Pickles are one of the most polarizing foods out there. Some people love them and add them to every meal, while others can’t even bear the smell of vinegar, much less the taste!
If you’re on the fence about pickles or want to convince someone else to give them a try, this pickle debate article will break down all the facts you need to know about this classic snack food to decide whether or not you’ll be reaching for the pickle jar any time soon.
What are Pickles and How are They Prepared?
Pickles are cucumbers that have been preserved in vinegar and water. They are typically made with dill, garlic, and other spices, and they can range from sweet to sour in flavor.
To prepare pickles;
- The cucumbers are first washed and then soaked in a brine solution (salt water).
- They are then placed in jars or other containers along with vinegar, spices, and sometimes sugar.
- The pickles are then sealed and left to ferment for several weeks before being ready to eat.
- Fermentation is what gives pickles their distinctive tangy flavor. During fermentation, bacteria convert the sugars in the cucumbers into lactic acid, which acts as a natural preservative. This process also produces carbon dioxide gas, making the pickles slightly fizzy.
Pickles can be eaten on their own or used as a condiment or ingredient in recipes. For example, they are often added to sandwiches, salads, burgers, and pizzas.
The Long Salty History of Pickles
Pickling was initially developed as a method of preserving food, and it is thought that the first pickles were made in China over 2,000 years ago.
The cucumbers were soaked in a brine solution and then sealed in jars or earthenware pots. The pickling process prevented the cucumbers from spoiling and allowed them to be stored for long periods.
Eventually, the practice of pickling spread to other parts of the world, including Europe and India.
In India, pickles are often made with mangoes and other fruits and cucumbers. In America, the most popular type of pickle is the dill pickle, which is typically made with cucumbers that have been soaked in vinegar and dill seed.
Today, pickles are enjoyed all over the world as a tasty condiment or snack food.
Pickles All Around the World
Pickles are a cherished tradition in many cuisines, and there are countless varieties to choose from. In India, pickled vegetables are called achar, and they often include spices like mustard seeds, turmeric, and fenugreek.
In the Middle East, cucumbers are commonly pickled in a mixture of vinegar, water, and salt. Meanwhile, in the United States, dill pickles are a staple of deli sandwiches. The fermentation process not only enhances flavor but also creates beneficial probiotics that can aid digestion.
Different Types of Pickles
Pickles come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. The most common type of pickle is the cucumber pickle, but other popular varieties include watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew.
- Watermelon pickles are made from the rind of the watermelon and are usually preserved in sugar and vinegar. They are frequently used as a topping for burgers and sandwiches.
- Cantaloupe pickles are another variety of fruit pickles. Cantaloupe pickles are made from the flesh of the cantaloupe and often have a sweet and spicy flavor.
- Honeydew pickles are made from the green flesh of the honeydew melon and have a milder flavor than other types of pickles.
What Is the PH Level of Pickles and are They Acidic?
Most people are familiar with the tangy, acidic taste of pickles. But what many people don’t know is that pickles are actually quite low on the pH scale, with a level of around 2.5 to 3.5 (1). This means that pickles are technically classified as ‘acidic,’ although they are not as acidic as other foods such as lemons or vinegar.
Factors That Contribute to the Acidity of Pickles
There are a few other factors that contribute to the overall acidity of pickles.
- Adding salt can make pickles more acidic, as can adding other spices such as mustard seed or cloves.
- The type of vinegar used is usually the biggest factor in determining the final pH of pickled cucumbers.
- If you are looking for a more acidic pickle, look for one made with distilled or white vinegar. Conversely, if you want a less acidic pickle, choose one made with cider vinegar or red wine vinegar.
Some Health Benefits of Pickles
In addition to being delicious, pickles offer several health benefits.
1. Pickles Are Low in Calories and Fat
A one-ounce serving of pickles contains only three calories and no fat.
2. The Vinegar in Pickles Can Help to Lower Blood Pressure
Vinegar is known to be a source of acetic acid, which has been shown to lower blood pressure (4). In one study, participants who consumed vinegar every day for eight weeks significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Vinegar can be an extremely valuable incorporation into your daily diet if you’re looking to lower your blood pressure.
Pickles are an amazing source of vitamin K and sodium. Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and bone health, while sodium helps regulate blood pressure and fluid balance (5).
3. The Probiotics in Pickles Can Help Improve Digestion
Any person who has ever experience the pain of an upset stomach knows that a variety of probiotics, also known as “good” bacteria, can improve digestion. These beneficial organisms are found in a variety of fermented foods, including pickles.
When cucumbers are fermented in brine or salty water, they provide the perfect environment for probiotic bacteria to thrive.
In addition to improving digestion, these bacteria can also help to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. As a result, eating pickled cucumbers regularly can have a positive impact on gut health.
4. The Sodium in Pickles Can Help to Regulate Blood Sugar Level
For people with diabetes, regulating blood sugar levels is essential to maintaining their health. While there are many medications available to help control blood sugar, making diet and lifestyle changes can also be helpful.
In addition, the vinegar in pickles can help slow sugar absorption into the bloodstream. As a result, pickles may be a helpful addition to the diet for people with diabetes.
5. The Potassium in Pickles Can Help to Prevent Muscle Cramps
Most people are familiar with pickles’ salty, sour taste, but they may not know that these cucumber-based snacks can also be a great source of potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral that helps maintain fluid levels in the body and plays a role in muscle function (6).
Therefore, insufficiency of potassium can lead to muscle cramps. Fortunately, eaten in moderation, pickles can help to prevent muscle cramps by providing the body with the potassium it needs.
Some Disadvantages of Pickles
While pickles may be a delicious and convenient snack, there are some health disadvantages to consider before reaching for a jar.
1. Indigestion and Heartburn
While pickles are a delicious and refreshing snack, they can also cause indigestion for some people. Pickles are high in vinegar, which can be difficult for the stomach to break down. In addition, pickles are often very salty, leading to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
Some people may also be sensitive to the spices used to flavor pickles, such as dill or mustard seed. As a result, these individuals may experience heartburn or other symptoms of indigestion after eating pickles.
2. Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is a common but often overlooked problem. Each year, millions of people suffer from food poisoning, and many end up in the hospital or even die. Pickles are a fairly common source of food poisoning.
Although pickles are a staple of many diets, they can be dangerous if not properly cooked. Not properly cooked pickles may hold toxic bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
Feeling sick, throwing up, diarrhea, and high body temperature are all signs of food poisoning. If you notice any such symptoms after eating pickles, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately.
3. Oral Health
While many people enjoy the tangy taste of pickles, they may not be aware of the potential effects on oral health. The vinegar in pickles is acidic; over time, this acid can break down tooth enamel (7).
In addition, the high sodium content of pickles can also lead to dehydration, making the mouth more susceptible to infections.
For these reasons, it is crucial to enjoy pickles in moderation and take steps to protect oral health, such as brushing and flossing regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is Pickle Juice Good for Acid Reflux?
Pickle juice is a natural remedy that is a widely recommended option for acid reflux. Pickle juice contains vinegar, which can help to neutralize stomach acid (8). In addition, the high sodium content of pickle juice can help to expel gas from the stomach.
2. Can I Have Pickles Daily?
The answer is yes and no. Yes, you can technically have pickles every day. However, you probably shouldn’t. Pickles are high in sodium and calories, leading to weight gain and high blood pressure.
Additionally, the vinegar in pickles can be hard on your stomach if you eat too many of them. So, while you can have pickles every day, it’s probably best to limit yourself to a few per week.
Enjoy them in moderation, and your body will thank you!
3. Are Cucumbers Acidic in Nature?
Cucumbers are typically considered a refreshing and cooling food but are pretty acidic, with a pH of around 5.0.
So, are pickles acidic?
The answer is both yes and no. While the vinegar used in pickling gives them their tart flavor, it doesn’t make them overly acidic. In fact, many vegetables used to make pickles have a lower pH than vinegar.
This means that they can help restore balance to your gut microbiome and may even offer some health benefits.
If you’re on the lookout for an appetizing and fun way to add more probiotics to your diet, give pickles a try!
Further reading: Is mustard acidic?