You likely weren’t thinking of your health when you placed a couple slices of pickles on your go-to turkey sandwich. These salty, briney condiments can take a sandwich from bland to bam—and it turns out, these pickled vegetables can also make you a little bit healthier, too.
No single food is an instant fix for your body, but pickled veggies can contribute to your overall health in the following ways.
1. Pickles boost flavor without adding a ton of calories.
There are many ways to add flavor to a sandwich, burger, or wrap. Popular options include bleu cheese dressing, ranch, BBQ sauce, melty cheddar cheese, and bacon. Although tasty, these options tend to be high in calories, saturated fat, and sugar.
The pickle has intense flavor, and for few calories: seven per slice, to be exact. They’re vegetables, after all, and the pickling process doesn’t alter the calorie content much.
2. Pickles are a fun way to sneak in your veggies.
If you struggle to meet your daily recommendation for fruits and vegetables—the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests four to five servings of each a day; most of us don’t get nearly enough—pickles can help supplement.
It standard pickles aren’t your thing, branch out: You can pickle radishes, cauliflower, green beans, onions, beets, cabbage, peppers, and more. If you have a more adventurous palate, you can also try pickled apples, plums, watermelon, and grapes.
Wanna shake up your snack routine? Pickled cauliflower makes a unique and tangy low-calorie snack, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Here are more low-calorie snacks you can try.
3. Pickles may provide gut-healthy probiotics.
The jury is still out on the exact role probiotics play in your gut health, but getting probiotics from food may help improve digestive function, especially for people with irritable bowel syndrome or other cranky-tummy issues.
But you should know: When it comes to their probiotic content, not all pickles are created equal. Traditional pickling, such as the methods used to make kimchi and sauerkraut, involves both pickling and fermenting the vegetables. Probiotic strains are formed during the fermentation process.
The type of pickles you buy at the supermarket—like Vlasic bread and butter pickles or relish—do not go through a fermentation process. Fermented vegetables have a very short shelf life, so these pickles skip that step so they can stay on store shelves longer.
In other words, you’ll reap more probiotic benefits from pickling and fermenting your own veggies at home. Here are other food sources of probiotics to try.
4. Pickled produce may retain its antioxidants.
Your pickled green beans may still have their vitamin A and other valuable nutrients. Antioxidants may help prevent cell damage and lower the risk of some diseases. The fresher the pickles, the better. Store-bought pickles may be heavily processed to allow longer shelf life, so they may lose their nutritional goodies along the way.
While pickled fruits and vegetables do offer benefits, enjoy these briney foods in moderation. Preserved foods like pickles tend to be high in sodium, which may negatively affect heart health when you consume too much. For example, one “spear” has about 90 milligrams of sodium.
Many organizations recommend consuming less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day; for people with known heart issues like high blood pressure, the sodium goal is much lower; less than 1,500 milligrams a day. Here are other health effects of a high-sodium diet.