Pickled onions are a flavorful addition to sandwiches, salads, and charcuterie boards. But are these tangy, crunchy veggies also good for your health? Let’s explore the nutrition and benefits of eating pickled onions.
Nutritional Profile of Pickled Onions
Pickled onions are onions that have been preserved in an acidic liquid like vinegar or brine. This pickling process enhances their flavor and crunchy texture.
Though they go through processing, pickled onions retain many of the same nutrients as fresh raw onions. These include:
Vitamin C – Pickled onions provide vitamin C, an antioxidant that supports immune function. A 1/2 cup serving has around 7mg vitamin C.
Fiber – Pickling doesn’t affect the fiber content of onions. They’re a source of prebiotic fiber that feeds healthy gut bacteria.
Potassium – This mineral is important for heart health and muscle function. Pickled onions contain about 100mg potassium per 1/2 cup.
Antioxidants – Pickled onions still contain antioxidants like quercetin which have anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
However, the vinegar brine does lower the antioxidant content slightly compared to fresh onions. But pickled onions remain a decent source of antioxidants.
Potential Benefits of Pickled Onions
Research shows onions offer unique health benefits. Here are some of the ways pickled onions may be good for you:
- Support heart health – The antioxidants in onions may protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, reducing heart disease risk. Quercetin specifically seems cardioprotective.
- Help control blood sugar – Compounds in onions appear to help regulate blood sugar levels. The fiber may also slow the digestion of carbs.
- Reduce cancer risk – Onions contain sulfur compounds that exhibited anti-cancer effects in lab studies. These may help fight colon, stomach, oral, and breast cancers.
- Improve gut health – The prebiotic fiber in onions acts as food for beneficial probiotic bacteria in the digestive system. This may improve gut health and immunity.
- Reduce inflammation – Onions have anti-inflammatory properties linked to their quercetin and sulfur content. Pickled onions retain many of these compounds.
Pickled onions likely share many of the same broad health benefits as fresh onions, though research specifically on pickles is still emerging.
Potential Downsides of Pickled Onions
There are a few potential health concerns to note regarding pickled onions:
- High sodium – Pickling brines are often very high in added sodium, which should be limited in many diets.
- Loss of vitamin C – The canning process degrades vitamin C over time. Make sure pickles are properly stored and still within expiration dates to maximize vitamin C content.
- Acidity concerns – The vinegar brine gives pickled onions a low pH. This acidity can irritate mouths or digestive systems for some people.
- Added sugar – Some pickled onion products have sugar added to the brine, increasing calorie and carbohydrate content.
How to Make Pickled Onions ?
Now that you know something about pickled onions, you may be wondering how to make this delicious treat. Below are the ingredients and steps needed to make pickled onions.
1 large red or white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
- Peel the onion and slice it into thin rings. Separate the rings and place them in a medium bowl.
- In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, peppercorns, coriander seeds and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.
- Once boiling, immediately pour the hot vinegar mixture over the onions. Let stand for 5 minutes, then drain in a colander.
- Rinse the onions under cold running water to remove excess vinegar. Drain well and pat dry.
- Transfer the onions to a clean jar with a tight fitting lid. Pour the vinegar mixture back over the onions, making sure they are completely submerged.
- Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to allow flavors to develop.
- Store refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. The pickled onions get better with time as they pickle.
Tips for Enjoying Pickled Onions
To gain benefits from pickled onions while limiting downsides:
Rinse pickled onions before eating – This reduces excess sodium and acidity for a milder flavor. Pat dry thoroughly before using in recipes.
Opt for pickle brines with added vinegar – Acetic acid in vinegar offers its own health benefits and counters the sodium content.
Use pickled onions sparingly as a condiment – Enjoy them as a zesty topping or mix-in rather than eating straight from the jar in excess.
Make quick-pickled onions at home – Quick pickling lets you control ingredients like salt, vinegar, and spices.
Summary: A Tasty, Nutritious Addition to Meals
When enjoyed in moderation, pickled onions can be a flavorful, nutritious addition to the diet. They provide a serving of antioxidant-rich vegetables with unique health benefits.