Pickles are popular these days, with an estimated 245 million Americans primed to consume them in 2020. But stop before you drain those garnishes: pickle juice is having a moment, too. When it comes to health potions, the juice from your favorite sandwich staple probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But according to scientific research, pickle juice packs in some pretty impressive health benefits. Next time you polish off a jar of pickles, you might think twice before dumping that leftover brine down the drain.
It boosts your workout
Pickle juice is a popular pre- and post-workout drink among professional athletes and for a good reason. A study by the National Institute of Health revealed that it enhances both athletic performance and thermoregulation, the body’s ability to maintain its core temperature. As you work up a sweat, your body loses potassium and sodium. Pickle juice contains salt to help your tissues retain water after exercise. It also contains vinegar and calcium chloride, both of which aid in the absorption of minerals depleted through perspiration. The result? Better performance and a quicker recovery.
It combats muscle cramps
Drinking pickle juice puts a halt to muscle cramps 37% faster than water, and 45% faster than not drinking liquid at all, according to research from Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Better yet, the study found that participants only had to drink about a third of a cup of dill pickle brine to reap those cramp-relieving benefits.
It aids in weight loss
Looking to shed some pounds? Look no further than the nearest pickle jar. Downing a daily dose of pickle juice can bring your weight down with it. A study in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry revealed that vinegar, which is a key ingredient in pickle juice, may help you reach your weight loss goals. According to researchers, the acetic acid (AcOH) found in vinegar suppresses body fat build-up by interfering with the body’s ability to break down and absorb calories from starch.
It’s great for your gut
Fermented foods, like the vinegar in pickle juice, are fabulous for the digestive system. They encourage the growth of good bacteria and balance out gut flora, which is great news for pickle lovers who have IBD. Some studies have also found that pickle juice slows down gastric emptying, which gives your stomach more time to break down food before it reaches the small intestine.
It helps with hangovers
Had a little too much to drink last night? You can blame many of the symptoms you feel the day after boozing — such as headache, fatigue, and dizziness — on dehydration. Let that unassuming pickle jar sitting at the back of your fridge come to your rescue. (And no, we’re not talking about fixing yourself a dill pickle martini.) Pickle brine contains water and sodium, both of which ease hangover symptoms by replenishing electrolytes and rehydrating your body.
It staves off PMS symptoms
Just as a sip of pickle juice helps ward off muscle cramps after a workout, it might also work to ease menstrual cramps before and during your period. Though this remedy hasn’t been thoroughly researched, some women swear by it. As an added bonus, pickle juice — and pickles themselves — are a low-calorie way to curb PMS-related salt cravings, especially compared to other savory snacks like fried chicken or potato chips.
It regulates blood sugar levels
The dangers of consuming too much sugar can’t be overstated. High blood sugar levels can lead to type 2 Diabetes and other chronic ailments. Now for some good news: researchers have recently discovered that vinegar can improve the body’s response to insulin, reducing potentially harmful blood sugar spikes. A study in the Journal of Diabetes Research revealed that when people with type 2 diabetes drank small quantities of vinegar before eating, their blood sugar levels stabilized after meals.
It takes the sting out of a sunburn
While aloe vera is the go-to soother, pickle juice is a particularly good home remedy for sending sunburn pain packing. Advocates believe the briny combination of salt and vinegar is the perfect post-sun salve. You’re also more likely to have a jar of pickles on hand than a bottle of aloe vera gel, especially during barbecue season. Simply slather some pickle juice on the affected skin — very gently — for near-instant relief. Of course, pickle juice is no replacement for sun safety. Preventing sunburn in the first place is better than any cure when it comes to avoiding irreversible sun damage and skin cancer.
It soothes sore throats
According to research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, gargling saltwater on a regular basis not only eases cold symptoms, such as sore throats but also helps fend off colds and flu. Pickle juice, which is mostly water and salt, can potentially offer the same benefits — with the added antiseptic properties of vinegar and spices.
How to enjoy pickle juice
If you can’t imagine yourself glugging salty green brine straight from the jar, here are a few ways to enjoy the benefits of pickle juice without puckering:
- Add a splash of pickle juice to fresh dips, sandwiches, salad dressings, and marinades. It can also be used in place of vinegar in many recipes.
- Skip the sugary sports drinks. Instead, dilute a third of a cup of pickle juice in a large bottle of water to sip before, during, and after your next workout.
- Cool down with a homemade pickle juice popsicle — a favorite of professional athletes.
- In a hurry? Simply down a shot glass-sized serving of pickle juice in one go and get it over with.