Pickles: Crunchy cravings

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Pickles are a food that people either love or hate. Some can eat them straight out of the jar. We hear about pregnant women craving them. Besides their high sodium content, there are actually health benefits to eating these cucumbers.

Pickles contain antioxidants, the same type that are found in many fruits and vegetables. These help us fight free radicals, which are chemicals found in the body that are linked to both heart disease and cancer. In fact, pickling raw foods can help preserve their antioxidant power. Pickle juice has been used to aid muscle cramps. Studies have shown that 1/3 cup of pickle juice works better for muscle cramp relief than the same amount of water. The vinegar in pickles helps stop nerve signals that form muscle cramps. Pickle juice has also been used to help treat restless leg syndrome. Pickle juice has been shown to help reduce the twitching and jerks, and of course cramping.

This same vinegar in pickles also helps with digestion. Vinegar slows the growth of bacteria and when fermented foods such as pickles are left immersed long enough, they grow probiotic bacteria. Because pickles contain probiotics, they can also ward off yeast infections. Pickles promote the good bacteria for our gut. Because of this trait, pickles may help prevent spleen cancer. Pickles have also been linked to lowering blood sugar. Studies have shown that persons who consumed white bread, but consumed vinegar as well (such as pickles), experienced less blood sugar spikes. Pickles also contain Vitamin K. We need this vitamin to help prevent blood clotting and to help with wound healing. One cup of pickles contains the 1/3 the amount of daily recommended Vitamin K for women and 1/5 for men. Pickles are also high in Vitamin A. This helps the cells grow properly. One cup of pickles contains 10% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin A for women and about 7% for men. This Vitamin A is also good for our vision. For those pregnant women that crave pickles, this is because they help ease the symptoms of nausea.

The truth is that eating more than a cup per day of pickles is not recommended because of their high sodium content. They’re diet friendly because they only have about 7 to 10 calories per slice, however, the sodium can negate this once vegetable (cucumber). There are about 300 grams of sodium in the typical pickles slice, which is about 14% of the daily recommended intake. Some brands do carry lowered sodium options for those paying attention. Pickles are full of flavor, crunchy, and a great addition to so many dishes. The benefits are there, but like most foods we enjoy, there is always a catch to maintain portion control.

On pickles: biological and sociocultural links between fermented foods and the human gut microbiome | Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)

Frontiers | Pickles and ice cream! Food cravings in pregnancy: hypotheses, preliminary evidence, and directions for future research | Psychology (frontiersin.org)

Exploration of the diversity and associated health benefits of traditional pickles from the Himalayan and adjacent hilly regions of Indian subcontinent (nih.gov)

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Megan Johnson McCullough owns a fitness studio in Oceanside CA called Every BODY's Fit. She has an M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science, is a current candidate for her Doctorate in Health & Human Performance, and she's an NASM Master Trainer & Instructor. She's also a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, Wellness Coach, and AFAA Group Exercise Instructor.