You may have heard about a strange practice: drinking pickle juice for weight loss. (Yes, really.) Sure, we love the taste of a fermented cucumber in its tasty rind, but why on earth would anyone drink the salty-vinegar juice on its own? Turns out, hordes of people turn to it for weight loss, recovery after a workout, and even improved hydration. However, experts like Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN — creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read it Before You Eat It — Taking You from Label to Table ($15.99, Amazon) suggest that you should be cautious if you’re drinking pickle juice for nutritional benefits.
Is pickle juice good for you?
The short answer? Not necessarily. While pickle juice is sometimes touted for several health benefits, Taub-Dix says that drinking the salty beverage could have some seriously dangerous side effects, depending on your overall health. “It depends on you — what your health concerns are and what your body composition is,” she says. But how do you know if pickle juice is right for you?
Pickle Juice for Cramps
In the fitness world, people use pickle juice for cramps. Many claim that pickle juice helps to alleviate cramping in the muscles after or even during a workout, speeding up your recovery time. However, Taub-Dix asserts that there are many other more effective solutions to muscle cramping.
The reason pickle juice is praised for relieving muscle cramps is its high sodium content. Sodium is known to help cramping because it’s an essential electrolyte that can be lost through sweating. Replenishing the body with water and not enough sodium can lead to a condition called hyponatremia, which causes the muscles to cramp and spasm. Sodium is found in salty foods, and pickle juice contains a significant amount of sodium compared to other beverages. That said, if you’re an athlete and you sweat a lot, a small serving of pickle juice could help to relieve these symptoms. However, according to Taub-Dix, the high sodium content in pickle juice may be too extreme of an option for increasing your salt consumption.
Most Americans do not need to supplement their diets with additional sources of sodium. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that a person should not consume more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. In 2017, the CDC reported that the average American consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium a day, as sodium typically adds up fast in a standard American diet. And according to Taub-Dix, “If you have high blood pressure and your sodium intake is already high from processed foods, then this is not the best beverage for you to have. One cup of pickle juice could have as much as 1,850 mg of sodium in it.” That’s nearly the full recommended daily value in just one eight-ounce serving of juice!
Pickle Juice for Hydration
Many also claim that pickle juice benefits the body by boosting hydration thanks to its high potassium content. Potassium is another electrolyte which helps to regulate the flow of water in and out of the cells. However, Taub-Dix mentions that there are plenty of other foods that are better for hydration — with even more potassium content — than pickle juice.
“The best sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables,” she says. “In addition to being high in potassium, fruits and vegetables are very watery. In terms of looking for something delicious with potassium and fluid, fruits and vegetables are your best option. A two-and-a-half-ounce serving of pickle juice has on average 20 mg of potassium. That’s only about one percent of the daily recommended value. In comparison, a medium white potato has about 920 mg of potassium. If you’re trying to get more potassium, you’re better off having a baked potato or a banana and peanut butter.”
Pickle Juice for Weight Loss
Pickle juice also shows up in the health food industry, with proponents claiming it helps with quick and easy weight loss. The reason for this might be the main ingredient in pickle juice, vinegar, which is known for its myriad health benefits. Vinegar has shown to be good for gut health, because it boosts probiotic bacteria in the gut, which can rev weight loss. However, Taub-Dix insists that drinking pickle juice may not be quite the clear-cut solution you’re looking for in terms of slimming down.
“If you’re trying to lose weight, I would not say that pickle juice should be your first line of defense. While it’s not high in calories and it is flavorful, you’re not necessarily going to lose weight from consuming pickle juice. It could help your gut, because vinegar could help your gut, and the flavor could help to curb a craving. But you’re not getting much nutritional value other than that,” says Taub-Dix. Instead, this list of gut-healing superfoods may be a better bet.