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 crampsDean Drobot/Shutterstock
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.
Ease digestionIrina Bg/Shutterstock
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.