Unhealthy Ingredients in Pickles

Pickles look like a healthy snack but many harbour unhealthy ingredients. If you’ve never looked at the back of a packet you may be surprised to find out they often contain far more than just pickles, vinegar, salt and spices.

This article shows what to look out for when choosing a healthy pickle that’s good for you and how to avoid the nasties.

pickle ingredients

Artificial Colours

Many of the most popular brands have added artificial colours. These help the pickles stand out on a shelf and make the colours pop. Watch out for yellow 4/tartrazine or Green S on ingredients. These synthetic dies have been linked to ADHD, eczema, hyperactivity, unable to concentrate, mood swings, poor sleep and violent outbursts.

In the EU you need to list if a product contains many artificial colours as they were proven to interfere with brain activity. This has resulted in many manufacturers removing artificial colours but lots of imported food into the EU still contains them (ref). 

alum pickles deodorant


Potassium alum is a common ingredient in both deodorants and pickles. This additive helps to reinforce the cells walls of pickles and give them a crispy firm texture. It’s toxic in large does but is allowed as a food additive.

Often it’s used during the processing of the pickles and isn’t present in the final pickling juice. It may or may not be listed on the ingredient on the back but if your pickles have a firm snap to them it was probably used.

24 Hour Pickled Gherkins

Natural and Artificial Flavours

Like so many processed foods pickles often contain added flavours. These unnaturally give them a very morish taste and many people have bad reactions to these additives.

Don’t be fooled by natural flavourings either, as they aren’t as natural as many think.

pickle ingredients corn syrup

Polysorbate 80

This emulsifier is commonly found in pickles to help disperse the added flavourings and artificial colourings. Also known as tween 80 and has been linked to inflammation

There is no conclusive evidence that polysorbate is significantly harmful to health but at the same time there’s limited money to go into researching common additives. Without the added flavourings and colourings in pickles there would be no need for this ingredient.

If you buy organic pickles they will not have this additive.



Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup

Many brands of pickles contain more added refined sugars then vinegar!

While they may be green they can be loaded with refined sugar. The pickles used in fast food chains use are very high in free sugar.

microplastic in salt

High Salt Content

I’ve saved the most common one until last as most are aware they’re a high salt food.

But did you know two pickles can often be 25% of your daily salt allowance? So if you’re someone that opens a jar of pickles and munches through it you could be exceeding the recommended daily allowance of salt from one quick snack.

Also the salt used in almost all shop bought pickles is highly refined meaning it has no minerals other than just pure salt (sodium chloride).

Are pickles healthy?

They can be but you either need to make your own that don’t contain the ingredients listed above. Shop bought pickles don’t count towards daily portions of vegetables as they contain a high amount of salt and sugar.

Most mass-produced pickles you find in the shop are not healthy due to the additives. If you’re having a pickle as part of a fast food meal it will almost certainly be a low-quality unhealthy ingredient.

tooth enamel

Tooth Enamel Erosion

Sadly this affects the natural and pure pickles without additives. All vinegar is hard on teeth; from white wine vinegar to unpasteurised unfiltered apple cider vinegar.

This isn’t to say don’t ever eat foods high in vinegar. Just be aware not to snack on them and to swish your mouth with water afterwards. Also don’t brush your teeth straight after eating a high vinegar food as you’ll be brushing away enamel. Always wait for an hour after eating pickles before brushing.

Are pickles good for weight loss?

Only pure pickles without the additives are good for weight loss, just as all vegetables and fruit are. They can be a handy way to add flavour to a healthy salad.

Don’t go eating pickles before bed as they are acidic and you need to wait an hour after eating before brushing weakened enamel.

24 Hour Pickled Gherkins in a jar

Healthy Pickles Recipe

My healthy pickles recipe makes your own amazing pickles using just apple cider vinegar with a few spices and salt in 24 hours. They are the perfect alternative to shop bought pickles and take next to no effort.

Try the healthy pickles recipe

What did you think about this article on the health benefits of pickles and what to watch out for? Let me know in the comments below as I love getting feedback.

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