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Pickles — A low-calorie, fermented friend

Because of pickles’ texture, smell and taste, there are two kinds of people: ones who love pickles and the others who hate them. There are several different ways one can munch on the pickled green cucumbers, but not all pickles are equally good for you. They are pretty easy to make yourself — healthier than you can find them in the store, low-calorie and, if fermented, really good for your gut.

Pickles start life as cucumbers. After spending time in a jar of water or vinegar, salt and a variety of spices, they become pickles.

One of the reasons pickles have a good reputation from a health standpoint is because they’re very low-calorie. Regardless of your lifestyle choices or diet of choice, it’s always nice to have a low-calorie snack option.

The lesser-known reason pickles are good for you is that when they’re fermented, they have live probiotics, which are good for your digestive system. Probiotics are good bacteria that naturally occur in our digestive systems and help us digest our food.

Not all pickles sold at the supermarket are fermented, but you can easily make them at home or find a brand that is fermented, for example: Bubbies. Or, you may be able to find fermented pickles at a local farmers market.

When pickles are made with vinegar, which most store-bought pickles are, the process is considered “quick pickling,” and fermentation does not occur. The quick pickling process can be done in just a few days.

If the pickles are made with water and salt, the fermentation process occurs. This process can take up to a few months.

When pickles are fermented, gut-friendly bacteria are created. According to Tufts University, these microorganisms aid further in digestion. There is evidence suggesting that the bacteria help to reduce inflammation and may help with allergies and overall body health.

It’s always important to read ingredient labels when choosing which pickles to buy. If you have a sweet tooth and like bread and butter pickles, you’ll notice that all options at the grocery store are sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS.

According to studies done at Princeton University, subjects showed significant weight gain when consuming HFCS versus other sweeteners.

Now, if you’re interested in making your own fermented pickles, check out the following recipe from myhumblekitchen.com, and always remember, for the best results and crunchiest pickles, to use the freshest cucumbers you can find.

Ingredient

24 (or so) small 4 inch to 5 inch pickling cucumbers

6 cloves garlic, ends removed and smashed

6 bay leaves

2 1/2 tbsp pickling spice (cloves, coriander, allspice, pepper, mustard seeds)

Fresh dill

6 tbsp large granule sea salt (kosher salt)

Method

1. Properly clean 3 quart-sized mason jars.

2. Gently clean and remove flower ends from cucumbers.

3. To each quart-sized mason jar, stack the bottom with as many cucumbers as you can fit.

4. Divide the pickling spice between the jars.

5. To each jar, add 2 garlic cloves and 2 bay leaves.

6. Add a good amount of dill to each jar, then fill each jar with as many more cucumbers as you can fit. Do not allow the cucumbers to go up into the band area. Make sure there’s 1 inch headspace between the top of the jar and the lid.

7. On the stovetop, heat 1 quart of filtered water with 6 tbsp of salt until it dissolves. Once the salt dissolves into the water, remove from heat. Add 1 1/3 cups of the salt solution brine to each jar.

8. Fill the remainder of the jars with enough filtered water to cover all the ingredients.

9. Place a lid on each jar and give it a good shake to mix the water and salt brine solution. Make sure to check after shaking that all the ingredients are submerged.

10. Place the jar in a cool dark place for 2 weeks making sure to burp the jar after 7 days.

About The Author

Melissa Neubek

Melissa, aka Meli, is a second year journalism major. Originally from Boston (Go Pats!), she’s been in Florida for three years now. She graduated from Boston University with her photography degree in 2011 and now owns her own photography business with her husband. If she’s not busy schooling or photographing, she can be found cooking, watching HGTV or Netflix, or traveling. She loves writing simply because it’s fun. She loves National Geographic, the color purple and monkeys. She really doesn’t like math, watermelons, and having to repeat herself.

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