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One Major Side Effect of Eating Pickles, Say Experts

Are they even healthy for you? Here's what to know about this salty snack.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman
pickles

To the uneducated eye, pickles seem like a healthy food. What could be so detrimental about a cucumber soaked in vinegar, right? While it's true that the sandwich-side staple is not as unhealthy as alternatives—like, say, a handful of potato chips—pickles do pack a slightly concerning punch. The culprit here, ultimately, is the salt content.

According to nutritionist Jay Cowin, one pickle contains more than 66% of sodium adults are recommended to have each day. As anyone who's cracked open a pickle jar recently knows, it is almost impossible to eat just one—meaning that when it comes to munching on Dill spears, you're almost definitely overdoing your salt intake.

The one major side effect you might notice after eating the highly salty snack is bloating.

"Excessive use of salt in pickles increases the sodium content in our diet, which leads to ill health effects like water retention [and] abdominal bloating," says Dr. Waqas Ahmad Buttar.

Long term, though, high salt intake can lead to more complex problems. As Dr. Buttar says, regular indulgence in pickles can result in high blood pressure, and "an increase in the workload for our kidneys."

Dr. Rashmi Byakodi added that hypertension and flatulence may be side effects as well, and, interestingly, she explained that it's not just the delicious flavor of pickles that keeps us coming back for more—it's science.

"Pickles are appetizing and a salty food, so they increase energy intake by increasing appetite and result in increased food intake," Dr. Byakodi says quoting a study, "this leads to obesity."

Before you trash that jar of pickles: no, they will not make you obese. As another expert, nutritionist John Frigo, put it, "there are worse foods one could eat."

However, it's good to bear in mind that a pickle is not a substitute for veggies or other nutritional snacks.

"Pickles have low nutritional value because of the pickling process," says Dr. Buttar. "During the process of pickling, fruits or vegetables are diced or chopped and then dried out … in the sunlight. This is to ensure that no water content is left in the fruit or vegetables. But the negative point of this process is that drying in sunlight leads to further loss of nutrients."

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Kaley Roberts
Kaley Roberts is a food writer. Read more
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