Are pickles healthy? Benefits and Side effects

Are pickles healthy?
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Pickle benefits: Quick look

  • Rich source of nutrients and possible antioxidants that protect from various diseases.
  • Lactic acid bacteria in pickles probably improve intestinal health.
  • Produce phenyllactic acid which may inhibit the growth of bad bacteria.
  • May reduce the risk of kidney damage and high uric acid levels.
  • A moderate amount of pickle possibly helps to lose weight and reduce blood pressure.

Pickle is processed fruits and vegetables that have an extended shelf life. It is preserved by natural salt vinegar or oil by microorganisms (lactobacilli) which convert the sugars into acid. Are pickles healthy, well it depends on what pickle you are eating and how much.

It enhances human nutrition by producing lactic acid, folic acid, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. These lactobacilli are important for the digestion of grains and vegetables and for maintaining intestinal health. Apart from this, they are considered as safe additives and Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) which boosts the human immune system. Due to its unique flavor, texture, and color as well as medicinal properties, one question comes to mind: Are pickles healthy? Here is a brief about the pickle, its health benefits, and its side effects. 

Pickle is available both in industrialized and homemade forms, containing less moisture and a high amount of protein, fat, and ash. There are different kinds of pickling vegetables; raw vegetables including carrot, onion, pepper, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, tomato, and cucumber. Fish, eggs, and meat are also used for storage in the form of pickles. Most pickles are eaten raw and are very often crisp in texture. It is often consumed as a side dish with the main meal or acts as a good appetizer and digestive agent. It not only improves flavor but also enhances the value of the meal and shows beneficial health effects (1).

Are pickles healthy? or Health benefits of pickles

Are pickles good?

Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of pickles and analyze whether are pickles healthy or not.

1. Presence of nutrients

Pickle contains a high amount of dietary fibers, proteins, vitamins, ascorbic acid, minerals (Cu and Fe), and benzoic acid. It contains a variety of ingredients such as salt, vinegar, spices viz. chili powder, turmeric powder, fenugreek seed, asafoetida, sugar, jaggery, and oil.

2. May have antioxidant properties

Pickles are made up of various colored fruits and vegetables that contain pigments such as anthocyanins, flavonoids, carotenoids, etc. These compounds are probably effective in removing harmful free radicals in the body produced by stresses and diseases and thus may show antioxidant activity (2).

3. Immunity booster

Lactic acid bacteria obtained from the pickle can produce a high amount of folate and vitamin B12. These compounds may boost the human immune system and protect it from various diseases (3).

4. Probiotics

Vegetable pickle produces some bacteria such as Lactobacillus (L.) plantarum, L. brevisL. pentosusL. caseiL. paracasei, and Leuconostoc mesenteroides. These bacteria neutralize harmful bacteria in the intestine and improve digestion (4).

5. Produce phenyllactic acid

Phenyllactic acid is a phenolic or organic acid widely existing in honey and lactic acid bacteria fermented food. This acid can show high antimicrobial activity and accumulate in the pickle for a long storage life (5).

6. May treat hyperuricemia

High uric acid levels can lead to several diseases including arthritis, thick and hard artery walls, heart, and brain disease. However, lactobacillus (Lactobacillus paracasei ) found in pickles possibly regulates intestinal function. Also, possibly reduces the uric acid level in the blood and reduces kidney injury thus keeping the kidney healthy (6).

7. May treat Obesity

Sichuan pickle is produced by the fermentation of Chinese cabbage and contains Lactobacillus fermentum. These bacteria increase energy consumption to prevent visceral and liver fat deposition. Thus maintaining body weight and keeping the body healthy (7).

8. Probably lower cholesterol levels

Lactic acid bacteria obtained from the pickle help to decrease cholesterol, triglyceride, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Also, may increase the level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in the blood and liver (8).

9. Possible antimicrobial properties

Pickle contains lactic acid bacteria such as Enterococcus faecalisLactobacillus plantarumPediococcus pentosaceusLeuconostoc mesenteroidesLactococcus lactis, and Enterococcus sp. These bacteria may fight against pathogenic bacteria like Bacillus cereusEscherichia coliStaphylococcus aureus, and Shigella dysenteriae thus showing antimicrobial activity (9).

10. May treat muscle cramps

Intake of pickle juice helps to treat skeletal muscle cramps however further study is needed to confirm the exact mechanism (10, 11).

Some athletic trainers claim 1-2 oz of pickle juice can alleviate exercise-associated muscle cramps however scientific research is lacking to prove this (12).

Side effect of pickles

Pickles are salty food, it should be noted that 6 g of salt equals about 2400 mg of sodium. Thus a high amount of salt may increase the risk of hypertension (14). Pickle also contains benzene however the level of benzene is below the World Health Organization regulatory limits (15).

1. The high amount increases the risk of weight gain and blood pressure

Daily intake of pickles may increase the body mass index, systolic, and diastolic blood pressure. Pickle is considered low-calorie, salty, and appetizing food.

However, higher pickle consumption has the highest intake of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and afterward total energy intake. Thus a high amount of pickle consumption may increase the risk of obesity and high blood pressure problems (16).

2. Pickles may contain mutagen

Mutagen is a physical and chemical agent that changes the DNA and even causes cancer. Japanese pickles contain a high amount of flavonols, quercetin, and rhamnetin which cause mutations (17).

Nitrite which is produced as a result of fermentation increases the formation of N-nitroso compounds, heterocyclic amines, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (18). These compounds may cause a high incidence of cancers  (19).

3. Increase the risk of colorectal cancer

Excessive intake of pickled vegetables (more than 3 times per week) at a higher amount increases the risk of cancer. It may cause the development of cancer in the bowel or rectum (parts of the large intestine) (20).

8. Probable presence of harmful bacteria

Most bacteria cannot grow well in acid fluids like pickle juice. However, home-fermented refrigerator pickle (dill pickles) produces Listeria monocytogenes that can cause the infection listeriosis. Because these items are not heated before consumption thus precautions should be needed before ingestion  (21).


Are pickles healthy or are they good for your health?

Yes, pickles are good for health because it is low low-calorie, appetizing, and salty foods. It increases energy intake by increasing appetite and increases food intake. Moreover, the pickle is full of nutrients and antioxidants with various health benefits.

Is it bad to eat pickles every day?

It is good to add pickles to your diet in a moderate amount but its consumption for the long term at a high dosage may cause some health problems. For more detail can read the article Are pickles bad for you?”

Are pickles good for weight loss?

Yes, a research study proved that the intake of pickles at a moderate level helps to treat obesity-related inflammation.

Which pickles are the healthiest?

Nowadays, the most popular fermented vegetables in Western countries are cucumber pickles. Soy sauce pickles, soybean paste pickles, and moromi pickles produce nonvolatile amines. This amine may be produced by microorganisms during the fermentation process and can cause toxicological effects. 

However, raw materials or vegetables of rice bran pickles, sake lees pickles, and malt pickles did not contain these amines. Thus the use of these pickles is good for health (22).