You might be wondering how many pickled foods can there be in the world? You might be familiar with the traditional dill and cucumber versions but in reality, there is no limit on the number of foods and vegetables you can pickle.
Pickling helps bring out the inherent flavor profile of many vegetables and food and is an easy way to add something extra to your plain old sandwich or burger. Plus the vinegary brine helps preserve and add a lot of vitamins and minerals to your diet as well.
Scroll down and take a look to see more about pickling food and what benefits pickled food hold for you.
History Of Pickles
Pickles have been a source of tangy delight for many years now, they have made appearances in Shakespearean plays, the Bible and even in historical texts about Cleopatra. The first mention of pickles dates back to 2030 BC in India, where the cucumber was the first food to be pickled.
Did you know that cucumbers are native to India and were brought over to America by Christopher Columbus in the 15th century? Before that, there was a version of sweet pickles used by your ancestors made of vinegar, sugar and spiced syrup.
There is a history of pickled or fermented food in every country from the daikons and radishes of Japan to sauerkraut from Eastern Europe to pickled olives and peppers from the Middle East and of course kimchi from Korea.
Health Benefits Of Pickled Food
Simple to do at home and easy to transport, the world has been sharing pickles and pickling recipes since time immemorial. So here are some reasons you should give it a try too and join the grand pickling tradition!
Good For Your Digestion
The fermentation process of pickling leads to the development of a number of good bacteria and probiotics in the vegetable being pickled and in the pickle brine as well. These bacteria and probiotics are very important to maintain your intestinal flora which is a collection of bacteria and probiotics in your gut that help your digestive system.
Increases Your Immunity
Cucumber pickles are especially good for your health as they have a large number of antioxidants called beta-carotene. This antioxidant is used by your body to manufacture vitamin A and it helps lower your chances of getting or dying from diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases and many others.
Helps With Muscle Cramps
If you get muscle cramps after exercising or working out, then keep a jar of pickle juice handy! The reason humans get muscle cramps is because your body loses electrolytes through sweat while exercising and pickle juice or pickle water contains a large number of electrolytes.
This is a secret remedy that many athletes swear by, especially during intense training periods and matches, to regain their lost electrolytes in a swift and efficient manner without breaking their flow.
Controls Your Blood Sugar
This is another win for the pickle juice because the vinegar content in the pickle juice of your choice helps to keep your blood sugar even by counteracting the sugar in your blood. This is a neat little trick to know especially for those with blood pressure issues and those who are at risk or have diabetes.
Helps You Eat Vegetables
Now you may have forgotten but the crunchy tasty pickle is made of cucumber or dill which are both vegetables! Pickles are a great way to help you or your kids meet their daily recommended intake of vegetables.
This method is especially great for people who are picky eaters or children who never want to eat their vegetables at dinner. One single dill pickle counts as about one-fourth of your recommended vegetable intake for a day.
Helps With Weight Loss
Cucumber and dill pickles are a great snack if you are trying to lose weight because not only are they very low in calories but they also have high water content in them. High water content is good for weight loss because it helps you stay fuller for longer, reducing your hunger pangs.
Vinegar is also a great tool for weight loss as it also helps in suppressing your appetite. Vinegar is also good for reducing the rate at which your digestive system absorbs carbohydrates, helping you avoid building up fat.
This additionally helps in reducing insulin spikes and keeping your energy levels stable. Insulin drops are what trigger your hunger response, so with pickles you will feel hungry less often.
Things To Be Careful Of
Before you sign off and start pickling everything in sight, there are some things you need to be careful of whether you are pickling food at home or adding a pickle jar to your shopping cart at the supermarket later.
Invest In Quality Supplies
Now that you are excited about trying some of your own pickling recipes, be sure to invest in quality mason or storage jars for your creations. Fermenting any food causes a build-up of gases inside the storage jar, with some pickled food it is okay for gases to remain trapped inside but in others you need a specialised lid that has a spout to periodically release some of the fermented gases.
This and the strength of your jars are especially important because the build-up of gases inside the jar can cause the jar to crack or in extreme cases even break under pressure. Now would be a smelly mess that no one would like to clean up!
The problem lies not every pickle on the grocery store shelf but with most of them. Many of the pickles you see in the supermarket today are not real pickles per se because they do not allow the natural fermentation from which pickles get their health benefits.
Natural fermentation is a slow process that allows the bacteria and probiotics to build naturally and can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to months. It is the natural good bacteria and microbes that give pickles their long shelf-life and preservation traditionally.
However, in many grocery store pickles the flavor and shelf life is due to added preservatives and from just the vinegar and spices. So while shopping look for brands that say the pickles are naturally fermented because that means they actually have the health benefits of pickles.
A quick way to double-check this is to see if you get bubbles on the surface of the liquid when you open the jar. The bubbles are from the natural gases made during fermentation and mean that your jar of pickles is actually full of the health benefits you are looking for.
High Sodium Content
Pickling foods require a lot of salt which is high in sodium. Salt is added not just to the brine or the pickle juice for the fermenting process but sometimes the vegetable itself is also rubbed and dried with salt before the pickling process or brining.
Now a couple of pickles with your sandwich at lunch will not cause a problem however, please do not use pickles as a meal substitute or eat them excessively in a day. Overindulging in the tangy snack can lead to high sodium levels that can cause a number of different health concerns like:
High Blood Pressure Concerns
The high sodium content in pickled foods as we mentioned is because of salt. Consuming too much salt that goes over your daily recommended intake can contribute to you having or getting high blood pressure.
If you are on blood pressure medication or have a genetic blood pressure issue you need to keep a track of how many pickles you are eating in a day and should opt for low sodium versions of pickled food.
Stress On The Liver And Kidney
One of the things about a high sodium content is that it causes stress to your livers and kidneys. They have to work much harder to process the excess sodium and this can be very risky for people who already have kidney or liver diseases or have a predisposition towards them.
Plus, the added high blood pressure adds even more stress to the already stressed out liver and kidneys.
Risk Of Gastric Cancer
If pickled foods are combined with a diet that is already high in sodium, the combination can lead to an increased risk of gastric cancer. The higher salt intake ends up damaging your stomach and leading to cancer directly, or it can also cause infections and ulcers which if left untreated or if unnoticed may turn cancerous eventually.
May Decrease Bone Health
If you are eating too many pickles in a day and have an existing lack of calcium in your diet, it can be risky for your bones. If you have insufficient levels of calcium in your diet, your body leeches the calcium it needs from your bones leading to osteoporosis.
High sodium diets end up enhancing this leeching effect, making your bones even weaker and increasing the risk of osteoporosis.