Is Eating Pickles Daily Good for Your Health?

News18
·4-min read

Ask any Indian from any part of the country (or the world for that matter) if their meals are complete without at least a smidgen of a pickle (or achaar or pachadi) and the instant answer is likely to be a big no. Pickling is an ancient method of food preservation that has been passed down the generations and is an integral part of the Indian food culture.

In fact, most food cultures across the world have some history of pickling surplus crops and produce so that they can consume those foods even when they are not in season or easily available. Keeping the pickle culture going also means reducing food waste, which is something that the world needs right now.

In India, you’re likely to find a wide variety of pickles from every region, from the mango and lime pickles of North and West India to the meat and fish pickles of the Northeastern and Southern Indian states. But apart from being a side dish that our Indian taste buds cannot do without, do pickles have any health benefits? And even though many people eat pickles every day, should you be following this practice? Here’s what you need to know.

The delicious benefits of eating pickles

A study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology in 2018 says that while the principle objective of pickling is to delay the spoilage and contamination of food by natural microflora, the addition of spices, salt, vinegar, oil and other forms of acid enhance both the flavour and nutritive value of said pickles.

The study mentions how the traditional practice of pickling involves the fermentation of fruits, vegetables and meat - which promotes the growth of lactic acid, citric acid and acetic acid in the pickles. These acids are known to enrich and strengthen the healthy microbes in your gut. This means that eating traditionally fermented pickles can boost digestion, aid metabolism and even help control cholesterol levels.

What’s more, the addition of spices also enhances the micronutrient and antioxidant properties of pickles, making them nutrient-dense and effective even in small amounts. Studies not only indicate that eating pickles can give your immune system a boost but also helps fight free radical damage. All of this makes eating pickles seem like one of the healthier dietary practices out there.

Eating your way into a pickle

However, studies also indicate that eating pickles can have a number of side effects that are anything but good for your health. A study published in 2018 in the journal Clinical Nutrition Research suggests that although traditionally pickled vegetables and fruits are said to be low in calories, they may promote unhealthy eating habits. The study found that people who ate pickles every day tended to have boosted appetites for highly palatable foods, especially unhealthy ones.

This not only increased their overall consumption of food but also ensured that these foods were made of tasty yet unhealthy combinations of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. This increased food intake not only led to weight gain and obesity among the participants but also increased their risks of hypertension because the process of pickling enhances the sodium content of pickled products and that’s a key risk factor for high blood pressure.

There is therefore quite an unhealthy twist to the modern pickle story and limiting its consumption may be much better for your health, especially if you also have other risk factors for hypertension and heart diseases. It’s also important to note that many commercially manufactured pickle brands are in fact too spicy and oily and also contain artificial preservatives, which negates the gastrointestinal benefits of eating pickles and doesn’t aid the immune system much either.

So, if you must get a taste of pickle, opt for those that are homemade, natural and contain balanced amounts of salt and spices. Even then, go for restrained consumption instead of overindulgence to maintain your health.

For more information, read our article on Probiotics.

Health articles on News18 are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.