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Can Eating Pickles Cause Weight Loss?

author image Sylvie Tremblay, MSc
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.
Can Eating Pickles Cause Weight Loss?
Woman eating pickle Photo Credit Image Source/Image Source/Getty Images

Weight loss is about burning more calories than you eat, so simply eating pickles won't melt away the pounds. But pickles are low in calories -- so they can fit into a weight loss, calorie-controlled diet -- and have some properties that might help with fat loss. But their high sodium content means you might gain water weight after eating them, which can impact the results you see on the scale.

A Low-Calorie Snack for Weight Loss

Including pickles in your diet as a healthy snack can help you shed pounds, thanks to their low calorie count. A cup of dill pickles -- regular or low sodium -- has just 17 calories. Even if you're following a very restricted diet of 1,200 calories per day, that's less than 2 percent of your daily calorie allowance. If you're craving dill pickle-flavored chips or popcorn, satisfy your craving with actual pickles to lose weight. Each 1 ounce serving of dill pickle chips has 160 calories -- if you swapped out the chips for real dill pickles three times a week for a year, you'd save enough calories to lose more than 6 pounds of fat.

Make sure you stick with unsweetened pickles for your low-calorie snack, though. Sweetened pickles, like bread and butter pickles, are much higher in calories -- 146 calories per cup. Most of those calories come from the sugar use to sweeten the pickles, which means sweetened varieties aren't ideal for a weight loss diet.

Potential Benefits From Vinegar

Pickles' sour taste comes from the vinegar mixture that makes up the pickle brine. This vinegar contains acetic acid, which might play a role in weight loss. One animal study, published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in 2015, reports that rats fed acetic acid were more resistant to obesity than rats that didn't get acetic acid. Vinegar might also keep food in your stomach for longer after a meal -- literally "filling" you up and boosting satisfaction after a meal -- according to a review published in Nutrition Reviews in 2014. The review also notes that vinegar might boost your calorie burn throughout the day, which makes it easier to burn more calories than you eat and lose weight. However, the review also notes that the evidence for vinegar and weight loss is preliminary; while these early results show promise for vinegar as a weight loss aid, more research is needed to know just how well it helps you shed pounds.

Sodium and Weight Loss

Pickles have one major drawback -- their sodium content. Sodium doesn't actually prevent you from losing fat, but it can make it harder to notice weight loss in your regular weigh-ins. That's because sodium makes your body retain water, so you might gain a few pounds from the added water weight. Regular dill pickles have 1,157 milligrams of sodium per cup -- that's 48 percent of the daily value -- while sweet pickles have 731 milligrams of sodium, or 30 percent of the daily value, per cup. For a healthier option that won't make you gain water weight, go for low-sodium pickles. This variety has a negligible 26 milligrams of sodium per cup.

Serving Pickles for Weight Loss

Use pickles -- the low-sodium variety, of course -- to add flavor to diet-friendly meals without adding much fat or calories. Chopped pickles work well on a leafy green salad, while pickle slices in turkey or chicken breast sandwiches give a flavor boost so you don't have to use fattier flavorings like mayo. Add chopped pickles to your tuna and chicken salads. Pickles are lower in calories than the other ingredients in these salads -- including the chicken, tuna and mayonnaise -- so adding pickles to the mix lets you eat a larger portion size for roughly the same number of calories.

If you get bored with plain cucumber pickles, experiment with other low-sodium pickled veggies. Pickled beans, beets, cauliflower and even asparagus make low-calorie snacks, and they help you boost your vegetable intake while you satisfy your salt craving.

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