Pickles Benefits + Side Effects

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 03/03/22 •  12 min read
pickle benefits and side effects

HEALTH

Energy: pickles are good for / help digestive health, insulin resistance, soothe muscle cramps (if fermented)

Longevity: pickles are good for / help cancer prevention, combat free radicals, detoxification, gut health, liver protection, lower the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation (when fermented) | pickles are bad for / increase the risk of stomach cancer (when pickled foods have salt added and are extremely salty)

Appearance: pickles are good for / help lessen or reduce eczema symptoms, weight loss

Pickles are…

ENVIRONMENT

Water footprint: low, 353 liters of water used to produce 1 kilogram of gherkins / 42 gallons of water used to produce 1 pound of gherkins

Carbon footprint: low, 0.14 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of fresh cucumbers, a car driving equivalent of 0.5 miles or 0.75 kilometers

Destruction: low, pickle production is relatively sustainable, there is no known significant damage to air, water, land, soil, forests, etc. as long as pesticides have not been used, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as toxic, chemical pesticides contaminate air, water, soil, etc.

Pickles are…

ANIMALS

Kills: none, pickle production does not require any animals to be killed

Harms: none, pickle production does not require any animals to be used

Indirectly kills or harms: none, no animals are indirectly killed or harmed from pickle production as long as toxic chemicals have not been used, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as pesticides harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat

Pickles are…

LABORERS

Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits

Pickles…

Where do most pickles come from?

China is the world’s leading cucumber producer followed by Iran, Russia and Turkey. In the United States the leading states in pickling cucumber production are Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Texas, California, and Ohio.

Are pickles nutritious?

Pickles are high in probiotics if fermented. Be ware that pickles may be high in sodium, especially if they are unfermented, big-brand, store bought pickles.

pickles (most) are acidic.

acidic foods and alkaline diet benefits that improve ph levels

Are pickles alkaline or acidic? Pickles (most) are acidic. What is the pH level of pickles? Pickles have a 6.0 pH level once digested.

When you eat food, it is broken down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are found in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

pickles may contain gluten.

glutinous foods have side effects but a gluten free diet can help

Are pickles gluten free? Possibly. Pickles and relish may contain gluten. Pickles, or fermented cucumbers, are naturally gluten free and do not contain gluten. But store bought, processed pickles may have gluten exposure if malt vinegar has been used.

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include: recurring abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, constipation, tingling, numbness in hands and feet, chronic fatigue, joint pain, unexplained infertility and low bone density (osteopenia or osteoporosis).

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

pickles are not a common food allergen unless made with malt vinegar: wheat.

side effects of common food allergens like milk, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and crustaceans

Are pickles a common food allergen? Possibly. Pickles are not a common food allergen unless made with malt vinegar: wheat. For this reason, many people experience allergic reactions to pickles.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods is often referred to as the Big-8 and includes milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. 

These foods account for about 90% of all food allergies in the United States.

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

pickles are a fermented food (if homemade, made without vinegar or indicated on the label).

fermented foods benefit gut health and good bacteria

Are pickles a fermented food? Pickles are a fermented food if homemade, made without vinegar and/or when indicated ‘fermented’ on the product label. Pickles made with added vinegar are typically not fermented.

Foods that are fermented use an old process that can extend shelf life, provide healthy probiotics and add nutritional value. One notable nutrient that can be acquired is vitamin B12 -especially desirable for vegans and vegetarians, as it typically cannot be found in plant foods.

Fermented foods help the body digest food, fight off bad bacteria, make certain vitamins, maintain a healthy balance, and restore gut health after taking antibiotics. 

When too many bad gut microbes exist it can create an imbalance between beneficial and harmful gut bacteria, which leads to health problems. In some cases intestinal walls can weaken and their contents may leak into the bloodstream, commonly referred to as leaky gut syndrome. Fermented foods are known to strengthen intestinal walls. 

For optimal gut health and overall wellbeing fermented foods are a great daily addition to your diet. Common fermented foods include: kefir, tempeh, natto, kombucha, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and yogurt.

Check out this Fermented Foods List to see them all.

Here’s an amazing cookbook filled with delicious fermented recipes: Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes by Christopher Shockey and Kirsten K. Shockey

pickles have a low water footprint.

water footprints of food and products

Do pickles have a high or low water footprint? Pickles have a relatively low water footprint compared to other foods.

What is the water footprint of pickles? It takes 353 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of gherkins / 42 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of gherkins.

Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource?

We must do what we can to conserve fresh water and a major way to reduce needless water consumption is to change the way we eat. That’s not to say we need to reduce our water intake….quite the opposite. It’s important for our health to drink lots of water and eat foods that hydrate. The kind of water conservation we’re talking about here is behind the scenes.

How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?

We need to be aware of something referred to as a “water footprint”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.

Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

pickles have a low carbon footprint.

carbon footprints of food and food emissions

Do pickles have a high or low carbon footprint? Pickles have a relatively low carbon footprint compared to other foods.

What is the carbon footprint of pickles? It takes around 0.14 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of fresh cucumbers, a car driving equivalent of 0.5 miles or 0.75 kilometers.

Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.

When calculating product emissions, some factors that may be included are… farm equipment, animal feed production, hothouses (greenhouses), food processing, packaging, transport, refrigeration, freezing, package waste, and more.

There are a number of steps that can be taken to reduce energy output. According to Oxford Martin School researchers, if the world went vegan, eliminating animal-derived products, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and avoid climate damages of $1.5 trillion.

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

pickles are sustainable.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Overall, are pickles eco friendly? Are pickles sustainable?

Pickle production is relatively sustainable since there is no known significant damage to air, water, land, soil, forests, etc. as long as pesticides have not been used. Be sure to buy non GMO/organic, as toxic, chemical pesticides contaminate air, water, soil, etc. when using regenerative practices.

A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.

Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.

A 2010 United Nations report said that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world the worst impacts of climate change.

pickles are vegan.

benefits of vegan food to eat on a vegan diet which helps save animals

Are pickles vegan? Yes, pickles are vegan. Pickles are cucumbers that have been pickled in a brine, vinegar, and not an animal product or byproduct, therefore making it a vegan food. 

According to Sentient Media, “more than 200 million land animals are killed for food around the world every day. Including wild-caught and farmed fishes, we get a total closer to 3 billion animals killed daily.”

Animals of factory farms and the livestock industry are suffering. They live in horrific conditions that often include confinement, physical abuse and unnatural environments…so much so that they need to receive antibiotics to keep from getting ill or spreading disease. They’re also injected with growth hormones to become fatter faster and live short lives, being slaughtered as soon as they finish growing and are killed prematurely, well before their natural lifespan.

Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non-Vegan Foods List

pickles may have labor issues and human rights concerns.

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Are pickles a product with laborer concerns?

At this time there have been no major concerns with pickle production but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!

It’s important to stay aware of human rights concerns and worker exploitation that may come with specific brands.

Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized. 

Sadly, many labor concerns exist around the world in both developed and developing countries. We must be vigilant to ensure what we buy is not contributing to industries that are unfair to their valuable workers. Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even experience harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death! 

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade. 

Sources:

Pickles Grades and Standards | Agricultural Marketing Service

It’s Quite a Pickle To Be In | USDA

Pickles, cucumber, dill, reduced sodium – FoodData Central

Adriane Marie

Grocery Guru, Material Maven, Conscious Consumer Connoisseur. I organize ethical info for us to comprehensively see how purchases impact people, animals and the planet. I hope you find HEALabel helpful! Use it for personal and global improvement and empowerment.