Perfect pickles

The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionApril 23, 2013 

Pickling is an ancient way of preserving foods, but it’s become a modern-day darling on restaurant menus, especially in the South.

Pickles are created in cold-water brine with salt, vinegar, sugar and spices.

Good pickles, whether from okra or cucumbers, are crunchy and retain their garden-fresh colors.

Because pickled fruits or vegetables aren’t heat treated, their nutritional value stays pretty intact. Another benefit: The fermentation process produces “friendly” probiotic bacteria, which contribute to digestive health.

One nutritional downfall is the high sodium content because significant salt is used in pickling. But don’t try to make reduced-sodium pickles at home.

Tips on the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation website caution against cutting back on salt: “The salt used in making brined pickles not only provides characteristic flavor but also is vital to safety and texture.” Salt inhibits the growth of bad bacteria.

If you’re concerned about sodium intake, pickles are not your pal.

One small dill pickle contains 324 milligrams of sodium. (We’re supposed to limit intake to 1,500 milligrams per day.) Instead, if you’re craving pickles, how about an appetizing antidote? Registered dietitian Marisa Moore recommends pairing pickles with potassium-containing foods: “Potassium blunts the effect of sodium in the body and helps control blood pressure.” Fortunately, there are plenty of tasty potassium sources, including beans, peas, greens, tomatoes, okra, sweet potatoes and bananas.

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