Are there any health benefits of Vinegar or is it just old folks tale passed down?

I have had quite a few people ask me recently of the health benefits of vinegar if any. Had never really done any research into it and didn’t know that much about it, apart from the cleaning aspect and actually using it to clean your fruit and veg. Shockingly, someone asked me if I’d heard about the vinegar diet – oh my gosh, what is that?! So here’s what I’ve found out about vinegar.

Vinegar has been in existence for thousands of years going as far back 5000BC during the time of the ancient Babylonians. The word vinegar comes from the French word “vinaigre” which means “sour wine.” It was probably discovered by accident thousands of years ago—after a cask of wine had gone bad. When the wine was first made, natural sugars were fermented into alcohol. Over time, bacteria in the air transformed the alcohol into acetic acid, which gave the “sour wine” its bite.

The Babylonians discovered that vinegar slows or stops the action of bacteria that spoils food so they used it as a preservative and also as a condiment. Caesar’s armies used vinegar as a beverage. The Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, demonstrated its solvency powers by dissolving precious pearls in vinegar to win a wager that she could consume a fortune in a single meal. Helen of Troy apparently bathed in vinegar to relax. Hannibal, the famous African General, used vinegar to help his army cross the Alps.

There are many types of vinegar made from different sources around the world. From sugar cane in the Philippines, coconut in Thailand to black, red and white rice wine in China that have flavoured stir-fries for more than 5000 years. Closer to home, the more common types you’ll find are brown malt vinegar, cider vinegar (made from apples), wine and sherry vinegar (made from grapes) or plain white vinegar that’s made from grain and is useful in household cleaning as well as cooking.

Apple cider vinegar is often recommended for its health benefits in preference to any others. This is because firstly, apples are rich in pectin, a type of fibre that is good for digestion and lowers LDL cholesterol. secondly, apples contain phloridzin which increases bone density and protects post-menopausal women from osteoporosis. Thirdly, apples also contain malic acid which combines with magnesium in the body to help fight aches and pains.

Here are some areas that vinegar may be useful in health:

Vinegar can apparently help individuals with Type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar levels. In a medical study in 2007, patients were asked to drink 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar diluted with water right before going to bed. When they woke up, their blood sugar levels were on average, between four and six percent lower than control subjects who did not drink the vinegar. Although the study was done on a small group, it did seem to show that vinegar may be effective in managing blood sugar levels for diabetic patients. Another study done in 2004 by the American Diabetes Association found that those who drank apple cider vinegar before a meal full of carbohydrates had lower blood sugar levels than those who did drink the vinegar.

Vinegar has been widely used by many cultures as a weight loss aid – this is news to me. There is scientific evidence that seems to support this. In a study performed in 2005, it was found that individuals who consumed vinegar before meals felt full after fewer calories than those who didn’t. Many observational studies have also linked vinegar with healthier overall weight, though not exactly conclusive.

You cannot argue with the fact that increased use of vinegar for flavoring is associated with better weight control when you look at the calorie content. A half cup of vinegar has just 25 calories while a half cup of real mayonnaise has about 800 calories. This might not seem significant now but when you think about most popular salad dressings containing either vinegar or mayonnaise, it gets you thinking about which is the healthier option to have with your salad.

Another potential health benefit of vinegar has to do with bone health as mentioned previously. Vinegar is highly acidic. Its primary component is a substance called acetic acid which has a very low pH, much like the body’s own naturally occurring digestive juices. According to some studies, vinegar can assist the digestive system in breaking down certain substances by adding a little more acidity into the digestive mix. Listed among these substances is calcium. By consuming vinegar with calcium, the amount of calcium absorbed may be increased which helps individuals with osteoporosis.

Similarly, some people also use apple cider vinegar as a natural alternative to teeth whitening. Apple cider vinegar is, however, highly acidic. When acids touch the teeth for a prolonged time, it can be disastrous as in large quantities, vinegar can even erode tooth enamel. Furthermore, loss of enamel can lead to darkening of the teeth and increased sensitivity.

Vinegar has also been used for the following:

  • Soothe Insect bites or stings
  • Soothe Sunburn
  • Aid Digestion
  • Aid Bowel function
  • Reduce Cholesterol
  • Preventing ulcers
  • Headaches

Just 5% of vinegar mixed in a solution of your choice can apparently kill 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold and 80% of germs. Wow – I guess that’s why the use of vinegar in the home has been passed down from our mothers and grandmothers through generations and will continue to be used. Though a lot of these claims have not been conclusively proven scientifically, there is a good reason why vinegar has been used for thousands of years and I’m pretty sure will be used for more years to come. So people, keep using vinegar for whatever you need it for – home, health etc. Just note though that apple cider vinegar is preferred for health benefits.

See you on the next blog!

1 Comment
  1. Did not realise there were so many benefits to using vinegar – I just enjoy it in my salad dressing!

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