The ketogenic diet community has debated the topic of pickles for quite some time.
On one side, keto-ers believe pickles have lectin and hidden sugars that can kick you out of ketosis. And on the other, they praise pickles for their essential vitamin and mineral content.
The truth is...
Both sides are right! What matters is choosing (or making your own) pickles that are low-carb and ketogenic-friendly.
In this article, we'll go over everything you need to know about eating pickles on keto:
- Can you eat pickles on keto?
- What kind of pickles is the healthiest?
- Benefits of pickles
- Best pickles for the ketogenic diet
- How to make your own keto pickles
Can You Eat Pickles on Keto?
Yes—as long as you aren't eating excessive amounts, pickles are a perfect low-carb, keto-friendly snack to hold you over until your next meal. Just be careful when choosing store-bought brands, as some products contain sugar, and thus, additional carbohydrates.
Fortunately, there are some brands that have minimal sugar content like fermented pickles.
For your standard, run-of-the-mill pickle spear (35 g):
- Calories - 4.2
- Protein - 0.2 g
- Carbs - 0.9 g
- Fiber - 0.4 g
- Fat - 0 g
At just 0.5 g of net carbs per spear, pickles are an easy addition to your keto diet, regardless of what stage of ketosis you're in.
However, to get the most out of pickles on keto, we suggest making your own. Not only will they taste better than commercial brands, but you can make them more keto-friendly by excluding any unnecessary ingredients like sugar.
What Kind of Pickles Is the Healthiest?
Fermented pickles provide the most health benefit, but not all pickles are fermented.
When fruits or vegetables are fermented, healthy bacteria will break down sugars. This entire process is what produces the sour taste. Fermentation is the reason why certain people who are lactose intolerant can still eat yogurt. The good bacteria break down the lactose sugar.
Pickles that are not fermented, use vinegar to give off that sour taste.
Most pickles you find at your local grocery stores are non-fermented, vinegar pickles. While they have an almost identical taste, fermented pickles are healthier for your gut microbiome since it contains good bacteria, also known as probiotics.
Health Benefits of Pickles
Incorporating fermented foods into your diet can help with just about everything including inflammation, clearer skin, and improving insulin sensitivity[*].
But that doesn't necessarily mean that unfermented pickles aren't healthy for you.
They still contain health benefits that come from vinegar, spices, and cucumbers. In fact, drinking pickle juice has now become a trend because it can help with cramping, as well as weight loss and even diabetes.
Pickle juice is extremely popular in the ketogenic diet community because it can provide the essential minerals to prevent the dreaded keto flu and maintain a proper electrolyte balance.
Pickles also contain antioxidants. These natural antioxidants - found in all fruits and vegetables - can help scavenge free radicals in the body, which are unstable chemicals present in your body and have been linked to disease including cancer and heart disease[*].
High Sodium in Pickles Is a Good Thing for Keto-ers
The most intriguing aspect of eating pickles on keto is its sodium content.
Many people are wary of the high sodium content because we’ve been taught to believe that too much salt is bad for your health.
But on the ketogenic diet, sodium intake should be increased.
Beginners on the low-carb lifestyle may experience flu-like symptoms mainly due to a lack of sodium intake. Fortunately, pickles contain a large amount of sodium.
Just eating two small spears has more than 600mg of sodium.
In general, you want to consume 2,000 mg to 4,000 mg of sodium on keto. This is more than the recommended amount of carbohydrate-based diets because being in ketosis has diuretic effects and requires more sodium intake.
Where to Get Keto Approved Pickles
The most important thing to look at when purchasing keto-friendly pickles is the nutrition label.
If the ingredients only contain cucumbers, vinegar, water, and zero-calorie spices, you're in the clear.
However, you should pay close attention when purchasing pickles. There are several pickle brands that contain sugar in the brine. These are usually the "bread and butter" category of pickles. In addition to sugar, avoid any brands that contain hidden additives like MSG, sulfites, and carrageenan.
Here's a list of a few ketogenic-approved pickles to choose from:
- Claussen Kosher Dill Halves. While these pickles may have a few carbs for flavoring, you can find it at most grocery stores and can be eaten on keto in moderation. Grab these if you don’t have a local health food store with healthier pickle alternatives.
- McClure's Spicy Pickles: If you're looking for spicy pickles, this is a great choice. It only contains cucumber, water, salt, peppers, garlic, and dill.
- Bubbies Kosher Dills: The simpler the ingredient list, the better. Bubbies pickles only contain cucumbers, water, garlic, salt, spices, and dill. And did we mention they have ZERO carbs per serving?!
How to Make Your Own Keto Pickles
The best (and healthiest) way to start incorporating pickles into your diet is by creating your own!
Homemade pickles won't have any unnecessary sugars or ingredients for flavoring that may knock you out of ketosis. In addition, choosing to ferment cucumbers will provide your body with a boost of probiotics to give your gut the good bacteria it needs to thrive.
Besides, pickling recipes are extremely simple.
To ferment cucumbers: all you need is salt, white vinegar, and the seasonings of your choice. Then, pour hot water and hot salted vinegar over the top of your cucumbers, let them soak for two or three days while in the refrigerator and voila! Your tasty, fermented pickles are ready for consumption.
Pickles are Great on the Ketogenic Diet
Eating pickles on keto is perfectly acceptable if you choose the right kind or make your own.
The sodium content will help you get rid of (or completely avoid) keto-flu symptoms, the fermentation provides your gut with healthy, good bacteria, and even provides your body with antioxidants.
As long as you avoid sugary pickle brands, pickles can be the perfect low-carb snack to help you fill in any gaps in your ketogenic diet and keep you satiated until your next meal!