Glossary of Foods: Pickles

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That jar of pickles you have hiding in the back of your fridge is actually something that should be front and center. Pickles are a great low-carb snack and healthy probiotic addition to your diet. Before you shake your head to dispute, hear us out! You may become a believer in the power of pickles, too.

You may only envision fat green cucumbers when you think of pickles, but all sorts of vegetables, and even some fruits, can become pickles! Pickling has long been a method to preserve perishable food. A pickle is any food left to ferment in an acidic solution, such as brine or vinegar. Spices are often added for flavor, such as dill, peppercorns, and chilis. The low pH value of the acid kills most bad bacteria that would otherwise spoil perishable foods. The good bacteria that remains creates the probiotic effect on the body to keep the gut healthy and boost the immune system.

>> Read more: The Skinny on Probiotics and Weight Loss

pickled vegetables

Store-bought pickles are made using a heat process and packed in a salty vinegar which eliminates their probiotic potential, turning out a sterile but long-lasting pickle. Therefore, store-bought pickles have no probiotic value, but they make a great snack. Not only are they low-carb, but the salty liquid the pickles are packed in has shockingly healthy benefits, such as curing a hangover or subbing in as a post-workout drink. Read these 17 healthy uses for pickle juice and snack away on those crunchy jarred pickles.

For a probiotic boost, buy or make naturally fermented pickles. They are made at room temperature and refrigerated only after fermentation is complete. Unlike the canning process, pickled foods do not need to be sterilized before sealing the vessel or canister. The acid or saline solution and the temperature of the stored products create the right environment for healthy bacteria to thrive. Probiotics are a powerful way to keep your body healthy and happy.

Naturally fermented pickles will have a different sort of sour flavor from traditional store-bought pickles. Fermented pickles have a fruitier tang unique to the vegetable, spices, and fermenting conditions. You'll also notice that fermented pickles have a crunchier texture than their shelf-stable relatives. This is due to the heated sterilization process which slightly cooks and softens the vegetables. Both varieties will provide a satisfying, low-carb snack. As with all foods, munch in moderation as all types of pickles contain lots of salt.

Ever wondered what to do with your bumper crop of garden fresh veggies? Read our how-to guide for pickling vegetables so you can make an enjoy your very own pickles. This DIY project is not only healthy, but it's cost-effective in the long run! Plus, homemade pickles make great gifts. For a pickle recipe, try scientist and chef Alton Brown's pickle recipe or The Kitchn's dill pickle cooking lesson.

>> Read more: Yes You Can! Benefits of Canning