Are Pickles Good For You?

Whether eaten as a side or added as a topping to a burger or sandwich, pickles pack a deliciously tangy punch with every bite. But are they actually good for you? That depends on how they're made (via Eat This, Not That). Pickles start out as cucumbers that are either fermented in brine or soaked in vinegar. "Pickles that are fermented pack a much greater nutritional punch, compared to pickles that are sitting in vinegar," Amy Spindel, a functional nutrition counselor and founder of Food with Thought, told Eat This, Not That.

That's because fermentation is a process that introduces healthy microbes and bacteria to your gut. This bacteria supports your gut microbiome, which affects your immune system and digestive health. Pickles that are soaked in vinegar, on the other hand, often contain artificial colors and preservatives like calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and sodium benzoate, which are not good for your overall health when consumed in excess.

Health benefits of fermented pickles

While vinegar pickles may not be so nutritious, their fermented counterparts are linked to a number of important health benefits. For instance, fermented pickles can help aid digestion (via Bustle). That's because the fermentation process introduces healthy bacteria, or probiotics, to your gut, which can improve digestion and boost your immune system. Fermented pickles can also help with muscle cramps. Studies have shown that drinking at least 1/3 of a cup of pickle juice can reduce cramps and relieve muscle soreness.

In addition, eating fermented pickles can help fight off disease. That's because they're high in antioxidants like vitamins C and E, which can help protect your cells from disease-carrying free radicals. The only caveat is that pickles can be high in sodium. Just one pickle can have more than 1,200 milligrams of sodium, which is more than half of the maximum daily recommended intake (via Eat This, Not That). If you have high blood pressure and need to watch your sodium intake, it might not be a good idea to add pickles to your daily diet.