorders or liver issues in danger too as the electrolyte imbalance may put a lot of stress on these organs (10).
2. Calcium Erosion:
The acidic nature of pickles, especially the vinegar used in commercial varieties, can erode tooth enamel over time if consumed frequently or in large quantities. This can lead to dental sensitivity and other oral health problems (11). Moreover, an excessive amount of vinegar or acetic acid in cases where the body is not getting enough calcium may even lead to the leaching of bone structure and deteriorate bone health. This may lead to other bone-related issues such as osteoporosis (12).
3. Gastric Issues:
While fermented pickles can provide probiotics and support gut health, some commercial pickles which are made using vinegar lack these beneficial bacteria. Therefore, overconsumption of pickles lacking probiotics may alter the acidity in your digestive tract which in turn may lead to acidity and other gastric issues. Pickles have been also associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer in people (13).
There are several potential health benefits of dill pickles when consumed in moderation. They are low in calories and a good source of hydration, provide probiotics that promote a healthy gut and digestive system and contain antioxidants from the dill, which can help combat harmful free radicals in the body. However, it’s important to be cautious of their high sodium content, especially for individuals with hypertension or those on a low-sodium diet. To maximize the health benefits, it’s best to opt for natural and low-sodium varieties and incorporate dill pickles as per the daily allowance into your balanced and healthy diet. As research on this topic is limited, further studies may be needed to better understand the full range of health benefits that dill pickles can provide.