Health Benefits of Pickles or Achar – The Indian Context
Most Indians cannot live without pickles or achar accompanying their meals. Though, most new-age Indians are unaware of the powerful health benefits of pickles or achar. Studies show that fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi are loaded with gut health-promoting probiotics.
In India, pickles are made with & without oil, salt and/or sugar and even in water. A variety of spices are added to them for their flavour and therapeutic benefits. This makes pickles a powerhouse of nutrition. Achar provides that much-needed zing, tang and spice to our meals. And their health benefits far exceed the taste.
One of the things that people find intimidating about the delicious Indian pickles is the vast array of ingredients used in it. These ingredients which can be both whole and ground, are used as per the traditions of many Indian families. Most of them have their own unique and secret recipes for the pickle that are handed down through the generations.
Health benefits of pickles or achar
However, having a couple of teaspoons of pickle or achar is actually good for your health. Though, people with ailments should be aware of their side effects. If you suffer from ulcers, blood pressure or diabetes. you may have to exercise caution. The mantra should be to eat pickles as a pickle and not as a vegetable main course.
Almost everything can be pickled, vegetables, fruits and/or meats. Homemade pickles tend to be the best. They do not have preservatives like iodine, anti-caking agents, potassium iodide and sodium benzoate.
Let’s read more about the health benefits of pickles or achar.
Nutrition & health benefits of achar
The spices, especially hing, in Indian pickles or achar assists in breaking of fat easily. They make achar rich in antioxidants that protect the body against free radicals. Asafoetida or hing used in achar is a great digestive. It also helps with respiratory disorders. It lowers sugar levels by pancreatic simulation. It also improves blood flow.
Pickling preserves the nutrition and fibre content of the vegetables and fruits by fermenting them. Since there isn’t direct heat applied most of the nutritious content is preserved. In fermented pickles healthy bacteria help to break down the hard-to-digest cellulose in foods. Some natural sugar is also broken down. This assists in keeping fermented food safe and less likely to spoil. This also helps in the increase of good bacteria in your gut when achar is eaten. Achar is also high in vitamin K which is great for blood clotting in case of injuries.
Oil-based achars in India have their own health benefits. Mustard oil that is a usual medium for achar simulates aids in the digestive process. This happens by stimulating the secretion of digestive juices and bile from spleen and liver. Mustard oil is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (MUFA and PUFA respectively) as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These acids balance your cholesterol levels. They increase good cholesterol or HDL and decrease bad cholesterol or LDL. This minimizes the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Exercise Caution while considering the health benefits of pickles or achar
If you have diabetes, heart issues or have suffered from a stroke or hypertension, avoid pickles or achar. Additional salt intake via achar may aggravate the persisting health issue. Consuming achar like a vegetable main can also cause a sizeable disruption to your digestive system.
While it’s always great to learn that our favourite foods are good for us too, remember that pickles are also super high in sodium; while you can feel free to nosh on those kosher dills on the regular, make sure not to overdo it in order to keep your salt intake to a minimum.