Pickles are popular additions to meals. You can pop them on your burger or include them with a salad. Some people just love to snack on them on their own throughout the day.
But just how do you benefit from the vegetable and are they any good for you? After all, that’s a lot of vinegar you’re getting into your system, right? It’s a lot of acids that just can’t be good for your teeth and insides.
Well, here’s all you need to know about pickles: including where they came from and why it’s okay to enjoy them now and then.
India, Egypt, and Rome…
Where do pickles come from? At first, many thought that they came from the home of the cucumber, India. That makes sense considering the two do look very similar. However, a cucumber and a pickle are two different things.
We’re not entirely sure if India is the true initial home, but eventually, it made its way to Egypt. From there, it could travel the Med and reach Europe. The Romans likely brought the pickle to the rest of Europe, since the Romans managed to bring everything else.
Now, they are grown around the world and devoured in various countries. They can be great raw and cooked, so it’s up to you how you enjoy them.
Pickles Helped to Prevent Scurvy on Ships!
One of the most important nutrients within pickles is the vitamin C. It’s because of this vitamin that ships could go on long voyages without the sailors suffering from scurvy.
Pickles haven’t been the only foods used for preventing scurvy. The British are known as “limeys” in many parts of the world. This phrase comes from the use of limes onboard the ships. The vitamin C helped to prevent the scurvy, so it’s worth the nickname, really.
As for the Spanish, they wanted pickles instead. Christopher Columbus took plenty of them on his trips to the New World. The reason for scurvy wasn’t even known at this time, but Columbus was sure it was the lack of pickles. Sure enough, it is no known that he was right.
You’re Not Actually Eating Vinegar
Pickles are packed in brine and not vinegar, even if it tastes more acidic and vinegary. This means they’re not doing as much damage as you would initially believe.
In fact, the brine has been used for ailments over the years. When you’re pregnant and suffering from morning sickness, you may be encouraged to eat more pickles to help settle your stomach. The brine is the part that helps to keep nausea at bay. There is a fine line, though, as eating too much can also make you feel sick.
Brine is often used as a stock in stews and soups to help with curing ailments and settling stomachs. It’s also a popular hangover cure in some cultures since it helps with the process of rehydrating the body and getting rid of the alcohol levels.
Another option is to make a tangy salad dressing with some mayonnaise. You can add the pickles on the side, too.
There are some recipes that will call for the use of vinegar to do the pickling. This has been more common in recent years as it is easier to get a hold of. There are some recipes that call for the use of acid and other liquids to ferment the cucumbers.
Fruit or Vegetable? Pickles Are Both
It’s time to settle the debate of fruit or vegetable. Pickles are actually both of these, although people still tend to debate. It’s like the tomato debate all over again. Remember that the pickle is just a pickled cucumber, and what would you say a cucumber is?
Deciding whether the food is a fruit or vegetable doesn’t change anything about the health benefits or the way to cook and eat them. In most cases, they’re used in food in the same way as a vegetable, but they’re grown in similar ways to fruits because the seeds are on the inside.
There’s a more savoury taste to pickles, which makes them the perfect addition to vegetable dishes rather than fruit ones.
Pickles Have Been Attributed to Several Benefits
Throughout history, people have believed pickles have been the reason for various health benefits. Julius Caesar believed that the pickles would make his men stronger, so ensure all had plenty of the vegetable. Cleopatra believed that it was pickled that made her beautiful and kept her skin clear. As for other Europeans, pickles were attributed to healing ailments. Many of these healing benefit beliefs date back to 850 A.D.
Queen Elizabeth, I also enjoyed eating pickles. It’s unclear whether it was just for the taste or whether she believed that they helped offer some benefits. Elizabeth, I was a vain queen and regularly wore lead makeup to hid the scars from smallpox, so she may have believed that the pickles helped with issues.
It is certainly possible that everyone was right. Let’s not forget that Columbus believed that the pickles prevent scurvy without even knowing that much about the disease.
Pickles are full of vitamins and minerals. The vitamin C is an important aspect and is linked to boosting the immune system and keeping people healthy. However, it’s not just this vitamin that does the work to help improve your health.
Vitamin A, iron, zinc, and even magnesium are found in large amounts in the vegetable. They all help with various health issues.
If you feel tired, try to eat more pickles. The iron will help to boost the oxygenated blood around the body. Your brain gets a better amount of oxygenated blood so it can work through all the processes that it needs to. You’ll get a better release of hormones, so you’ll feel more awake and able to tackle everything going on in the day.
The zinc is excellent for healing skin issues, which will link with Cleopatra’s belief. Zinc helps to reduce the amount of acne that appears on the skin and will help to soften the skin. There’s also a large amount of water that aids with the look of skin. In fact, eating anything that has plenty of water and zinc can make you look decades younger.
As for the strength, this could come from the magnesium and vitamin A. First of all, the magnesium helps with better absorption of calcium. It also works with the calcium to create stronger teeth and bones. The vitamin A then works to keep the muscles and tendons stronger. It aids the protein’s job to tone and builds on everything that supports the skeleton.
There are many other nutrients in them. Pickled cucumbers are full of folate to help with the nervous system development and vitamin K to aid with the clotting process.
With all that in mind, it’s now easy to understand why people in the past believed pickles were so good for them. There are definitely benefits to including them in your diet now.
Loud Crunching Means Good Pickles
Pickles with a crunch are perfect to eat. The louder the crunch, the better, even if people around you wouldn’t agree with that. As pickles get old, they start to turn soft, and you will be able to feel this as you eat them.
The good news is that older pickles don’t exactly “go off.” They just don’t taste as good, and they won’t have all the nutrients that the newer pickles will have.
In fact, pickles have such a long life that they were used in military ration kits in the past. In World War II, 40% of pickles produced were given to soldiers in their packs. These ration packs had to be designed with life in mind since there was no guarantee that they would be immediately eaten. Some would be left on the shelves for months, even during wartime.
That being said, the pickles need to be placed in the brine for a longer life. The brine helps to lock in the juices and preserve some of the crunches.
It’s the pickling process that contributes to make the food last for so long. In some cases, the pickled cucumbers can last for three to six months, as long as they’re kept in the right conditions. You can also pickle other foods to help them last longer.
You’ll Find so Many Different Recipes
There isn’t just one recipe for making the brine that pickles are placed in. In the past, it was difficult to know just how much salt was in the main ingredient: the cucumbers. It was impossible for anyone to determine just how much salt would be needed within the brine, so various recipes had to be created.
Most of the recipes called for a test of the salt levels. You’ll need just enough to be able to float an egg in the brine.
Of course, we don’t need to go through all this today. There are more standard recipes to follow, and you don’t even need to make the brine yourself. Pickles are extremely popularly bought in jars in the stores. That means you can get your pickle fix as and when you need it.
There are now also pickles in different sizes and cuts. You can buy baby pickles in brine, normal sized pickles, or even those that are chopped. Of the ones that are chopped, you’ll get them sliced lengthwise, normally, and even with crinkle cut. The choice is completely up to you depending on how you want to present them on your dishes!
If you want to make your own, all you need is some cucumbers to get you started. Grow your own where possible or buy organic if not. Those that have a waxy coating aren’t the best for pickling because the wax prevents the cucumbers from absorbing and retaining the moisture from the brine. The best way to know if there has been any wax applied is by looking at the colour of the cucumber skin. The best cucumbers will have darker, duller skins.
You can experiment with the spices used to make your pickles. This is a great way to find a batch that you absolutely love and get your kids involved in the fun as you try out different recipes. Peppers and jalapeños tend to be the preferred options to add to your cucumbers for pickling.
Here’s a simple pickle recipe to get you started.
- 1lb cucumbers
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2tsp peppercorns
- 1/2tsp mustard seeds
- 1tsp dill weed
- 1 bay leaf, dried
- 2/3cup brown sugar
- 5tbsp white vinegar
- 5tbsp white wine vinegar
- ¾ cup of water
- Chop the cucumbers up into slices and place in a jar. Make sure the jar has a lid.
- Add in the herbs and spices.
- Mix the vinegar, water, and sugar together, making sure the sugar completely dissolves. Pour onto the cucumbers. Shake the jar to combine everything.
- Put the lid on the jar and place in the fridge for 24 hours.
You’ll be able to enjoy the pickles for three months as long as they’re kept in the fridge.
A Pickle and a Gherkin Is the Same Thing
There’s absolutely no difference between a pickle and a gherkin, apart from the people who are going to use the name. The Gherkin is the traditional name given to the pickle in Britain and Ireland. However, the majority of the rest of the world calls it the pickle.
You’ll also hear the name “pickled cucumber” or “cured cucumber.” Again, these terms are interchangeable.
All of them are made in the exact same way. Some of them will include different herbs and spices, but that isn’t based on the main name. You’ll find the jars if they’ve had certain new spices added to them. You can also check the ingredients to find out if anything different has been added.
In certain countries “pickles” can mean the pickling of various fruits and vegetables. Cabbage, lettuce, carrots, lemons, shallots, and even fish have all been pickled and will be referred to as “pickles.” You’ll need to be more specific if you want a certain type of fruit, vegetable, or another ingredient. This is especially the case in India, China, Japan, and Korea.
Sometimes in Western countries, pickles can mean other fruits and vegetables. However, in the majority ofcases, people will mean cucumbers. If they want other types of fruits and vegetables, they will be more specific.
Yeast, Bacteria, and Cancer Fighting Foods
Pickles are able to fight against various health problems. This isn’t just because of the vitamin C already mentioned. The fermented foods are full of antioxidants and good bacteria. They will fight against free radicals and the yeast or bad bacteria building up in your gut.
By fighting the free radicals, your cells are protected from damage. That helps to reduce the risk of developing cancer or dementia later in life.
The antioxidants can also help to protect your DNA. Free radicals can make DNA unstable, which leads to serious diseases and ailments.
The good bacteria within the pickles helps to keep the gut in good working order. Pickles are full of probiotics, which fight off the bad bacteria in the gut and promote the good bacteria. These good bacteria will line your intestines and whole digestive system to protect it from the bad stuff. You’ll suffer less cramping and won’t deal with as many digestive complains like IBS.
Boost Your Digestive System
It’s not just the improvement of good bacteria in the system that will help. Remember that the pickle is a fruit/vegetable. The pickling process doesn’t get rid of the fiber, so when you eat the cured cucumbers, you end up with more fiber in your system. This helps to keep your digestive system fully working.
While there is a lot of salts, there is still plenty of water content within the pickles. The moisture helps to push through more of the fiber in your system to avoid dehydration and constipation.
In Indian cultures, some pickles are often served as an appetizer. The belief is that the pickles will help with the digestive process of the main meals. You’ll also find that you eat less since you’re getting fibre in your system, which takes a longer time to break down than most other food groups.
Ironically, the acidity levels in the pickles don’t cause problems for the stomach. In fact, the vegetables can actually help to reduce the chances of developing gastric ulcers. This is because the mucus membrane in the digestive system is more supported.
Help to Control Your Diabetes
If you already have diabetes, pickles work out as a great snack. If you’re pre-diabetes, you will find that you are less likely to develop diabetes afterwards. Those who believe they may be at risk or just want to avoid any issues in the future should also eat more pickles.
Studies have shown that vinegar helps with the improvement of haemoglobin, especially in diabetes patients. This means that your condition is easier to control.
It’s also worth pointing out that you don’t have the excess sugar in the pickles like you will in other snacks. This is why they tend to be healthier and highly recommended snacks for people over the likes of naturally sugary fruits and chocolates.
You will still need to watch out fora number of pickles you eat. Remember the salt content is high, and you may raise your blood pressure by eating too many.
The good news is that you won’t need many to feel full. The fibre and fluid content will help you feel satisfied after one or two larger pickles. It’s worth finding a balancing act since the salt helps with the fight against bad bacteria and yeast in your body.
You Will Need to Protect Your Teeth
Even in brine, there are high acidity levels within the pickles. This is something to keep in mind when it comes to your teeth. High acidic levels will lead to your tooth enamel wearing away much quicker. The levels can also lead to your gums receding, which can cause other health problems. You will need to watch the amount of pickles that you eat to protect your teeth and gums.
If you love to eat pickles, find other ways to balance out the acidity levels in your mouth. Cheese tends to be a popularoption and works very well with pickles. The mouldy the better when it comes to neutralising the pH levels in your mouth.
You could also opt for drinking more water. While the water doesn’t always balance the pH levels, you will help to get the acid out of your mouth sooner. You could opt for alkaline water to balance out the pH levels when necessary.
Another option is to start oil pulling. You’ll need an oil that you prefer the taste of and wait 30 minutes after eating your pickles. The oil will encourage bacteria to cling to it and can help with the balancing of acidity levels. Just make sure you spit the oil out rather than swallowing it!
Make Your Own Pickles and Enjoy the Health Benefits
Did you know all of that about pickles? Are you ready to add them to your own diet and reap all the benefits? There’s no time like the present, and no reason not to start adding them in today. They are widely available around the world, whether you want sliced pickles for your burgers and salads or long ones to sit and munch on.
They make excellent snacks. Pop them on a plate with some cheese and olives, and you’ve got an extremely healthy snack. You can also enjoy them with some fruits to help get a little bit of sweetness to your snacks. They tend to be a pregnancy craving, but you don’t have to be pregnant to start enjoying them.
If you just add one new ingredient to your diet today, let it pickles.