Are pickles junk food? Do they count toward your daily vegetable intake?
Pickling means steeping a food in a preservative, usually brine or vinegar. Typically the food is a cucumber, which is not a dynamo of nutrition to begin with. But nearly anything can be pickled, including green tomatoes, green beans, cauliflower, peppers, beets, onions and carrots.
Before the advent of refrigeration and canning, pickled vegetables were a necessity of life. Among the pickle fanciers of history were Julius Caesar, Queen Elizabeth I, Napoleon and Jefferson.
Any processing destroys some vitamins, particularly water-soluble ones like C and the B vitamins. But the real trouble with pickles, of course, is that the sour or dill varieties are very high in sodium. A 3 1/2-ounce sour pickle has only 11 calories but 1,200 milligrams of sodium—nearly the entire daily maximum for most people. There are low-salt versions, but they don’t taste like pickles. Sweet pickles are lower in sodium, with 450 milligrams in 3 1/2 ounces, but higher in calories—about 90.
Eat pickled veggies in small quantities, as condiments—or as occasional treats. Pickles are not junk food, but they’re no substitute for raw or cooked vegetables.