From necessity to a much loved way of eating veg, pickling has been around for centuries. The process involves fermentation which creates an acidic environment that blocks out bacteria. This is usually done by using salt or a brine.
Naturally, you may be wondering if pickling affects the nutritive value of vegetable. The answer is yes, in different ways.
If heat is used in the process, levels of vitamin C may decline. Certain B vitamins like riboflavin may decrease due to its light sensitivity, depending on the type of containers used and whether the vegetables are stored in or out of light. Some reports suggest an increase in other B vitamins in certain vegetables like cabbage and no difference in levels of fat soluble vitamins like A, D, or E. Other findings suggest reduction in nitrite levels, these are naturally occurring compounds in vegetables and fruits that turn into Nitric Oxide in the body - an important factor in vascular health. As for the salt factor, well if the brine used includes salt, you better believe the sodium content of a pickled vegetable will be higher than that of a fresh.
So yay or nay to pickles? That's where there are some things to consider.
On the plus side: pickled vegetables are a low-calorie food that can deliver many healthful nutrients. One might even argue that this form may be effective for increasing vegetable consumption in those who don't eat vegetables at all.
On the downside: pickled foods are generally higher in sodium. Excessive sodium intake can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. Also as mentioned, certain nutrient levels may drop in the pickling process.
Major takeaway: shoot for fresh vegetables or those cooked utilizing healthier methods such as steaming or roasting most often. Consume pickled vegetables in small quantities (which shouldn't be too difficult as a small piece is usually bursting with robust flavor). Finally, if making your own pickled vegetables at home, try using vinegar in place of a salt brine to lessen the sodium content.
Try my simple recipe for Quick Pickled Beets.