Vinegar – Is It a Health Food?

 

I have been curious about the health benefits of vinegar – so I decided to dive into some research.  The first step of research was a “field trip” to find out how vinegar is made. While on vacation recently, I went to a very interesting place called The Vinegar Works (Valentine Farm), in Summerland, BC.  They grow organic fruits and vegetables on their farm, including a vineyard with Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Meunier and Pinto Noir grapes. They use their grapes to make wine; the wine is further fermented into vinegar, which they infuse with various fruits or herbs, to produce flavored organic vinegars such as Apricot, Raspberry, and French Tarragon. Here is the information I found with the rest of my research:

Flavored Vinegars

Flavored Vinegars

History:

  • The word vinegar is derived the French word ‘vinaigre’ which means sour wine.
  • The use of vinegar dates back to the Babylonians who used vinegar to preserve or pickle food.
  • Today people use vinegar for cooking, cleaning, gardening and a huge array of home remedies.  Many of the home remedies have no real substantial proof as to their effectiveness.

How is vinegar made?  Through a process of fermentation:

  • Bacteria and yeast are used to break down the sugars in a food, turning it into alcohol
  • If the alcohol is fermented longer, it will become vinegar.
  • The vinegar can then be infused with various flavors, as in the case of vinegars produced by The Vinegar Works.

Are there real health benefits?  That’s a controversial topic!

  • The main ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid. Vinegar may also contain other acids, vitamins, mineral salts, and amino acids.
  • There is a long list of  ‘health benefits’ which are largely unproven, and more studies need to be done.
  • Small, inconclusive, preliminary studies indicate that (apple cider) vinegar could be helpful with diabetes, lowering blood pressure, possibly slowing the growth of cancer cells, and in weight loss.
  • Acidic foods, such as pickles, lemon juice and vinegar, have been known to help reduce the glycemic load of high glycemic carbohydrates – these carbohydrates could cause a person’s blood sugar to spike.  
  • Many people believe that taking diluted apple cider vinegar before a meal can improve the acid balance of the stomach and aid digestion. It would likely depend on the individual person and their individual digestive system.

What are the health concerns about using vinegar?

  • Most vinegar ‘remedies’ are largely unproven – so caution should be used.
  • Vinegar is an acid, which can be harsh if it is consumed in large quantities without dilution.  Small amounts, such as sprinkled on a salad or in salad dressings, are a low risk.
  • Vinegar should be diluted in water or juice if you are drinking it for any reason.
  • Pure apple cider vinegar could potentially damage tooth enamel, and the tissues in your mouth and throat – another reason to make sure it is diluted with water.
  • If you are taking apple cider vinegar for any reason – it is probably better to use actual apple cider vinegar itself (diluted) than to use apple cider vinegar supplements. Reason: labeling on supplements can be inaccurate, so you might not know exactly what strength of vinegar or other ingredients you are getting.
  • If you have low potassium levels, osteoporosis, or diabetes it is best to talk to your physician before embarking on a health program or remedy involving high amounts of vinegar.

To conclude – when it comes to using vinegar as a health ‘remedy’ caution needs to be taken. On a positive note – vinegar is great in cooking because it brings out the flavor of the foods (much like salt does) and it is usually used in small quantities or diluted with other foods or liquids. Foods containing vinegar can be helpful in lowering the glycemic load of high glycemic carbohydrates. Enjoy the wonderful flavored vinegars that are on the market today – they are great for cooking and for salad dressings!

 

Informational Resources:

WebMD – Apple Cider Vinegar

Everydayhealth.com –  Apple Cider Vinegar

The Vinegar Works

Vinegartips.com

Greenmedinfo.com – health-benefits-apple-cider-vinegar

 

Copyright © 2013 Cathy Ormon – All Rights Reserved