A longtime traditional favorite and unwavering companion to your favorite sandwich, pickles are chock-full of crunchy, briny deliciousness. And, as it turns out, this old school deli food might be great for your health to boot. Studies show that fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi are loaded with gut health-promoting probiotics. Yes, your salty half sour does admittedly have a lot of sodium, which isn't great for your health in large amounts, but there are plenty of other benefits that justify putting them on a burger. So while you might not think of your unassuming lunchtime pickle as a health food, it may actually have more health benefits than you thought.
"Cultured, or pickled, vegetables are mainly known for their probiotics," Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, and nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition tells Bustle by email. "Vitamin C is lost in the heating pickling process, but other nutrients, like B vitamins, may become amplified. Fat-soluble vitamins present in the original vegetable (like Vitamin A in carrots) will remain preserved. Fiber will remain intact."
Cultured vegetables like pickles are made via a process of food preservation through fermentation, and are made with either brine or vinegar. In addition to keeping foods from spoiling, fermentation also produces probiotic bacteria as a byproduct of the process, which are super beneficial for diversifying gut flora and upping your health in numerous ways. Research suggests that probiotics may promote clearer skin, better immune function, increased gastrointestinal health, and could even reduce depression, though more research is needed for all of these conclusions.
Basically, the fermentation process ups good bacteria while getting rid of the bad, which is why it's so prevalent in many traditional food preparation techniques stemming from ages without refrigeration. This is great for the love of all things pickles, so let's take a closer look at some of the benefits of your favorite deli food, shall we?