Some of the health benefits of vinegar include diabetes control, blood pressure control, and first aid for jellyfish stings. Vinegar also helps in improving the body’s acid-alkaline balance, has antimicrobial properties, possibly controls cancer, and protects against oral bacteria.
Vinegar is a weak acid mainly composed of acetic acid and water. The taste of vinegar is sour and the smell is pungent. Nowadays, it is used as a common ingredient in cooking, but historically, vinegar was used as a medicine.
The name vinegar comes from French words “vin” and “aigre” which mean sour wine. Vinegar was produced by apples, which is popularly known as apple cider vinegar, but vinegar can now be produced from beer, sugarcane, rice, malt, coconut, palm, dates, raisin, honey, and kiwi. As a condiment and flavouring agent, vinegar is used in pickles, vinaigrettes, marinades, sauces, and many others.
History of Vinegar
Anthropologists around the world believe that vinegar was known to ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks and that its usage dates back to around 3000 BC. Egyptians used vinegar as a condiment and a flavouring agent in their cuisine. Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates used vinegar as a medicine for his patients around 400 BC. Chinese physician, Sung Tse, regarded as the father of forensic medicine, suggested using vinegar for cleaning hands before surgery to avoid infections.
Vinegar had also been present in Biblical times, and it was used as a tonic that improved health. Since then, vinegar has been used all over Europe and historians say that even Christopher Columbus carried barrels of vinegar on his voyage to North America.
How is Vinegar Produced?
Vinegar is produced in a way much similar to wine. Vinegar is produced by fermenting ethanol with the help of acetic acid bacteria. As the main ingredients of vinegar were not known scientifically in ancient times, the process remained a mystery until the 18th century, when scientists made a discovery about micro-organisms. Until then, wine and vinegar were thought to be a gift of nature. The discovery of microorganisms and their role in wine-making and vinegar-making revolutionized the way they both are produced.
Vinegar production is the next step of alcohol production. In alcohol production, yeasts are added to sugar solution, which converts the sugars into alcohol. By adding acetic acid bacteria, alcohol is converted into vinegar.
Classically, vinegar was produced in what is now known as the slow process. In this process, acetic acid bacteria converted alcohol into vinegar at a slow pace, which took anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months.
Nowadays, this process is accelerated by using improved technology. Under this process, vinegar is produced by oxygenation and submerging bacteria into the liquid for much faster fermentation.
According to the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 100 grams of cider vinegar consists of 94 grams of water, 21 kcal of energy, about 1 gram of carbohydrates, 0.4 grams of sugar, 7 mg of calcium, 0.2 mg of iron, 5 mg of magnesium, 8 mg of phosphorous, 73 mg of potassium, 5 mg of sodium, and 5 grams of acetic acid.
Health Benefits of Vinegar
This age old ‘sour wine’ provides many benefits. Here are some of the health benefits of taking vinegar regularly.
Preserves Food: Vinegar has been used as a food preservative for hundreds of years. Vinegar, due to its antibacterial properties, can effectively act as a good preservative for food by controlling microorganisms that generally attack food and cause decomposition.
Control of Diabetes: Vinegar is helpful for diabetics. A test on vinegar’s effects was conducted on type 2 diabetic subjects. The research revealed that vinegar had a stimulating effect on insulin in diabetics and in case of insulin-resistant people, vinegar helped in raising insulin sensitivity. Taking 2 teaspoons of vinegar before going to bed can improve the condition of type 2 diabetes patients.
Glycemia: Vinegar is also useful in reducing glycemia. Research has shown that the addition of vinegar to a high glycemic meal has positive effects on the reduction of postpranial glycemia.
Granular Myringitis: Studies have shown that usage of dilute vinegar solution is effective in managing granular myringitis
Anti-Aging Properties: In many cultures, vinegar was thought to improve immunity and was associated with longer life and strength. Studies administering vinegar to rats have shown quite encouraging results.
Helps Decrease Food Allergies: Vinegar can be used as an additive in certain foods that some people are allergic to. Tests on foods such as eggs, chicken, and lentils mixed with small quantities of vinegar were conducted. Food extracts with vinegar were tested on people suffering from anaphylactic food allergies. Sample tests on the skin showed decreased signs of allergic reactions compared to food extracts without vinegar. However, a doctor’s advice is recommended in such cases, as food allergies could sometime be fatal if treatment is not given in time.
Improves Acid-Alkali Balance: Taking two tablespoons of vinegar every day can help reduce high alkalinity in the blood. Alkalinity is increased by regular metabolism, which has to be balanced by an acid. Vinegar could be a good choice for this!
Antimicrobial Properties: Vinegar possesses antimicrobial properties. Tests on wood vinegar confirmed that wood vinegar was effective in controlling the growth of microbial cultures.
Jellyfish Stings: Box jellyfish are regarded as one of the most venomous creatures on the planet. The tentacles of this creature contain venomous glands, which are triggered by the slightest touch and inject one of the worst venoms that nature has ever synthesized. One of the first methods of treating this this venom is with vinegar. Vinegar breaks down the venom into harmless proteins. Note: vinegar can act as first aid but immediate medical attention is also required.
Controls Hypertension: Vinegar helps in reducing hypertension and rennin activity. Studies on vinegar’s effect on blood pressure showed that using vinegar for long durations helps in controlling hypertension due to the presence of acetic acid in it.
Fights Various Cancers: A study on the effects of vinegar on human cancer cells was conducted. It showed that vinegar from unpolished rice, when administered on various human cancer cells ranging from the colon, lung, breast, bladder, and prostate, controlled the growth of the cancer cells. The inhibition depended on doses for each type of cancers.
Controls Oral Bacteria: The antimicrobial properties of vinegar are helpful in controlling oral bacteria, which is often found in dentures and in various gum and oral diseases.
Healthy Hair: Vinegar is best suited for keeping your hair healthy. By applying a teaspoonful of apple cider vinegar on the scalp, one can remove dandruff, itching scalp, hair loss, and in some cases, baldness.
Healthy Skin: Applying vinegar on the skin is recommended for healthy and glowing skin. Take half a cup of apple cider vinegar and mix it with at least 1 litre of warm water. Now, apply this mixture gently on your skin. Your skin will become soft as the pH level begins to re-balance. It can also clear away dead skin cells and harmful toxins that have been deposited on your skin. This vinegar mixture can also work well for sunburn.