Vinegar: The everyday item with a health punch.

Some say consuming vinegar will either provide you with miraculous benefits, like making you svelte in a flash or even promoting hair growth, while others downplay the buzz as nothing more than a cooking ingredient. The folklore itself surrounding vinegar goes back thousands of years with its use first as a natural preservative. Its medicinal roles can be traced back to the days of Hippocrates while Cleopatra was said to have incorporated it into a love potion for Marc Antony. In the here and now, scientific research shows that consuming vinegar is linked to a number of key health perks.

Vinegar can add healthy flavour – not empty calories – to your food

Since it’s the acetic acid in vinegar that’s responsible for almost all the health benefits, there’s a whole range of tasty acetic acid offerings including balsamic, rice, red and white wine and even champagne vinegar.

While salad dressing is a typical way for many to include vinegar, there are numerous other simple methods to add vinegar to your meal. Vinegar can perk up the taste of all kinds of soups such as lentil or minestrone, as well as vegetable dishes or meat stews – even a shot stirred into low-sodium tomato or vegetable juice can do the trick. A generous splash of wine vinegar in ratatouille or beef stew or tossing roasted vegetables in a balsamic-extra virgin olive oil combo would be tempting even if it weren’t good for you.

Vinegar may aid in blood sugar regulation and help fight heart disease and diabetes

If you’re over the age of 45 and one of the estimated 3.1 million Canadians with diabetes or one of the estimated 5.7 million with prediabetes (according to Diabetes Canada figures), take note: considering poor blood sugar regulation and heart disease can partner together, including vinegar on your menu may very well be heart-smart.

Elevated blood sugar levels can go hand in hand with higher readings of artery-clogging triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, boosting the risk for heart disease.

In a recent review, published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, scientists analyzed vinegar’s effect on blood sugar readings and insulin action in several different studies. (Insulin is the hormone responsible for blood sugar regulation but several factors, such as increasing age and excess abdominal fat, can negatively impact your body’s insulin sensitivity, upping your risk for prediabetes and ultimately, diabetes.)

In order to assess the big picture, the scientists included investigations of different types of vinegars with healthy subjects in addition to those with prediabetes and diabetes. Not only was the vinegar associated with lower blood sugar readings following meals, but also with reduced insulin levels.

Vinegar may help with digestion, appetite management and
weight control

It seems like vinegar may also have an impact on the hormones that contribute to appetite control by delaying their effects in the gastrointestinal tract.

These appetite hormones, such as ghrelin, are a hot topic of research, as scientists investigate ways to halt our expanding waistlines. Dr. Sumanto Haldar of the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences says, “Vinegar’s effectiveness is greater when consumed as part of a solid mixed meal, due to the longer length of time of exposure of its active ingredient, acetic acid, within the intestine.”

Vinegar slows down the rate at which a meal is digested, potentially leading to a greater sense of satiety and fewer calories being consumed.

A version of this article appeared in the June 2018 issue with the headline, “Dropping Acid,” p. 24.