Mmm... A Pickly Diet

There are many people out there with special dietary needs, whether it is due to heart, diabetic, or other health issues. Often, two of the most common things that are cut from a person’s diet are salt and sugar. Pickles, which are popular the world over, can often be high in one or more of these ingredients, due to the natural canning process. That doesn’t mean, however, that people with special dietary concerns are doomed to miss out on the joys of the illustrious pickle!

For low salt pickles, you will need to process using vinegar rather than fermentation. It is important to realize that fermented pickles cannot be changed in regard to the amount of salt used, as salt is the main catalyst that causes the fermentation process. Luckily, you can still enjoy pickles by processing in vinegar rather than lacto-fermented method. Since salt is an inhibitor of bacterial growth, it is important that the correct amount of vinegar be used, with at least a vinegar water ration of 1/1.

Since salt is a main ingredient contributing to flavor, as well, you will likely need to compensate by adding additional spices of other types, such as spicy peppers, or garlic, or other tasty spices. You can also utilize certain salt substitutes for flavoring as well, but you should know that some of these can cause cloudiness in the liquid. For more on low-salt pickled items, I would recommend checking out The Ultimate Guide to Pickling at my homepage.

For those who are on low-sugar diets, pickles are often already a good food item, as long as they are dill or sour pickles. When you get into sweet or fruit pickles, however, it becomes a different story. Sweet pickles and fruit pickles are often cooked in sugar, so the recipe will need to be altered to lower the sugar content.

For fruits, you can often just omit the sugar and use fruit juice or water. Adding a bit of ascorbic acid or ‘Fruit Fresh’ can help light colored fruits from darkening. Eliminating sugar from some recipes that use fruit can cause the fruit to be a bit mushier than normal.

It’s not generally recommended to cook and can with sugar substitutes, because most can discolor or turn bitter when cooked at high temperatures. However, if you are just thinking about pickles, you should not have to worry about too much sugar. Fruit and sweet pickles could also be sweetened before eating by sprinkling a sugar substitute on them. You can also add flavor by increasing the amount of other spices such as cinnamon sticks and cloves.

Since the advent of Splenda, many people have turned to this no-calorie sweetener for use in canning. It can be beneficial in that it sweetens without adding calories, (great for diabetics) but can also decrease the thickness of the liquid and some say after being heated leaves a bit of an aftertaste. If you are making sweet pickles with Splenda, you may want to try a recipe that simply goes in the refrigerator, rather than is canned in a boiling water bath, for your first attempt.

Pickles have lots of health benefits and are quite tasty. For those on special diets, whether they are health-dictated, for weight control, or just because they embrace a healthy lifestyle, pickles can usually fit into that diet- and be a great addition! I highly recommend adding pickles as a healthy snack to your everyday diet.

Copyright 2006 Jonathan Heusman

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