I Drank Pickle Juice Every Day for a Week—Here’s What Happened
With recent buzz about the benefits of pickle juice for gut health, muscle cramps, anxiety and more, this health reporter pursued a pout-puckering experiment.
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The New York Food Museum suggests Julis Caesar may have been among the first to praise pickles for health when he fed them to his troops for “physical and spiritual strength.” What started more than 2,000 years ago as a necessity—using brine to preserve foods to extend their shelf-life—has had remarkable staying power and even become a culinary trend. Our ancestors were clearly onto something: Growing research speaks to the health benefits of pickles and pickle juice, which the Cleveland Clinic‘s blog has said can be beneficial to digestion, blood sugar, metabolism, depression and anxiety symptoms, immunity and more.
I happen to love pickled anything, as long as the ingredients don’t contain preservatives or dye. To test the health effects of pickle juice, I decided to try drinking pickle juice every day for a week. Here’s what I discovered.
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Whatever pickles have, I need
It was getting close to dinnertime on the first day of my pickle experiment, and I realized I hadn’t had my pickle juice. I was a bit hungry—but I didn’t think I’d want to accompany my dinner with a big glass of pickle juice—so I decided to have it first. Most people who drink pickle juice take it in one go as a small shot…but to kick off my experiment, I poured two ounces of pickle juice into a Mason jar, added water and ice, and sat back down at my desk.
Halfway through the jar, I realized I no longer felt hunger pangs. Wondering if pickle juice is an appetite suppressant, I did a little research: A clinical study in 2015 showed that vinegar—the main ingredient in pickle juice—can help regulate blood sugar in type 2 diabetics. (Non-diabetics can also suffer from low blood sugar. One way to avoid that is by eating small meals throughout the day…or, by having a snack, like a pickle.)
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I also realized there’s a good chance the pickle juice-water blend eliminated my hunger simply by hydrating me.
Joanna Wen, a certified online weight loss coach with a degree in biological engineering, says: “Pickle juice has become popular among athletes and health-conscious individuals due to the high concentration of electrolytes—most notably sodium and potassium—that can act as a rehydrator and help the body replenish essential minerals it has lost during excessive physical or alcoholic activity.”
Even though I hadn’t done an intense workout and wasn’t looking for a hangover remedy, I was probably depleted. Adding pickle juice to my water may have replenished my system. (However, note taken: Drinking pickle juice after a night of drinking may be a good way to sober up and help the body recover.)
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Further research was necessary
As I continued my week of drinking pickle juice, I expanded beyond big glasses of watered-down pickle juice to trying shots of pickle juice poured from my container of Grillo’s Pickles. When you’re shopping for pickles, you want to choose from companies, like Grillo’s that use as few ingredients as possible. Grillo’s pickles are made with a 100-year-old family recipe and contain just a few ingredients: Cucumbers, water, white vinegar, salt, garlic, dill, and grape leaves. The company doesn’t add preservatives, color or sugar. Avoiding those unnecessary ingredients is wise.
One convenient, fool-proof way to drink pickle juice is to buy organic, portioned Pickle Juice shots. The Pickle Juice Company was founded to support athletes’ performance based on evidence that pickle juice stops muscle cramps within 35 seconds. It’s been a few years since I ran long distances; a usual run is around four miles these days. But I bet a shot of pickle juice around mile nine would make all the difference.
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Expanding my range
In addition to the blood sugar regulation and electrolyte replenishment, pickle juice has that tang that I crave. But even the most diehard pickle lover wants to expand her flavor palate a little, so I got in touch with Daniela Jensen at Big Picture Foods. I wondered if the brine in their pickled banana peppers and pepperoncini, both of which come with the bonus of fermentation, contained the same kind of brine as their pickles.
“A naturally fermented pickle brine has the same properties as our pepper,” Jensen told me. “The difference is the flavor of the food (pepper vs. cucumber), how much vinegar they add when finishing, and whatever spices are typically included (garlic, dill, etc.) with pickles.”
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With that information, I decided to expand and create an easy, tasty, nutritious mocktail recipe. I added an ounce each of Big Picture Foods’ banana pepper and pepperoncini brines to a glass of tomato juice. That was it—basically, a virgin Bloody Mary filled with electrolytes and probiotic goodness.
“The vinegar in pickle juice can also boost your gut health, which is very important for overall health,” says Anna Vocino, a clean-eating cookbook author of Eat Happy. “Fermented foods help maintain a healthy digestive system, as they help the growth of ‘good bacteria’ and ‘flora’ in one’s gut. But pasteurized pickle juice renders the bacteria inactive, so look out for that.”
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Is the sodium a big deal?
A high-salt diet is a no-no for plenty of people, and consuming more than the U.S. Food & Drug Administration‘s recommendation may have negative health effects.
With that in mind, registered dietitian Bri Bell, RD, says there’s a really important caveat to drinking pickle juice from a pickle jar. “There’s no way to tell exactly how much salt you’re getting in store-bought pickle juice, as the nutritional information listed on the jar only lists how much is in the pickle itself. Because of this, if you choose to drink pickle juice, start small at just an ounce or less, and see how you feel.”
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- New York Food Museum, "Pickle History Timeline"
- Cleveland Clinic, "6 Health Benefits of Drinking Pickle Juice"
- Journal of Diabetes Research, "Vinegar Consumption Increases Insulin-Stimulated Glucose Uptake by the Forearm Muscle in Humans with Type 2 Diabetes"
- Joanna Wen, certified health coach at Spices & Greens
- Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, "Reflex inhibition of electrically induced muscle cramps in hypohydrated humans"
- Anna Vocino, Eat Happy Kitchen
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration, "Sodium in Your Diet"
- Bri Bell, Registered Dietician
- Andrew Huberman, PhD, Neuroscientist, professor, Stanford University