Losing weight is all about burning more calories than you eat. This is called creating a negative energy balance or a calorie deficit.
When faced with an energy shortfall, your body has no choice but to burn fat for energy. The result is weight loss.
There are several ways to put your body into a calorie deficit. You can eat smaller meals, eat fewer meals, eliminate high-calorie foods from your diet, or increase levels of exercise and physical activity.
In many cases, a combination of approaches may work best.
In addition, there are numerous foods and beverages that may enhance fat and weight loss. Coffee, for example, may increase your metabolic rate, and eating high-fiber foods, such as fibrous vegetables, can help fill you up despite being low in calories.
Other foods are alleged to enhance fat loss through different mechanisms. Some of these claims are nothing but wishful thinking, while others may actually be true. However, any effects are very small.
This raises the question, are pickles good for weight loss? In this article, we examine the evidence and reveal if pickles are a weight-loss friend or foe.
What Are Pickles?
While any vegetable can be pickled, when most people talk about pickles, they mean small pickled cucumbers, sometimes called gherkins.
Cucumbers are usually pickled whole but can also be sliced.
To make pickles, the cucumbers are placed in a jar of brine (salted water) or vinegar.
Once sealed in the jar, they are left for several weeks or even months to ferment.
Fermentation preserves the cucumber and stops them from going off. The fermentation process is also what gives pickles their distinctive texture and taste.
Some pickles contain additional ingredients, such as dill and other herbs, while others have no such additions.
Pickles are generally eaten raw, used as a snack, or added to things like salads, sandwiches, or burgers. They have a sharp, salty, acidic flavor which some people really enjoy while others find too strong.
Like regular cucumbers, pickles are very low in calories. Replacing a high-calorie snack like potato chips with pickles will invariably reduce your daily calorie intake, leading to weight loss.
The nutritional values per 35-gram serving are:
- 4 calories
- Carbohydrate – 0.8 grams
- Fiber – 0.3 grams
- Sugar – 0.4 grams
- Protein – 0.2 grams
- Fat – 0 grams
- Sodium – 280 mg
In addition, pickles contain appreciable amounts of vitamin C and E, which are vital antioxidants.
Pickles and Weight Loss
Pickles may help you lose weight in a couple of different ways:
Low in calories – at just four calories per average pickle, a serving of pickles makes for a very low-calorie snack. Eating pickles instead of a higher calorie snack could be the difference between creating a calorie deficit for weight loss or gaining weight instead. You can eat a lot of pickles without derailing your diet.
Helps control blood glucose – eating pickles, especially before a meal, can help keep your blood glucose levels low and stable.
Low, stable blood glucose levels will help regulate your energy and appetite while creating the ideal environment for fat burning.
In studies, people who ate pickles lost more weight than those that didn’t despite eating the same number of calories.
The exact mechanism for this is unclear, but there are enough studies supporting pickles and pickle juice for weight loss that it’s worth adding this food to any weight loss diet.
Additional Benefits of Eating Pickles
Pickles aren’t just tasty and good for weight loss. There are a few additional benefits, too. The main ones are:
Better gut health – like all fermented foods, pickles are good for your gut health. They contain pre and probiotics, which improve the quantity and health of the good bacteria that live in your digestive system.
These bacteria are vital for proper digestion, immunity, nutrient absorption, and even fat burning.
Contain antioxidants – vitamins C and E are potent antioxidants.
Antioxidants help protect your cells from free radicals, which are unstable molecules linked to a host of issues, including the aging process, macular degeneration, and cancer. Pickles are a valuable source of antioxidants.
Fewer muscle cramps – pickles and pickle juice are high in electrolytes, which are the minerals your body uses to control the movement of fluid in and out of your cells.
Eating pickles can help prevent dehydration, leading to fewer cramps. Pickle juice is sometimes sold as a sports drink that boosts exercise performance and recovery.
Better oral hygiene – pickles are naturally antibacterial, and eating them regularly could help eliminate the bacteria responsible for bad breath and other oral health issues. They’re also sugar-free, so they shouldn’t cause tooth decay.
The main downside of eating pickles is their high sodium content. A high sodium diet is linked to hypertension or high blood pressure. High blood pressure is often associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
If you have a history of high blood pressure or heart disease, you should speak to your doctor before adding pickles to your diet. You should also seek out low sodium pickles.
Sadly, there are no miracle foods that will result in weight loss. The idea of negative calorie or fat-burning foods is just a myth, and overeating any food could lead to weight gain.
The only way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories and burn more calories through exercise and physical activity. This will create the negative energy balance you need to force your body to burn fat for fuel.
That said, a few foods could enhance weight loss, albeit only slightly, and pickles are on that list.
Eating pickles instead of high-calorie foods can lower your caloric intake, leading to a more significant calorie deficit and, therefore, faster weight loss.
In addition, the humble pickle may help stabilize your blood glucose, leading to less hunger and more stable energy levels. Evidence suggests that people who eat pickles before a meal tend to lose weight faster, although it’s unclear how or why.
Pickles are generally considered healthy and offer several benefits, not least protection from harmful free radicals.
But, on the downside, they may be too high in sodium for some people, especially if you have high blood pressure.
Pickles are not a magic cure for weight loss, but they could help you lose weight just a little faster and more efficiently. And, when it comes to losing weight, even small advantages are worth pursuing.