The Goodness Of Pickles: Why You Need To Have Your Meals Pickles On The Side
Pickles: Having your food with pickles on the side can provide you with multiple beneficial antioxidants and also help in improving digestion. Read here to know why pickles are absolutely important for you.
Pickles can help in replenishing electrolytes in your body
- Pickles can be a good source of antioxidants
- Naturally fermented salt pickles encourage growth of friendly bacteria
- Consuming vinegar-based pickles helps in controlling diabetes
It's hard to find a person who hasn't tried pickles at some time in his/ her life. Not everyone loves them, but those who do vouch that this condiment can make even the blandest of meals interesting. Pickles go with any cuisine, be it Mediterranean, Italian and even Indian foods like parantha or khichdi. So, what is it about pickles that they are still a part of our pantry since generations? Let's find out.
Pickles: Everything you need to know
Pickling is one of the oldest methods of preserving food. Before the invention of refrigerators, pickling was the only way to preserve various foods (that are either exotic or seasonal and limited by nature and cultivation) for future consumption. The pickling process involves anaerobic fermentation of the starches and sugars present in the fruit and vegetables and their conversion into lactic acid. Lactic acid created during the fermentation process acts a natural preservative which inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria (which is why fermented foods "keep" for so long). Lacto-fermentation by bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms also produces B vitamins, omega -3 fatty acids and digestive enzymes thereby adding to the nutrient value of the food.
In India, pickling began about 5,000 years ago when the excess produce of the winter season was conserved to be consumed during the dry and arid summer season. Indian pickles are commonly prepared using salt, oil, chili and other ingredients. Unripe fruits such as mangoes, amla, tamarinds and lemons, and vegetables such as carrot, cauliflower, radish, ginger, garlic, onion, bitter gourd, jackfruit are used for pickling. Even meats like chicken, fish and mutton can be pickled.
The Chinese pickle cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, gherkins, shallots, bitter melon in a mix of salt, sugar and vinegar. They even pickle duck eggs. In Korea, kimchi is a common pickled product that is made with fermented spicy cabbage and it also includes a wide variety of vegetables including soybean, fish, oysters and many different ingredients. The Japanese pickle ginger, ginkonut, eggplant, radish, plum and carrot in soybean paste .The Europeans pickle their cucumbers and gherkins in brine and vinegar.
Here are some health benefits of including pickles in your diet
- Antioxidants: Pickles can be a good source of antioxidants, as they are preserved in unripe fruits.
- Improve digestion: Naturally fermented salt pickles encourage growth of friendly bacteria which can lead to smoother digestion and boost immunity.
- Rich in vitamins and minerals: Fresh pickles, dips or chutneys are made from leafy vegetables or herbs such as coriander, curry leaves, spinach, parsley, and amaranth.
- Control diabetes: Studies have shown that consuming vinegar-based pickles helps in controlling diabetes. The acetic acid present in vinegar slows the breakdown of carbohydrates.
- Help replenish electrolytes: Because they contain salt, and fermented sugars and starches, pickles may help in replenishing electrolytes. So, it may be a great idea to include them as part of the meal you have post work-out.
Also, did you know pickled and fermented foods best express the qualities of a particular climate. So if you are travelling and want to acclimatise, it's a good idea to eat native, naturally fermented and pickled foods there.
A word of Caution
Almost all pickles contain a high amount of salt in them. Besides adding taste, the salt acts as a preservative for the pickle by preventing growth of bacteria, yeast and fungi. However, excess salt consumption through pickles can be counter-effective. Hypertension is one of the major risks of consuming extra salt. Hypertension may cause strokes and heart attacks, especially in older people.
For deriving maximum health benefits from pickles, make sure they are made at home, replace table salt with Himalayan salt or sendha namak(rock salt), add cold pressed mustard oil and organic spices.
Pickles are created by submerging the foods in brine or oil and salt or vinegar to enhance the shelf life, and it takes deft fingers to measure the salt and spices blend well in order to create delectable pickles. So, do not miss the lip-smacking seasonal pickles that can add variety and zing to your meals.
(Mansi Chaudhary is a nutritionist at Nutri Power)
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