Though pickles often star in supporting roles next to deli sandwiches and ballpark hot dogs, they shouldn't be relegated to the land of condiments. Pickles stand out as flavorful, low-calorie vegetables and are high in vitamin K. Unfortunately, pickles are also high in sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure. But, don't skip the pickles. If you watch your serving sizes, pickles can be a delicious part of well-balanced diet.
Pickles are a Vegetable
The common pickle starts life as a raw cucumber. Through an ancient process now known as pickling, the cucumber is submerged in a brine of vinegar, salt and spices and allowed to ferment. Pickling changes the cucumber's flavor and nutrition but it is still categorized as a vegetable. One dill pickle spear contributes 1/4 cup to your recommended daily vegetable intake.
Pickle Calories and Vitamins
Pickles are characteristically low in fat and calories. A typical dill pickle spear contains less than 1 g of fat and only 4 calories. Pickles are also high in vitamin K; one spear supplies 14 mcg or 15 percent of your daily requirement. Vitamin K helps your blood clot after injury, and pickles are a tasty way to obtain this important vitamin.
Pickles, Sodium and High Blood Pressure
Unfortunately, pickles are high in sodium and eating a high-sodium diet is strongly associated with risk for developing high blood pressure. The Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board recommends that healthy people should consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. One spear of a classic dill pickle contains 306 mg of sodium or 13 percent of the daily recommendation. You can still enjoy pickles, but limit your serving sizes, or choose low-sodium varieties.
Choose Low-Sodium Pickles
Low-sodium varieties of pickles offer the familiar flavor and crunch of regular pickles with less salt. One spear of a low-sodium dill pickle contains less than 20 mg of sodium or roughly 1 percent of the daily recommended intake. Look for low-sodium pickles next to the regular varieties at the supermarket. Choose low-sodium pickles more often than regular pickles to maximize flavor in a low-calorie diet and lower your risk of high blood pressure.