Let’s Talk Vinegar

ostigaard_vinegar

photo from ThinkStock via Tri County Health Dept

Over the years vinegar has been awarded the spotlight for its perceived health benefits. From aiding in weight loss to reducing cancer risk, vinegar seems to be a “cure all remedy.” But is vinegar too good to be true?

According to research different vinegars have been found to contain a variety of polyphenols and vitamins, including vitamin C and several B vitamins, which act as antioxidants to defend against oxidative stress.  Oxidative stress can be defined as a disruption in the body’s ability to counteract or detoxify the harmful effects of free radicals.  Kurosu, a Japanese rice vinegar, actually possesses the same antioxidant activity level as vitamin E. Traditional balsamic vinegars also show high antioxidant properties; however, evidence is lacking to support claims that vinegar has enough antioxidant concentrations to prevent cancer. This is not to say that the antioxidants in vinegar don’t provide any benefits, in fact, adding a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to your salad or roasted vegetables is a great way to increase your vitamin intake!

Vinegar has also been shown to reduce the effects of diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels. The thought behind this is that the acetic acid in vinegar suppresses the breakdown of starches; therefore, consuming vinegar before a carbohydrate-rich meal may reduce the amount of sugar that is eventually released into the bloodstream. One study revealed that consuming apple cider vinegar before a meal reduced blood sugar levels by 34% in individuals with type II diabetes.  Although studies are yielding positive results for the effects of vinegar on blood sugar levels, more studies are needed to support this claim.  In conclusion, vinegar should not be used to control blood sugar levels in any person with diabetes.

Finally vinegar is known to promote weight loss by acting as an appetite suppressor. Studies have shown that the increasing amounts of acetic acid in vinegar correlate to the feeling of fullness. The reason behind this may be due to the effect acetic acid has on post-meal blood sugar levels as discussed previously.  One of the studies revealed that rats fed ginsam, a vinegar extracted from ginseng, had a lower body weight, as well as fasting, post-meal blood sugar levels and insulin concentrations than the control group.

You may have come to the conclusion that vinegar might actually be worth incorporating into your daily diet, and you might be right. However it is important to keep in mind that there is not enough supporting evidence to label vinegar as a “cure all remedy.” Vinegar is not a miracle drug and should be used sparingly. That’s not to say incorporating vinegar into your diet is a bad thing, in fact, vinegar can be used a healthy alternative in several ways.

strawberry blue cheese salad with balsamic vinegar. Yumm!

strawberry blue cheese salad with balsamic vinegar. Yumm!

In fact here are some of my favorites:

  • Use as a salad dressing (I personally love balsamic or a dash of apple cider vinegar). Get creative but don’t go overboard. Just a little dab will do ya!
  • Make homemade pickled vegetables. Pickled cucumbers, beets, cabbage, etc. The possibilities are endless!
  • Add additional flavor to your veggies. Brussel sprouts glazed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar are my favorite. Plus they make for a healthy snack alternative ☺︎
  • Use as a substitute for your vegetable wash – soak your leafy greens or herbs in a light vinegar and water solution for a clean and crisp salad
  • Add more flavor to your cooking. Balsamic vinegar always goes great with a tomato based pasta sauce!
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