Pickles and Diabetes: A Great Food Option for Diabetics?

Pickles and Diabetes: A Great Food Option for Diabetics?


Glycemic index:


Calories per 100 g:

12 kcal

Pickles are common foods that are enjoyed by many households. People with diabetes also enjoy pickles due to the rich flavor that most come with. However, is it advised that people with diabetes eat pickles and how frequently?

Firstly, many foods can qualify as pickles as long as they’re storable and subject to fermentation when immersed in vinegar or brine. This means that the glycemic index for a particular pickled food can be very different from another.

So how can diabetics know the right pickled foods to eat to prevent a rise in blood sugar? To answer this question, we’ll consider major pickled foods so that people with the condition can have a more informed opinion.

This guide highlights when people with diabetes should eat pickles, if certain ones can aid weight loss or if the food is generally not great for the health of a diabetic.

Nutritional value

  • Protein 0.3 g
  • Carbohydrate 2.3 g
  • Fat 0.2 g
  • Fiber 1.2 g
  • Sugar 1.1 g
  • Cholesterol 0 g

What Are Pickles?

Pickles are a popular type of food eaten as both a snack and a meal. It’s important to understand that there’s no food or fruit known as a pickle. Instead, foods known as pickles are those that have been preserved inside vinegar or brine, a process termed pickling. This means that pickled foods are generally major foods that range from vegetables to fruits.

The most popular pickled food type is cucumbers preserved with vinegar or brine (pickled cucumber). Other foods can be preserved, just like cucumbers, including onions, olives, fish, eggs, and dairy.

The major reason for pickling foods is to preserve their shelf life. This explains why pickled foods are mostly easily perishable ones. When immersed in brine, anaerobic fermentation typically occurs. This also happens with vinegar.

While the main purpose of pickling foods is to preserve them, it also significantly affects their taste and flavor. The change in taste is generally enjoyable and has made many people choose pickled foods to get an altered taste of particular foods. It’s not uncommon to see households add pickled foods to their diet and may even eat them regularly.

Pickled foods are also called pickles, and you can find a mix of different pickles in a canned bottle or plastic in grocery shops.

While pickles are enjoyable, there’s no doubt that the vinegar and fermentation process occurring during preservation affects their tastes, properties, and glycemic index. The properties of a normal cucumber are typically different when pickled, and so are other foods.

This chemical change in pickled foods usually leaves people with diabetes concerned about whether they’re a great option for blood sugar. All diabetes management plans require that people with the condition eat foods that don’t trigger blood sugar spikes. Pickles are one of those foods that have been subjected to expert considerations on how they relate to blood sugar.

Cucumber pickles are the most common type of pickles and are known as dill pickles. You can enjoy them with meals or alone as snacks. There are also sweet pickles, and they’re usually a mixture of cucumber slices, sugar, butter, and sometimes, even honey.

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What’s the Glycemic Index for Pickles?

If you buy pickles or make them yourself, cucumber will always be a main feature in your meal. A standard pickle is usually made with cucumber slices, vinegar, small salt, and slices of onions.

Adding sugar to the mix makes it sweet. However, the majority of pickles aren’t sweet. So, you’ll need to specify that you need a sweet dill pickle to get one.

The glycemic index (GI) of a standard pickle is in the good range, very important for people with diabetes. Due to diabetics' vulnerability to blood sugar spikes, it’s recommended that any meal consumed has a low glycemic index.

A food is said to have a low glycemic index if it’s in the range of 0 to 55. A medium glycemic index ranges from 56 to 69, while a high glycemic index has a number count from 70 to 100.

The glycemic index of a dill pickle without added sweetening flavor is 32 — a low GI value. From the index value, it’s clear that an average edible pickle mix doesn’t contain much sugar and can be eaten by people with diabetes.

The food's glycemic index is in line with its nutritional value — high in good nutrients and has very low natural sugar. Also, pickles are considered very healthy as their main composition is healthy foods and vegetables.

Their rich nutrients make them a standout that provides many benefits that enhance the body's healthy growth and development. The following section fully considers the benefits of the food.

Benefits of Eating Pickles

The good sides of consuming pickles are aplenty, ranging from excellent probiotic properties to blood sugar and cholesterol reduction. Let’s have a more detailed look.

Probiotic Properties

A major benefit of eating pickles is their rich probiotic properties. After going through the fermentation process, pickles increase their probiotics content following a significant storage time.

Probiotics are good bacteria that help cleanse the gut and enhance better digestion. This is very important for people with digestive problems or that suffer from constipation. While this benefit doesn’t directly aid in reducing blood sugar levels, easy digestion is one way people with diabetes can easily feel better, are less bloated, and quickly burn food as fuel.

Regulates Blood Sugar Levels

That pickles can regulate blood sugar levels makes it a very beneficial option for their condition. As long as standard pickles are consumed under a strict and restricted diet with no added sugar or high GI sweetener, they can help control blood sugar.

That they’re fermented doesn’t make them less healthy. Rather, as already highlighted before, pickles’ vinegar content makes them an excellent option for regulating blood glucose.

Similarly, that it preserves fermented foods doesn’t make it less effective. Instead, it makes the entire content even more diabetic-friendly.

Therefore, if you have diabetes, you should always opt for standard pickles to gain their benefits. If you eat dill pickles with slices of other low GI food, you’ll have a generally lower risk of experiencing glucose spikes. 

A Good Source of Antioxidants and Vitamin C

Pickles are incredibly rich in antioxidants and have immense health benefits in protecting the body from being exposed to diseases. Remarkably, pickles pack antioxidants like carotenes that enhance the immune system and make them more efficient in fighting off diseases.

While this particular benefit is great for every person, it’s especially crucial for diabetics. This is because diabetes leaves the immune system weak and exposed. Rich antioxidants, therefore, balance off this vulnerability by strengthening the immune system.

Apart from the antioxidant properties of pickles, it’s also rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a similar role in enhancing immunity and reducing the risk of infections.

Reduces Aches

While there are multiple conventional treatments to handle aches, pickles are one of the most natural methods. Pickles are very helpful for muscle pains and can significantly dull the pain within an hour. They also reduce cramps that may arise from lack of blood flow and extreme exercise.

Although pickles may not be as effective or fast as traditional treatment, their natural ache-relieving properties are simply an added perk.

Reduces Cholesterol Levels

There’s the “bad” cholesterol and the “good” cholesterol. “Good” cholesterol is usually not a problem. However, “bad” cholesterol, known as LDL, can trigger several life-threatening conditions like heart disease, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

Pickles are rich in nutrients that tackle LDL increase and ensure they don’t get to a harmful range. It’s, however, important that people take steps to ensure that they don’t consume foods that counteract this benefit.

Are Pickles Safe for People With Diabetes?

From the benefits of pickled foods highlighted so far, it’s obvious that pickles are great for people who battle with high blood pressure and diabetes. The standard content of pickles can significantly reduce blood sugar and is a recommended option to mitigate the Dawn Phenomenon.

Pickles are very high in nutrients, which means that apart from preventing blood sugar spikes, they also fight against vulnerabilities to other conditions and enhance the body's immune system. Diabetes experts and health physicians typically recommend pickles as part of a diabetic-friendly diet because it prevents blood sugar spikes.

However, it’s important to know that you go for standard pickles mix and not those that include artificial sugar or sweeteners. The latter can raise blood sugar levels and increase the risk of diabetes and other related complications.

What’s Pickle Juice?

Unlike what you may have in mind, pickle juice isn’t any special kind of juice. Rather, it’s simply the vinegar that acts as a preservative and is claimed to have many beneficial effects.

Thanks to the vinegar content, experts claim that drinking pickle juice can help reduce cramps and regulate blood sugar. Most commercially prepared pickle juice is either salty vinegar or those with a sweet undertone following the introduction of sugar. You should avoid the latter as it’s counterproductive to preventing a rise in blood sugar.

Side Effects of Pickles

Pickles come with certain side effects if consumed in excess. Salt is a crucial ingredient in pickles and can take as much as 3% of the total mix of the food choice. This addition isn’t exactly great for health when consumed without appropriate consideration of its effects.

For one, eating too much salt can lead to stomach cancer, a concern that a 2015 research highlights. The issue of salt is the most prominent concern about eating pickles. It’s, however, something to worry about only when pickles are eaten often. Proper spacing of eating time can help significantly reduce the condition's effect.

Also, sweet pickles aren’t very healthy and have a counterproductive effect on people that suffer from blood sugar rise. If you enjoy eating pickles, you should ensure that you mostly eat those without sugar and sweeteners.

Generally, you can significantly reduce the side effects of pickles by following a meal plan and avoiding the temptation of wanting to make it sweeter. With both taken care of, you won't have much reason to worry about their side effects. However, you should ask your doctor if eating pickles is a good option if your diabetes condition is somewhat advanced/severe.

This article has considered pickles and their role for people with diabetes. Generally, pickles are good to eat with hardly any health complications. It’s sweet pickles with added sugar—which have a heightened risk of increasing blood sugar levels—that can be very dangerous for diabetics.

It’s also very important not to eat too many pickles at a go or on consecutive days as it can lead to too much sodium. So, your eating and food habits are critical in ensuring that you only stack enough pickles that your body needs. However, to achieve this, you have to eat foods that complement the lack of pickles and still don’t increase blood sugar. You can meet your doctor or dietitian to help you craft a diabetic-friendly meal plan.

You can also opt for a diabetes-friendly meal planner to get an excellent meal plan for your condition. Excellent expert meal planning apps, like our Klinio app, ensure you get the right food recommendations, perfect for your condition.

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