Are Pickles Really 0 Calories?

We all know of pickles as a healthy dietary choice. Tasty and convenient, yet wholly free of calories, what’s not to like about pickles? But hang on, is it really calorie-free, just because it says so on the label? Are pickles really zero calories?

Legally yes, but truthfully, the answer is no. Pickles aren’t really zero calories. There is a very small amount of calorie intake with each serving of pickles. And if you eat a ton of them, they will certainly add up to a number higher than zero! 

Does that mean they’re a lie? Are they not the great diet choice that we once thought? Well not necessarily; read on for more details. First, let’s make sure it’s clear what we’re talking about as it pertains to calories.

How Are Calories Measured?

A calorie is, in the most basic definition possible, the energy you get from consuming food. The measurement process goes roughly like this: One calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the heat of a gram of water by one Fahrenheit. That’s why nutritional profiles will often have denotations such as {20 kcal per 100g}. 

As far as food nutrition goes, calories are measured by amounts consumed due to carbs in our diet and amounts stored within our bodies. 

Are Calories Bad?

Not at all! While an excess of them can cause problems, calories are an important part of our daily lives. Plants will store starch and fatty cells with which they break down into energy. That’s a key part of how they grow, and humans and animals do basically the same thing. 

That starch is generally the source of energy, following the complicated process of a metabolic breakdown. This provides the body with the essential energy required to properly function. Movement, digestion, and excretion all burn up calories, and thus need calories to burn!

Avoiding calories entirely is a poor idea and one that’s sure to leave you fatigued. The healthy thing is to find out what a good number of daily calories is for you. It’s different for everyone, but once you get there, stick to it! Now then, back to pickles…

Are Pickles Vegetables?

The answer to this is yes and no, surprisingly. Remember that pickles are just fermented cucumbers. Cucumbers are considered vegetables… that bear fruit! Well, that’s great, just what is that supposed to mean?! According to the US Supreme Court, pickles are officially considered a fruit of the vine.

Related Posts  Can You Eat Expired Almonds? A Comprehensive Guide

Now that we have a better understanding of what pickles are, let’s deduce just what it means for them to be zero calories. In fact, this applies to food in general!

What Does Zero Calorie Food Mean?

Naturally, this would be food that theoretically adds no calories at all when consumed in a single serving. But is that really possible? How could anything add literally zero calories? Well, turns out, the label might be a bit misleading here…

The ‘single serving’ thing is a key factor in how this works. Those who make food products are generally the ones who determine what a serving size really is. And that serving size is what is used to measure nutritional facts. 

Some are more rational than others when it comes to this. Oftentimes the recommended serving size is actually much smaller than what people generally consume in one sitting. 

Regulators allow for food to be branded as having zero calories if the amount in one serving is less than 5 and the food is fat-free. Other caveats require the food to have no simple carbs, proteins, or alcohol.

To simplify things, let’s say that a pickle slice has about 0.8 calories; that’s about the norm. If you eat ten of those, that adds up to 8 calories. That’s still very low, but it’s definitely not zero, right? 

How Much Is A Single Serving Of Pickles?

This varies greatly depending on who you ask and certainly depending on which label you look at. Some people will eat a whole host of pickles as a meal while others can eat a slice for a snack. But let’s look at a specific, popular brand of pickles. 

The Vlasic Kosher Dill Pickles are among the ones promoting themselves as having zero calories. So what is the serving size used to reach that? Well, it’s a bit odd but their official serving size is ‘1 ounce’. So you’re expected to weigh the pickle before eating it…? Surely they could’ve made it more convenient than that.

The label does at least say that there are 10 servings per container. So that can help you get some idea of what the supposed intended serving size is. If it feels like you’ve eaten a tenth of what’s inside the pickle jar, then you’ve reached the zero-cal cap!

Related Posts  Is Ahi Tuna Safe to Eat Raw?

If you look up ‘pickle serving size’ by itself, the result you get is 1 cup, which comes out to about 23 slices and 155g of pickles. Now that one seems to be on the high end! But it does give you a better sense of how much is in a slice. That’s enough to come out to 18.6 calories. 

That would mean there are about 1.2 calories per your average slice. That feels much more honest than what you see on a label. And, well, it’s still not very much, is it? So that leads us to our next question…

Will You Gain Weight If You Keep Eating Pickles?

This is an oversimplification but essentially, you lose and gain weight depending on how many calories you consume and burn. Consume more than you burn, you gain weight, consume less and you lose. 

With that in mind, pickles are so very low in calories that it’s hard to see them contributing to weight gain. Even if they aren’t truly zero-calorie foods, they’re a very good option for anybody wanting to slim down. 

Their fat content per serving is also listed at 0g and as you’d expect, they have a marginal amount of protein. To give more detail, the USDA’s nutritional profile on pickles lists them as containing 12 kcal per 100g servings. 

That means even if you’re eating an absurd number of pickles, you’re not gaining much in the way of calories. In fact, if you prescribe to the theory of negative calories, you might actually be losing more than you gain with them…

What Are Negative Calories?

The theory goes that eating negative calorie foods will actually lose more calories than it gains. Keep in mind that the act of chewing and digesting foods itself burns calories. So the idea is that when you factor this in, the amount could be in the negatives for food with low enough calories.

Pickles are particularly noted in this discussion, due to having less than a calorie per serving and being high in fiber. They make for a particularly crunchy meal, and thus they require some vigorous chewing. 

So is it true then that your body burns more calories from chewing pickles than it gains from consuming them? Ultimately the jury is still out on that one. There’s some logic to the theory, but it’s very debatable. As of now, there’s not any hard science to support this hypothesis. 

Related Posts  Is Asparagus a Vegetable? A Clear Answer with Knowledgeable Insights

What Are Other Zero Calorie Foods That Do Have Calories?

Some would say that anything you could chew is automatically more than zero calories! There are a lot of sneaky calories from things like PAM Cooking Spray or Fat-Free Reddi Wip. These are great examples of food with unrealistic serving sizes. Few people really use the tiny amounts recommended, so the zero-cal labels aren’t helpful here.

Healthy alternative sweets like sugar-free gum or sugar-free mints and candies are known to have this problem too. The amount of calories per piece is negligible, but who stops after one piece? For many, the actual ‘serving size’ is how ever many come in the pack! 

Finally, celery is in a similar boat to pickles. The amount is low, though definitely higher than in cucumbers. It’s generally said to be about six calories per stalk, which still isn’t much, but definitely higher than zero!

Celery is also considered by some to provide negative calories. After all, eating celery definitely requires some serious chewing! Whether you buy into that or not is up to you, but many are quick to dismiss this as a myth. 

In Conclusion…

Calling pickles zero-calorie isn’t wholly accurate. Even if there is less than one calorie in a quote-on-quote single serving of pickles, there’s still more than zero. Fractions can always add up to whole numbers if multiplied high enough!

But that’s not a put-down on pickles themselves, nor is it saying they’re a bad dietary choice. The amount of calories is still very low, especially considering how satisfying they are. 

Their high fiber means you feel much more full after eating them, despite the marginal calorie intake. That makes them highly valuable in any diet, particularly if you’re aiming to lose weight. 

The truth is that zero-calorie food in general is something of a myth. It’s safe to assume that everything you consume will provide some level of calories. And that’s okay; you need to consume some calories to live, after all! 

Misleading label or no, as far as low cal options go, pickles are still as strong of a choice as ever!