What is good about pickled foods?
Pickles and pickled foods can have benefits, especially if you choose them instead of less-healthy foods. Most pickled vegetables are low in calories and relatively filling, especially when compared to alternatives such as high-carb snack foods. For example, a cup of dill pickle slices has 40 calories and weighs about 8 ounces, while a cup of potato chips has about 160 calories and weighs only about 1 ounce.
A benefit of many fermented foods is that they can contain probiotics, or gut bacteria that may have health benefits. People who eat more kimchi, a type of fermented Korean food that may contain cabbage, radish, and other vegetables, as well as garlic and spicy peppers, may have improved immune function and brain health. A clinical trial found that eating kimchi led to lower fasting blood sugar, lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, and lower total cholesterol.
Why do “pickles” not count as a Lark superfood?
Sodium is the first concern that comes to mind. Pickling involves soaking foods in a brine made with a lot of salt. A single dill pickle has about 800 mg of sodium, or one-half to one-third of the daily maximum for most people. A high-salt diet is associated with hypertension and heart disease.
While pickles are good if you choose them instead of less-healthy foods, they are less helpful if they are in place of healthier foods. For example, fresh cucumbers, cauliflower, carrots, and other vegetables are higher in potassium and other nutrients than pickled versions.
Eating high-salt foods, such as pickles, is associated with an increased risk for stomach cancer. Another concern is the acid in pickled foods. This can wear away at tooth enamel and increase risk for caries.
Pickles and pickled foods
Lark counts pickled and fermented foods as “pickles.”
- Cucumber pickles, such as whole dill pickles, pickle spears and slices, and gherkins
- Pickled turnips
- Pickled vegetables from East Asia, such as daikon, carrot, ginger, onion, cabbage
- Pickled limes, mangos
- Giardiniera, or a mix of pickled cauliflower, bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and onions.