Nature has blessed us with so many vegetables and roots that benefit us in various ways. Licorice root and pickles are the subjects of our discourse today.
By the end of this article, you should have learned about some of the health benefits of pickles and licorice root, their nutritional information, as well as their side effects.
Without wasting any more time, let’s get to it!
What are pickles?
Pickles, basically, refer to a method of preserving foods (mostly vegetables) using a mixture that commonly includes brine or vinegar – oil can also be used. This method of food preservation has been used by man for many centuries, may be even millennia.
Today, cucumber pickles are the most popular type of pickles in the United States, while fermented pickles like kimchi are common in Asian countries.
What is licorice root?
Licorice, or Glycyrrhiza glabra, is a root plant with blue flowers, featherlike leaves, and sweet roots. While it is now common to use licorice root as a sweetener in food, this herbal plant have been used for hundreds of years for medicine. For instance, the plant has long been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for treating ailments.
Licorice is seen as a weed in different parts of the world. The plant is native to the Mediterranean region and is a member of the large Leguminosae family.
There are different ways of consuming licorice root. The herb is also available in two major forms: DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) and GL (glycyrrhizinated licorice)
Nutritional information about pickles
Depending on the type and size, pickles can contain different amounts of sodium, fat, protein, and calories. A cup of chopped cucumber or dill pickles contains about 17 calories, 0.9 grams of protein, 3.7 grams of carbohydrates (1.9 grams of sugar, 1.6 grams of dietary fiber), 1.25 grams of sodium, 132 mg of potassium, 10 mg of magnesium, 60 mg of calcium, 17.3 mg of phosphorus, 1.1 mg of vitamin C, 0.5 mg of iron, and trace amounts of other vitamins and minerals.
Nutritional information about licorice root
Licorice root contains numerous vitamins such as vitamin E, B vitamins, and minerals like iron, magnesium, and potassium. A good percentage of the root comprises carbohydrate – sugars and starch.
One of the major ingredients of licorice is glycyrrhizic acid or glycyrrhizin, which is responsible for many of the plant’s medicinal properties. Other active compounds in licorice are glabridin, liquiritigenin, and chalcones.
Licorice root can be used in various ways including: as a tincture, as a gel, as tea, as a capsule, and more commonly as a liquid extract.
Health benefits of eating pickles
Pickles offer more than just their being a spice for your meal. The following are some of the health benefits of pickles.
- Rich source of antioxidants: Whichever type of pickles you go with, you are rest assured of getting a good dose of important nutrients and antioxidants. While the body needs nutrients to sustain life, the antioxidants in pickles are helpful in the prevention and treatment of disease. For instance, diseases such as cancer and skin problems are caused by the actions of free radicals in the body. The action of antioxidants from foods helps to cancel out the effects of these free radicals. Moreover, by preserving the base vegetable, the nutrients are also preserved. This means that if you are getting, say pickled garlic, you will be getting most of the nutrients and antioxidants contained in garlic.
- Good for diabetics: High blood sugar levels or hyperglycemia is a condition connected with diabetes. This condition is characterized by an abnormal spike in blood glucose levels. Persons who have a risk of developing diabetes can benefit from pickles, especially pickles that contain vinegar. The vinegar content in such pickles helps in reducing the rate of glucose release in the stomach, thereby, protecting the body from a possible rise in blood glucose.
- Good for the liver: Several pickles have been linked with detoxification by the liver; however, the most prominent among them seems to be pickled gooseberries. This type of pickles is beneficial in promoting the proper functioning of the liver and also helps in protecting the liver from damage due to alcoholism.
- Aids in weight loss: Majority of all pickles are low in calories and fat, but loaded with essential nutrients. Overweight persons can benefit from consuming pickles as they help in curbing cravings while also bringing satiety to the appetite.
- For morning sickness: Morning sickness is a symptom associated with pregnant women. This condition is marked by a nauseating feeling early in the morning, particularly during the first three months of pregnancy. Pickles can be used to relieve this symptom due to their sour taste. More so, the American Pregnancy Association proposes that tangy foods like ginger can help in reducing nausea during pregnancy. It is important, however, to note that eating too many pickles with a high sodium content and/or high glycemic index can lead to health problems such as hyperglycemia and hypertension, which are harmful for fetus development.
- Good source of probiotic bacteria: Examples of pickles that are rich sources of probiotics are fermented pickles such as kimchi, dill pickles, and sauerkraut. The fermentation process helps to break down sugar into lactic acid, which in turn produces the bacteria. Probiotic bacteria are beneficial microorganisms residing in the digestive tract that play a vital role in digestion. These bacteria form the intestinal flora, which if imbalanced can lead to digestion problems like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Since pickles are rich in this type of bacteria, it is, therefore, healthy to add them to the diet.
- Treatment of cramps: Muscular cramps can be relieved by drinking pickle juice in less than 90 seconds, according to a research. While the fundamental reason for this possible solution is yet to be figured, there’s no harm in treating yourself to a glass of pickle juice when you are down with cramps.
- Possible treatment for cancer: While there is limited research in this subject area, spleen cancer can be treated by eating suguki (Japanese turnip pickles), according to a study conducted on mice. The study discovered that the pickles contained a type of bacteria that boosts the immune system in combating spleen cancer.
Health benefits of licorice root
Aside from the sweetness of the root, licorice offers many health benefits, some of which are:
- Anti-inflammatory food: Licorice root can be used in the treatment of inflammatory conditions in the body. a study conducted on mice found that licorice root extract helps in stimulating the regulatory T cells of the mice. In addition, licorice contains many antioxidants such as flavonoids that are beneficial in preventing inflammatory activity in the brain.
- Relief from stress: During stress, the body releases an unhealthy amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline that results in other conditions. Taking licorice root extract has been linked with regulating the amount of cortisol production in the body, thus, reducing the symptoms of stress.
- For cancer treatment: Although there is limited research on the impact of taking licorice root extract on cancer, preliminary studies suggest that it is possible to reduce the risk of developing prostate and breast cancers with the herb. Moreover, there are reports of its use in Chinese medicine for cancer treatment.
- For dental health: Dental problems such as dental caries, which is caused by bacterial activity, can be treated using licorice. This is because licorice has antibacterial effects that can destroy the bacterial pathogens in the teeth.
- Good for the skin: Skin problems like eczema and acne can be treated using licorice. For this purpose, the root extract of the licorice plant is topically applied to the affected areas of the skin. Further, there is some evidence that using licorice-containing gels on itching skin can reduce the itching.
- For respiratory health: Respiratory problems like cough and catarrh can be prevented, and even treated using licorice. Licorice intake has been linked with a production of healthy mucus and phlegm in the respiratory tract.
- For recovery from surgery: Based on research, taking licorice root extract or rinsing the mouth with licorice fluid can help to reduce the complications of surgery.
- For digestive health: Gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux and stomach ulcer can be reduced by taking licorice root extract. These problems are mostly caused by inflammations in the digestive tract as a result of bacterial activity. The anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of licorice root come into play here as the problems are reduced.
Side effects of pickles
While pickles offer many health benefits, it is noteworthy to understand that they might not be good for everyone. In addition, loading the body with pickles because of their nutrients and antioxidants may not be advisable.
Some of the adverse side effects of eating pickled foods include:
- Risk of gastric cancer: The risk of gastric (stomach) cancer can be increased by eating salty foods. For instance, countries like Japan, where pickled foods are common, have a higher population of people with stomach cancer than others. Further, a study involving gastric cancer patients in Turkey showed that the patients ate more pickled foods than those who without this type of cancer.
- Risk of hypertension: Another downside of eating salty foods is a possible case of high blood pressure. This is because the sodium content of such foods may be more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for the body which can lead to high blood pressure. Moreover, most pickled foods are preserved using brine (salt solution), which contains sodium.
Side effects of licorice root
Licorice root may not be safe for some people. Prolonged consumption of licorice can lead to side effects such as:
- Heart disease
- Low libido in men
- Kidney disease
Pickles and licorice root offer several benefits to the body as we’ve just considered above. They also come with side effects and may not be good for everyone.