Next time you open a jar of crunchy pickles, save the juice! Maybe you’ve always loved that mouth-watering pucker. Or, maybe the thought of drinking straight pickle juice sounds unappetizing. Whether you love it or hate it, pickle juice may be good for your health.
“Pickle juice does have some benefits, but it really depends. The type of pickle juice matters. So does the health benefit you’re looking to gain,” says functional medicine dietitian Camille Skoda, RDN, LD, IFNCP. “A jar that’s full of dyes and preservatives won’t give you those benefits.”
Skoda gives six ways pickle juice is good for you and how to reap the benefits.
1. Pickle juice contains probiotics
Naturally fermented pickles — and their juice — contain helpful microorganisms called probiotics. Probiotics are live, microscopic bacteria and yeasts that you can also find in:
“Your gut contains many bacteria species that are beneficial for metabolism, overall health, digestion and fighting sicknesses. They’re also linked to less anxiety, depression and better mood,” explains Skoda.
Probiotics can help keep your good gut bacteria in balance. People eat probiotics for these benefits, especially to aid digestion.
Skoda says you can find probiotics in refrigerated pickles that are not vinegar-based. They should be fermented naturally in water using salt and spices.
“To get these benefits, try eating a pickle a day. But keep in mind that everybody tolerates probiotics differently. So if you’re drinking pickle juice for the probiotics, start with a small amount,” Skoda recommends. “And don’t drink so much that you overdo it on the sodium.”
2. Pickle juice can help you recover after exercise
Electrolytes help maintain the fluid balance in your body and keep all systems firing. But when you sweat, you risk losing too many. The antidote?
“Pickle juice contains electrolytes in the form of a lot of sodium and some potassium and magnesium. That’s why you can use it as a natural electrolyte,” says Skoda. “It can help to rehydrate after exercise.”
To get the most benefit, Skoda says to choose a vinegar-based pickle without yellow dye and preservatives. Using pickle juice as an electrolyte may work well for people who:
- Have a chronic condition that requires you to take in more sodium.
- Don’t get enough sodium in their diet.
But using pickle juice as your go-to recovery drink isn’t for everyone. “The recommendation is to have no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day. And 3 ounces of pickle juice gives you 900 mg right there, depending on the brand,” she says. “You can find electrolyte supplements that only have 150 mg of sodium and more potassium and magnesium instead.”
3. Pickle juice can help blood sugar regulation
Studies show that vinegar can help prevent spikes and dips in blood sugar. That’s a check in the win column for vinegar-based pickle juices. “You would also see the same benefits from vinegar-based salad dressings and apple cider vinegar,” adds Skoda.
4. Pickle juice may support weight loss
The research gets a little murkier when it comes to pickle juice’s effects on weight loss. But it’s also less about the pickles and more about vinegar.
“Pickle juice could help curb your appetite by stabilizing blood sugar. It’s easier to lose weight and control appetite when your blood sugar’s stable,” says Skoda. “And if you’re drinking pickle juice for the probiotic benefit, improving digestion and metabolism could definitely help you lose weight.”
5. Drinking pickle juice for a hangover may help you feel better
Drinking too much alcohol can dehydrate you. Electrolytes can help reduce some of those effects, says Skoda. “Drinking pickle juice as a hangover cure can help if it’s the electrolyte you choose.”
6. Pickles contain disease-fighting antioxidants
Score one for the cucumbers! Since pickles are fermented cukes, you get to count some of that veggie goodness, including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Antioxidants may protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules inside the body that are linked to cancer, heart disease and more. “You can get some antioxidants from pickle juice, but eating the pickle is more beneficial.”
Skoda’s bottom line: If you like the briny goodness of pickles or pickle juice, bon appetit! While pickle juice is not a cure-all, it can definitely be part of a healthy eating plan.