People living with diabetes can enjoy pickles as a snack or part of a meal. However, they should use caution with sweet pickles, and consider the impact of extra sodium for those at risk of heart disease.

Pickled and fermented foods may provide some benefits. People with diabetes who wish to include them in their diet could try pickling vegetables and fruit at home, where they can control how much sodium or sugar they use.

The following article describes everything a person living with type 2 diabetes needs to know about pickles. It also provides information on other fermented foods, what to include in a diet, and what to avoid.

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A person living with type 2 diabetes can eat pickles as a snack or as part of their meal. There are some exceptions to this rule, and people must still eat them in moderation.

Dill pickles are generally the best option since they contain less than 2 grams (g) of carbohydrates in a 100-g serving. The low levels of sugar and carbohydrates should help prevent blood sugar from spiking following a meal or snack.

People living with type 2 diabetes may also gain another health benefit from dill pickles due to the vinegar that they often come with. According to a 2018 systematic review, several studies have observed that vinegar consumption may help lower blood A1C levels, which is beneficial in managing diabetes.

In another preliminary study from 2013, researchers found similar results. They noted that healthy adults eating vinegar at meals achieved better fasting glucose numbers over the 12-week study.

However, dill pickles do have a downside. They are extremely high in sodium, with 808 milligrams (mg) in a 100-g serving. Since a person living with diabetes is already at higher risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure, they should only eat dill pickles in moderation to avoid too much sodium in their diet.

Sweet pickles are not as suitable for those living with diabetes. They contain around 18.3 g of sugar in a 100-g serving. To help prevent a blood sugar spike, a person should consider eating protein, such as chicken, and healthy fat, such as olive oil, when consuming a sweet pickle.

Sweet pickles also contain around 457 mg of sodium in the same serving.

To be clear, sweet pickles include “bread and butter” and other sweeter pickles.

Pickles are relatively devoid of nutritional value. Though they are often low in calories, they do not offer many vitamins or minerals, except for sodium, which may harm a person’s health.

A person living with type 2 diabetes may find that adding pickled or fermented foods to their diet is beneficial.

Fermented foods can have health benefits, such as providing antioxidants. Numerous studies show that consuming antioxidants can help reduce the number of free radicals, or harmful particles, circulating through the body.

However, the American Diabetes Association lists pickled foods as high in sodium and says people should eat them in moderation.

Some pickled foods a person can consider adding to their diet in moderation include:

  • olives
  • beets
  • radish
  • carrots
  • sauerkraut

A person can also pickle vegetables and fruit at home, which means they could pickle just about any vegetable they want. Pickling at home has some advantages for diet since a person can control how much sodium or sugar they use to make the pickled food.

If pickling at home is not an option, a person should look for pickled foods that are:

  • low in sodium
  • low in sugar
  • fermented

People living with diabetes should talk with their doctor about the best dietary changes based on their situation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that a person follow a meal plan based on their:

  • individual tastes
  • goals
  • lifestyle
  • medications

Although a meal plan may vary, they recommend that a person eat:

  • primarily whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains
  • nonstarchy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, green beans, and other leafy greens
  • fewer sugars and refined grains, such as white bread, pasta, baked goods, and candy

Learn more about the best foods for people with diabetes here.

People living with diabetes should aim to limit foods that have large amounts of sugar and processed carbs. These foods can spike a person’s blood sugar levels quickly and are generally not beneficial for anyone’s health.

Some foods to avoid include:

  • energy drinks
  • flavored milk
  • sports drinks
  • sweetened tea
  • lemonade
  • fruit juice
  • regular soda

In addition, a person should limit the following foods:

  • candy
  • chips
  • cake
  • ice cream
  • crackers
  • white pasta, white bread, and other processed carbs
  • pies

A person living with type 2 diabetes can include pickles as part of their diet in moderation. They may find that the pickle vinegar helps control their blood sugar level.

A person should look for lower-sodium and no-sugar-added varieties to help reduce their sodium intake and prevent blood sugar spikes.