By: Kim Beavers Email
By: Kim Beavers Email

Vinegar is a common household item, and I venture to guess that every household has some type of vinegar. It is actually quite remarkable and can be used in a variety of ways from salad dressing to glass cleaner. Recently, however, vinegar, specifically apple cider vinegar, has been touted as being a cure-all type product. Some of the claims include: supports a healthy immune system, controls weight, and promotes digestion.

In actuality, some of the proposed cures have a few small studies to back them up and show a bit of promise for certain conditions such as diabetes and obesity. However, keep in mind that many studies have been done in rats. Just because it works in a rat does not mean it works in a human, but it is a start. Many of the human studies have been very small. A small sample size does not provide enough information to draw conclusions, but does suggest that larger studies might be worthwhile.

Diabetes: Several studies have found that vinegar may help to lower blood sugar. In one study (using 11 people with type 2 diabetes) taking 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar before bed lowered morning blood sugar by 4-5%. Other studies have shown that vinegar can affect blood sugar response after a meal and decreases the glycemic index of a meal.
Weight Loss: One study found that subjects who consumed vinegar with a test meal felt full longer than those who had not had vinegar. Another study found that healthy women who had vinegar with their morning meal consumed fewer calories throughout the day.

It would be lovely if something as common and inexpensive as vinegar could really contribute to blood sugar control and weight loss. Stay tuned as more research emerges.

Bottom Line: If you are thinking about trying apple cider vinegar, be sure to check with your doctor first. Risks of taking occasional vinegar are likely small. Long term intake could have some risks. Examples are damage to your tooth enamel and the tissues in your throat, especially if it is taken in an undiluted form. Interactions with certain medications may also be possible.

Personally I love vinegar, but I prefer it in my kitchen and use it frequently to make homemade salad dressing. One of my favorite vinegars for making dressing is rice vinegar!

Rice vinegar: Rice vinegar is lower in acid content, being about 4.5% acid. This makes it easy to use less oil in a homemade dressing and more vinegar (therefore reducing the fat and maintaining a subtle flavor).

  • Seasoned rice vinegar contains added sugar and salt.

Balsamic vinegar: Many of the balsamic vinegars in this country are distilled vinegar with flavored caramel syrup added (a.k.a. imitation balsamic).

  • Real balsamic vinegar can be identified by looking for these words: Aceto Balsamico tradizoionale di Modena! You will not find this in the traditional grocery store. True balsamic vinegar is typically used as a drizzle over berries, melon or ice cream. Some even suggest drinking it as you would a port. I am quite certain I have not had the pleasure of true balsamic… and so I look forward to that culinary adventure, may it quickly come my way.

  • Commercial balsamic is actually something in between true balsamic and imitation. It is mass produced and is typically a blend of traditional balsamic with red wine vinegar and caramel color. The larger proportion of traditional balsamic to vinegar, the higher the quality. It will be labeled Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.

  • Imitation balsamic (what most of us are familiar with) is best used as a salad dressing or in cooking. In addition balsamic vinegars can be boiled down into syrup. To make a balsamic reduction: bring balsamic vinegar to a simmer then turn heat to low, and reduce until syrupy, cool to room temperature and it is ready to use with meat, vegetables, fruit or fresh mozzarella.

Red or white wine vinegar: Made from red or white wines, it is full bodied and about 6-7% acid. It is good used as a dressing or used over dark greens.

Apple Cider vinegar: Made from apples, it has a distinct fruity flavor. It is clear, brown and holds up well to pungent greens; it is also very good in marinades.

Sherry vinegar: This vinegar is higher in acid at 8% acidity. This is the most flavorful vinegar for the money and is great in salads and cooked dishes. This is a good vinegar to use with heavier nut oils, and bitter greens such as radicchio. Mixing in a little balsamic vinegar helps modify its tartness.

White vinegar: This vinegar is distilled from assorted grains, and has a rather harsh flavor. It is best used to transform milk to buttermilk or for cleaning purposes.

  • To make buttermilk: Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar to a one cup measuring cup and add enough milk to make one cup, stir and allow to sit for 5 minutes, and you have buttermilk!

  • To make floor cleaner, combine ½ white vinegar and 1 gallon of water. This is an inexpensive and environmentally friendly cleaner for your hardwood floors.

Many types of vinegar are flavored with herbs. Experiment with the different flavors to find your favorite. As long as you have vinegar and oil you have the makings of either a salad dressing or marinade for meat and vegetables.

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