Vinegar is a fermented product made from the action of acetic acid bacteria on liquids such as wine, beer or apple cider. Acetic acid is a “weak acid” compared to, say, the strong hydrochloric acid produced by our stomachs to digest food. According to the Vinegar Institute, a product sold as “vinegar” in the United States must contain at least 4 percent acetic acid.
Balsamic vinegar, “aceto balsamico,” originated in the Modena and Reggio Emilia areas of northern Italy and is a dark condensed reduction of white Trebbiano grape juice. Traditional Balsamic vinegars from these areas are aged for 12 or more years and retain the coveted title of “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale.”
There is no balsam (the resin in the sap of trees) in balsamic vinegar. Rather, this type of vinegar probably was named after the Latin word “balsamic” that describes restorative or curative properties.
Vinegar is a fermented product that in itself might be beneficial, say some experts. According to Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, the friendly acetic acid bacteria used to make vinegar infiltrates our guts with favorable “probiotics” that assist with digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
According to the review in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, some preliminary studies have shown that vinegar can help control blood sugars in people at risk for diabetes. Effects varied, however, depending on the amount and type of carbohydrate eaten at a meal. Adding vinegar to healthier carbs such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit was more favorable than dousing a sugar-laden beverage with vinegar.
Can vinegar help us lose weight? Maybe and maybe not. Some studies indicate that vinegar helps to suppress appetite, perhaps by slowing the transition of food through the digestive tract. Other studies found that high intakes of vinegar increased nausea in some people, however.
Most vinegars are surprisingly low in sodium while packing a huge flavor punch. Always check the label on “seasoned” vinegars, however; these might contain added sodium.
“Vinegars are part of a wholesome life,” says Dr. Stephen Brabeck, board certified cardiologist and owner of Quail and Olive — a boutique of specialty oils and vinegars in Carmel Valley, Calif. They can be used on salads, as a marinade or in reduction sauces.
Nutritionally, a tablespoon of vinegar contains a measly 14 calories compared to 120 calories in one tablespoon of olive oil. Stop fooling around, and mix the two together. Delicioso!
All vinegar products require a hechsher. Consult your Rav for details.