Pickles and their juice offer some pretty impressive health benefits. But you have to use some caution: If you have high blood pressure or are sodium-sensitive, salt can drive up your BP; pickles and pickle brine are loaded with sodium and could do more harm than good.
There is some compelling evidence for the healing powers of this ancient food. (Pickles have been around for centuries—some sources claim they were one of Cleopatra’s prized beauty secrets.) One thing to know is that there are two types: Naturally fermented pickles and the ones preserved in vinegar. Both versions convey benefits, but they do differ.
Avoid muscle cramps
Pickle juice’s high sodium content—in both the fermented and vinegar versions—may be beneficial for helping the body retain fluids. This is important when you’re working out for longer periods of time—an hour or more—since losing fluids through sweating can cause dehydration and leave your muscles cramping.
A study from Brigham Young University found that pickle juice was more beneficial for alleviating muscle cramping in male participants than plain H2O. For the study, male participants rode bikes for 30-minute sessions, with five minutes of rest between. When the researchers could document that the men’s fluids were depleted by 3 percent—which qualifies as mild dehydration—they electrically stimulated a nerve in the ankle to provoke a foot cramp. The researchers found that pickle juice could relieve the cramp about 37 percent faster than the men who drank water.
With gut issues on the rise in recent years, fermented foods have garnered a lot of attention for their probiotic potential. If you can find fermented pickles (they’ll be in the refrigerated section, unlike the vinegar-cured pickles on the shelf), drinking the juice might be helpful for alleviating digestive issues. According to Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja of Fortis Hospital, the probiotics in pickle juice “encourage the growth and healthy balance of good bacteria and flora in your gut.” One note: You can get the same benefit from other fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi.
A source of antioxidants
Pickle juice possesses two potent antioxidant vitamins, C and E. A Spanish study found that these antioxidants can protect against infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Antioxidants are valuable in protecting molecules in the body from damage by free radicals, according to Dr. Ahuja. “The vitamins are also far more readily absorbed in the body due to the acidic content of the pickle juice.”
Promote weight loss
According to a study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, pickle juice can help aid in your weight loss goals thanks to the main component in vinegar—which is acetic acid. The researchers found that the acid seems to interfere with the body’s ability to digest starch. This interference results in less starch being broken down into calories in the bloodstream.
An animal study, published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, concluded that rats fed acetic acid were more resistant to obesity than rats who did not consume the acid.
Regulate blood sugar levels
Having high blood sugar levels can lead to type 2 diabetes, along with a variety of other chronic diseases. Vinegar has been found to be beneficial in lowering blood sugar levels by improving the body’s response to insulin and dramatically reducing blood sugar levels after meals.
One study, published in the Journal of Diabetes Research found that drinking a small serving of vinegar before a meal works to stabilize a person’s blood sugar levels after eating for people with type 2 diabetes.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that the more you consume in an evening, the worse you’ll feel in the morning as it dehydrates you. (And that’s just one reason you’ll feel lousy!) Drinking pickle juice can replenish sodium and fluid, and balance electrolytes. Try drinking it in addition to lots of water to alleviate your pounding headache, nausea, incredible thirst, fatigue, and more. (Use these 17 tips to limit your drinking.)
When you wake up after a night of heavy drinking, try gulping down a 1/4 cup to help ease a hangover.
A study published in the journal Cholesterol found that dill could not only tame indigestion, stomach cramps, gas, and other digestive ailments, but it could lower blood fats in hamsters.
This one falls under the old wives’ tale thanks to the lack of scientific evidence, but many people swear by drinking a small glass of pickle juice as a fail-safe cure for hiccups.
You can try the remedy out next time you have hiccups by gulping down half a teaspoon of salty pickle juice every few seconds until the hiccups subside.
In the same way that the juice may help ease muscle cramps from exercise, some women find that it can help with menstrual cramps. While the theory makes sense, it hasn’t been well-tested (and it’s just one of several unusual tricks for dealing with menstrual pain).
Want to give it a try? Some women swear by drinking a half of a cup of dill pickle juice to ease cramps.