In A Pickle About Pickles? Are pickles a safe snack for those with diabetes?
If you’ve lived with diabetes long enough, you’ve heard all sorts of interesting tales and wild myths about living with the disease. Some of these are downright silly, such as the common misconception that diabetes is contagious. Others are a bit more dangerous, like the claim by some misinformed folks that diabetes is not a serious health condition.
Anyone who’s living with the disease, making the right lifestyle choices, testing blood sugar every day, injecting insulin or taking other doctor-prescribed medication knows that diabetes is no joke. It’s hard living with the disease and we’re certainly not going to make light of it.
However, we are going to have a little fun in this post because we’re talking about the great pickle debate. It seems that there’s an argument to be made for and against pickles and pickle juice when it comes to diabetes health.
The Pickle Juice Discovery
The art of pickling dates back more than 4000 years to ancient India, where the practice of fermenting various vegetables, meats, and fruits in vinegar, oil and salt got its roots.
The fact is, you can pickle countless items to keep them from spoiling, while adding a wide range of flavors, but today’s all-time-favorite pickled delicacy has to be the quintessential dill pickle.
So, what’s the debate over the pickle when it comes to diabetes? Well, recent studies have shown that pickles and pickle juice just might have a number of important health benefits. One of these is that pickle juice, more specifically the high concentration of vinegar it contains, can improve the body’s response to insulin and actually help reduce the rise in blood sugar that happens after meals. Additionally, 2018 findings released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggest that vinegar consumption might lead to lower A1C scores in some individuals, which is certainly beneficial to managing diabetes.
There’s also evidence, though certainly not rock solid as of yet, that suggests by helping to stabilize blood sugar pickle juice might also help curb a person’s appetite and lead to weight loss. Additionally, even fermented cukes retain many of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they have in their raw state that may protect the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals – molecules inside the body that are linked to cancer and heart disease. Oh, and did we mention pickle juice can help the body rehydrate and recover after exercise?
These sounds like some pretty pro-pickle statements, right? After all, if drinking a little pickle juice could help you improve blood sugar control, why not? Well, as with many things we learn about when managing diabetes, there are two sides to every story.
The Problems with Pickles
You may have already guessed the elephant in the pickle jar – sodium! Pickles contain large concentrations of salt – up to 808 milligrams in just a 100-gram serving! Consuming too much salt is not a great health decision for anyone, but it can be a particularly dangerous one for those living with diabetes.
As someone with diabetes, you are already at an increased risk for cardiovascular complications and increasing your sodium intake only serves to increase this risk. Large amounts of salt are also known to elevate blood pressure, already a concern for many with Type 2 diabetes, which of course can lead to further heart complications if left untreated.
What About Sweet Pickles?
The pros and cons surrounding dill pickles, really doesn’t exist around sweet pickles or bread-and-butter pickles. That’s because, as the names suggest, these pickles are packed with sugar – up to more than 18 grams in a 100-gram serving. So, it’s very likely that the first blood sugar test you take after eating a few sweet gherkins will spike high on your glucose meter. Dill pickles, on the other hand, contain less than 2 grams of sugar in the same size serving – an amount that would not likely lead to a sudden spike in blood sugar.
Besides, it’s not like you’re escaping that dreaded sodium overload by choosing sweet pickles. They usually contain somewhere in the ballpark of 457 grams of salt in a the same 100-gram serving.
Certainly, a sweet pickle here and there isn’t going to throw your diabetes management plan entirely off the rails. However, as a general rule you’re better off avoiding sweet pickles and going with the dill variety.
So, Is It Yeah or Nay on The Pickle?
The answer is neither. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) lists pickled foods on their list of edible treats that are high in salt and should be eaten only in moderation. Essentially, there is no evidence that suggests you should avoid pickles altogether. There is, however, the established truth that eating too much sodium is not beneficial for anyone and becomes a special concern for those of us living with diabetes.
So, we say it’s better to err on the safe side. Whatever blood sugar impact pickles or pickle juice might have, there are better and smarter ways to control yours. After all, that’s why you and your doctors worked together to develop diabetes management plan in the first place.
As with most indulgences, it’s moderation that matters with the pickle. One suggestion is to do the pickling at home, so that you control the amount of salt and sugar that goes into your food. If that’s not possible, look for low-sodium and low-sugar options in your local supermarket and enjoy sparingly.
We hope you found this post informative and helpful. At Diabeticteststrips.org, we committed to keeping you up to date with the latest topics and unique insights on living with diabetes. We’re also proud to help you stick to your doctor-prescribed diabetes treatment plan with a huge selection of diabetic supplies and equipment at prices up to 65% less than you’ll find at pharmacies and other suppliers.