The Surprising Health Benefits Of Vinegar (It Can Do More Than Just Dress Your Salad)

A registered dietitian explains why you should be incorporating more vinegar into your diet.

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health benefits of vinegar, from apple cider to red wine

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You’ve likely heard about all the supposed benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar. Many of the claims are more fiction than fact, though — for instance, there’s simply no science to back up the idea that apple cider vinegar is a cure-all for conditions such as acne and Candida, or a defence against certain cancers and an aid for rapid weight loss.

But vinegar, including apple cider varieties, does indeed have health benefits many people are likely not aware of. Scientists continue to uncover the various health benefits of acetic acid, the active ingredient in vinegar, and other components, such as the polyphenols or antioxidants contained in assorted vinegars. Rice, balsamic, sherry, and red and white wine vinegar are a few of the options available.

Here’s why you should be incorporating more vinegar into your diet.

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Vinegar may help tame your appetite

Using vinegar in your meals may help to curb your appetite in a number of ways. For one, studies have shown that it can slow the rate of digestion, helping you to feel fuller for longer. “The slower digestion also allows for greater exposure of the acetic acid to your intestines, possibly helping to suppress your hunger hormones, such as ghrelin,” says Dr. Sumanto Haldar of the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences. Simply put, you may feel less hungry and eat less, making weight management an easier task.

Vinegar can help to lower your blood sugar

In a review of 11 clinical studies published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, scientists found that consuming vinegar along with starchy foods resulted in lower blood sugar and insulin readings in both healthy subjects and those with diabetes. (The average amount of vinegar consumed was four teaspoons.) High levels of insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating your blood sugar, can go hand in hand with high blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol and weight gain. Too much insulin can also send your blood sugar on a roller-coaster ride, leading to highs and lows along with cravings and fatigue.

But here’s the catch: vinegar doesn’t appear to have this effect when you eat sugary foods. The beneficial impact of vinegar on blood sugar is only seen when you consume it along with quickly digested starchy choices, such as potatoes.

(A word of caution for those taking medication for diabetes: You should consult your physician before adding vinegar to your diet, since vinegar can yield lower blood sugar levels.)

Vinegar may lower elevated levels of triglycerides

High triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, are a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke. While there are dietary strategies for lowering these blood fats, adding vinegar to the mix might offer some benefit. A Japanese study of obese men found that consuming one or two tablespoons of vinegar per day over a 12-week period was linked to decreased triglycerides.

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The best way to add vinegar to your diet

While drinking vinegar — specifically apple cider vinegar — has become a health trend, it’s not the best way of incorporating it into your diet. Because it’s an acid, vinegar can erode your tooth enamel, even if diluted with water. As it moves down your gastrointestinal tract, it can also irritate your throat and esophagus. And when you drink it alone, as opposed to including it as part of your meal, you also won’t reap all of vinegar’s potential health perks. The acetic acid will pass through your intestines too quickly to have as big an impact on your hunger hormones.

The best way of incorporating acetic acid into your diet is to include it along with food. Enjoy it raw or cooked, and aim for about two teaspoons or up to about two tablespoons a day. While there’s not a lot of research on excessive amounts, low levels of potassium in the blood have been reported when a cup a day is consumed. As for your choice of vinegar, only unpasteurized apple cider vinegar contains probiotics, since the heat used in pasteurization kills the beneficial bacteria. Fruity types of vinegar, such as balsamic and wine vinegars, also contain polyphenols, compounds that act as antioxidants. When choosing a vinegar, consider the flavours that match your food choices.

Vinegar can do more than just dress your salad

Vinegar can perk up the taste of both savoury and sweet offerings. Rather than adding a little salt to liven up the taste of a soup, such as lentil or a minestrone, add some vinegar instead. The same goes for vegetable dishes and meat stews. Try adding a generous splash of wine vinegar in ratatouille or beef stew, or tossing roasted vegetables in a balsamic–extra virgin olive oil combo. You can also use rice vinegar in a sauce for a stir-fry served on brown rice. If you’re just grabbing a sandwich, stir a spoonful of vinegar into lower-sodium tomato or vegetable juice to have alongside. (Having the drink at the same time as eating food may protect against stomach irritation, while meal choices rich in the mineral phosphorus, such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy and beans, may help to protect against tooth enamel erosion.) Vinegar is also a mainstay in making quick pickles, such as pickled onions, a new trend to add crunch to dishes. Or end your meal with a good quality balsamic drizzled on strawberries — yum!