Pickles get their name from the process of pickling, which is when food is preserved in an acidic or salty brine solution. The idea behind pickling is the same as other forms of food preservation — to keep food from spoiling over time. But that’s not the only reason why people pickle.
The tangy, sour taste of pickles makes them a popular snack choice for people with a sour tooth. So when considering which snacks to carry along with you in your weight loss journey, you may wonder whether pickles are a good choice.
The answer, like most questions related to nutrition, is that it depends. Below, we’ve broken down the facts on pickles and weight loss to help you make a better decision about whether or not to add these tangy, crunchy snacks to your arsenal.
Should You Snack While Trying to Lose Weight?
First things first: snacking while trying to slim down isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be helpful if done correctly.
Research shows that snacking can be beneficial for weight loss when it helps keep your calorie intake in check and prevents excessive hunger, which can lead to overeating at mealtimes (14).
That said, snacking can also backfire if you reach for unhealthy options that are high in calories or sugar — like cookies or chips. So when you’re looking for a snack, your best bet is to go for a healthy option that will help you stay on track with your weight loss goals.
What Makes a Good Snack for Weight Loss?
We won’t say that weight loss is easy, but it sure is simple. Simple in the sense that it comes down to a basic yet important equation: burn more calories than you consume.
Weight loss diets, workout challenges, and the plethora of products that promise a trimmer waistline are all selling one thing — calorie control.
A good snack for weight loss should help you achieve this goal in several ways (some snacks might even do all of the following):
- Supply you with nutrients for energy and fullness
- Keep your blood sugar level, which helps you stay on track with your diet
- Help you meet your daily fiber needs
- Give your taste buds something to look forward to
- Be low in calories
- Satisfy your hunger, at least until your next meal
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Are Pickles a Good Snack for Weight Loss?
Yes and No. Consider the factors below before deciding whether or not pickles are a good snack for weight loss.
What’s in Your Pickle?
The most common type of pickle is a cucumber that has been soaked in brine solution and can be flavored with various herbs and spices. That’s what comes to mind when most people think of a pickle.
But there are other types as well, since all sorts of fruits and vegetables can be pickled. For example, you might come across pickled beets, onions, apples or even carrots.
The calorie content of pickles will vary depending on the type you choose. Generally speaking, cucumber pickles are low in calories — about 14 calories per 100g — but other types may be higher depending on the ingredients used (7).
A sweet and sour mango pickle, for example, can contain up to 56 calories per tablespoon. While this may still be an acceptable indulgence while dieting, it’s obviously much higher than the traditional cucumber pickle (6).
Knowing what’s in your pickle is important for keeping track of your daily calorie intake.
How Much Sodium is in Your Pickle?
Something else to keep in mind when considering pickles as a snack is the sodium content. Research into sodium intake and its effects on health is ongoing, but it’s generally accepted that consuming too much can increase your risk of high blood pressure (12).
Furthermore, eating high-sodium foods can make you feel bloated and contribute to water retention (9). Water weight isn’t actual fat, but it can make you feel uncomfortable and affect your self-confidence.
Your motivation to stay on track with your weight loss goals may suffer as a result.
Sodium content can vary greatly from one pickle to the next, so it’s important to read nutrition labels carefully — or better yet, make your own pickles at home. Even when buying store-bought pickles, you should opt for the low-sodium option if possible.
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How Are You Going to Eat Your Pickle?
Finally, there are other factors that you should consider when deciding whether pickles are a good snack for weight loss or not. How you eat your pickle can have an effect on its calorie value, so bear that in mind.
Eating a few slices from the jar is one thing, but if you’re making a sandwich then you should factor in the additional calories that come from the bread or other ingredients.
Satiety is a huge factor when it comes to weight loss, so choosing snacks that will leave you feeling satisfied is important. Eating a pickle alone may not be enough to curb your hunger, so you might need to pair it with a few other low-calorie foods.
Here are some ideas to enjoy the crunch of a pickle while still keeping your calorie intake in check:
- Eat a few slices with some boiled eggs or cottage cheese
- Put some slices in a salad
- Use pickles as crudités for dipping into hummus or Greek yogurt dip
- Make a pickle-stuffed low-carb sandwich with some lean protein and vegetables
Use pickles to add flavor to diet-friendly meals without adding too many extra calories.
What it boils down to is that pickles can be a part of a weight loss diet — as long as you make the right choices. Choose low-calorie, low-sodium pickles and be mindful of how you eat them. If done correctly, they can be an enjoyable snack that gives your weight loss plan an extra crunch.
The Benefits of Pickles for Weight Loss
Pickles can be an excellent addition to a weight-loss diet. Here are 6 health benefits of eating pickles for weight loss:
Calorie consumption is essential for successful weight loss. Fortunately, pickles are one of the lowest-calorie foods available. In fact, they often feature on zero-calorie food lists because the traditional brining process used to make pickles uses very few calories.
Even non-traditional pickles, such as those made with added sugar and spices, contain very few calories compared to other snacks. Therefore, pickles are an excellent choice for those looking to reduce their calorie intake while still enjoying a tasty snack.
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High Fiber Content
Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet and can help with weight loss in two ways; it helps to keep you fuller for longer, and it can also help to maintain a healthy digestive system.
Research has shown that a healthy gut microbiota influences your body’s ability to absorb and digest food efficiently, which in turn can lead to better weight management (5). Pickles are a great source of fiber and provide approximately 2 grams of fiber for every one-half cup serving.
Appetite-Suppression from Vinegar
Brine that is used to pickle cucumbers and other vegetables contains vinegar. Vinegar is known for its appetite-suppressing qualities, which can be helpful in managing your weight (15).
Vinegar is also a great source of acetic acid, which has been linked to weight loss. Acetic acid helps to reduce the activity of some enzymes that are responsible for storing fat, thereby helping to speed up the body’s metabolism (15).
Additionally, research has shown that acetic acid can help to reduce fat accumulation in the abdominal area, which is one of the most difficult areas to target when trying to lose weight (1).
Most of this research has been conducted on rats, so further research is needed to determine whether the same benefits are seen in humans.
Lacto-fermented pickles, such as dill pickles, are packed with probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help to maintain a balanced gut microbiota, which is important for digestive health (8).
Research has suggested that probiotics also provide benefits when it comes to weight loss. For instance, research has shown that certain probiotics can help to reduce fat accumulation in the body and may even help to improve insulin sensitivity (5).
Other Benefits of Pickles
In addition to the weight loss benefits, there are several other potential health benefits of eating pickles. These include:
Improved Heart Health
Pickles are good for your heart in many ways. They (17):
- Contain beta-carotene, which is linked to a reduced risk of stroke
- Are low in fat, sodium and cholesterol
- Contain potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure
- Are a good source of probiotics, which are beneficial for overall heart health
- Have fiber, which is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease
Improved Digestive Health
Pickles can help to promote digestive health because they:
- Are a good source of fiber, which helps to keep your digestive system regular (3)
- Contain probiotics, which help to maintain a healthy gut microbiota (8)
- Are made with vinegar, which has been linked to improved digestion (15)
- Have a high water content, which helps to keep your digestive system hydrated
Reduced Damage-Causing Free Radicals
Pickles are a good source of antioxidants, which help to combat the damaging effects of free radicals in your body (2).
Antioxidants can help to reduce inflammation in the body, which is linked to many chronic diseases. Furthermore, antioxidants can help to improve skin health and reduce the risk of certain types of cancer (2).
Boosted Immune System
Pickles are also a good source of vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals that can help to boost your immune system.
Vitamin C is known for its ability to help your body fight off infections and improve overall health (16). Additionally, certain minerals such as zinc can also help to strengthen the immune system (18).
Soothe Muscle Cramps
Pickle juice has been well-known for centuries as a remedy to soothe muscle cramps.
Research has shown that pickle juice can help reduce the duration and intensity of muscle cramps when consumed shortly after the onset of a cramp (10).
The exact mechanism behind this is still not clear, but it is thought to be related to the electrolytes and other compounds found in pickle juice.
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Although there are many potential benefits to eating pickles, it is important to note that there are also some risks associated with consuming them.
May Contribute to High Blood Pressure
Pickles can be high in sodium, which could contribute to high blood pressure if consumed in large amounts. Research shows that reducing sodium intake is associated with lower blood pressure, so it is important to keep this in mind when consuming pickles (12).
May Cause an Upset Stomach
Pickles are acidic, which can cause an upset stomach in some people. People who have sensitive stomachs should be careful when consuming pickles and start with small amounts. Conditions such as acid reflux may be triggered by pickles and their high acidity (4).
May Stress the Liver and Kidney
Pickles are high in sodium and can be quite acidic, which can put stress on the liver and kidneys (11). These organs are responsible for filtering out excess sodium and acid from the body. It is important to avoid eating pickles in large amounts to reduce the risk of stressing these organs.
May Increase the Risk of Osteoporosis
Pickles are high in sodium, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Sodium can cause calcium to be excreted from the body, which can lead to weakened bones. This is especially true for people who are already at a higher risk for this condition, such as those who are postmenopausal or have inadequate calcium intake (13).
Food Poisoning Risk
Pickles are often made and stored at room temperature, which can increase the risk of food poisoning if consumed after their expiration date.
It is important to check the label for expiration dates when purchasing and consuming pickles, and always discard them if they are past their expiration date.
Some signs that pickles may have gone bad include off-odors and mold growth. If you notice either of these signs, it is best to discard the pickles.
The Bottom Line
Pickles are an ideal weight loss snack because they are low in calories and high in fiber. Additionally, they provide a number of health benefits such as improved digestion, reduced damage-causing free radicals, and boosted immune system.
However, it is important to remember that pickles can contribute to high blood pressure, stress the liver and kidney, and increase the risk of food poisoning if not consumed correctly. Therefore, it is important to consume pickles in moderation and always check for expiration dates.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Acetic Acid Upregulates the Expression of Genes for Fatty Acid Oxidation Enzymes in Liver To Suppress Body Fat Accumulation (2009, acs.org)
- Antioxidants (n.d., harvard.edu)
- Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet (2022, mayoclinic.org)
- Dietary Intake in Relation to the Risk of Reflux Disease: A Systematic Review (2021, nih.gov)
- Effects of Gut Microbes on Nutrient Absorption and Energy Regulation (2013, nih.gov)
- Gor Keri Pickle, Sweet and Spicy Mango Pickle (n.d., nutriotionix.com)
- Pickles, cucumber, dill or kosher dill (2019, usda.gov)
- Probiotics Regulate Gut Microbiota: An Effective Method to Improve Immunity (2021, nih.gov)
- Problems with bloating? Watch your sodium intake (2019, harvard.edu)
- Reflex inhibition of electrically induced muscle cramps in hypohydrated humans (2010, pubmed.gov)
- Sodium Intake and Chronic Kidney Disease (2020, nih.gov)
- Sodium Intake and Hypertension (2019, nih.gov)
- The association between dietary sodium intake and osteoporosis (2022, nature.com)
- The Science of Snacking (2021, harvard.edu)
- Vinegar Intake Reduces Body Weight, Body Fat Mass, and Serum Triglyceride Levels in Obese Japanese Subjects (2014, tandfonline.com)
- Vitamin C and Immune Function (2017, nih.gov)
- What Pickles Can Do for Your Health (2021, webmd.com)
- Zinc (2020, mayoclinic.org)