Pickles are a popular low-calorie food option. But why exactly do pickles have so few calories? There are a few reasons behind this.
First, pickles are made by soaking cucumbers in a brine solution. This brine is usually made up of water, vinegar, salt, and spices. The cucumbers soak up some of the brine, which leads to a process called osmosis. The cucumbers end up losing much of their natural sugars and calories to the brine.
The ingredients in the brine also help preserve the cucumbers. The vinegar lowers the pH and acts as a preservative. The salt helps draw out moisture. This removal of moisture and sugar during the pickling process is a major reason fresh cucumbers go from having 16 calories per cup to pickles having just 7-8 calories per cup.
Another reason is the high water content in pickles. Cucumbers themselves are about 96% water. The pickling process doesn’t remove all of the water. So pickles end up being about 91-92% water after they are finished pickling. With so much water content, the calories get diluted significantly.
Lastly, the volume picks up during pickling. Cucumbers lose mass as moisture is drawn out, but they retain their size and swell up a bit from the brine. You end up with about the same physical size or even larger from pickling, but with fewer grams of actual cucumber matter. This further divides up the calories into a greater volume of food.
So in summary, pickles end up with barely any calories because of the soaking process in brine, the high water content, and the increase in volume during pickling. This makes pickles a great ultra low-calorie food option.
Why Do Pickles Stay Crunchy?
Pickles manage to stay crunchy because the acids in the pickling brine reduce the pectin in the cucumbers. Pectin is a polysaccharide that holds plant cell walls together. The acid helps break down the pectin over time. This softens the cucumber cell structure while still maintaining crispiness.
The firm texture also comes from the outer skin and flesh that don’t completely break down during pickling. So you get a nice mix of softened inner cell walls along with still sturdy outer layers. This balance results in the signature crunchy texture.
Do Pickles Go Bad?
Properly stored pickles can last 1-2 years past their best by date before going bad. Signs that pickles have spoiled include:
– Mold growth
– Soft or mushy texture
– Unpleasant odors
– Darkened or cloudy brine
As long as the jar seal remains intact, the high acidity and salt content prevent microbial growth. Opened jars should be refrigerated and consumed within 6-9 months. Pickles can also be frozen for extended storage. Follow preservation guidelines carefully for best safety and quality.
Are Pickles Good For You?
Pickles are low in calories and high in sodium. In moderation, they can be part of a healthy diet. Benefits of pickles include:
– Fewer than 10 calories per spear
– Contains antioxidants like vitamin K and vitamin A
– Probiotic effects from fermentation
– May aid digestion
However, a typical pickle spear also contains about 400mg of sodium. So those with high blood pressure or on a low sodium diet should be mindful of portions. Overall, enjoying a few pickle spears can be a healthy choice, providing a satisfying crunch without many calories.
What Vegetables Can Be Pickled?
Many vegetables are suitable for pickling:
– Cucumbers – The most common pickled vegetable. Gherkins are a type of small pickle cucumber.
– Peppers – Jalapenos, banana peppers, cherry peppers and other varieties are often pickled.
– Green Beans – Also called dilly beans when pickled.
– Beets – Often pickled into a deep magenta color.
– Onions – Mainly pearl onions and other small onions.
– Carrots – Typically pickled into carrot sticks.
– Cauliflower – Crunchy pickled florets.
– Eggs – Pickled eggs are hard boiled then cured in brine.
The options are endless! Try pickling favorites from the garden or farmers market.
In conclusion, pickles are able to retain their signature crunch and have very few calories thanks to the natural effects of the pickling process. While high in sodium, pickles can be enjoyed in moderation as a nutritious, low-calorie food. Experiment with pickling different vegetables at home for a convenient, tasty snack.