Vinegar is not just a preservative. It can work wonders in lowering cholesterol levels and protecting the body against tumours
Wine, an oenophile would say, is good for the heart, but what about sour wine or vin aigre as the French would call it? Vinegar has a reputation for being a natural antiseptic, preservative, a culinary ingredient and a cleaning agent.
Lately, vinegar has begun to be praised for its nutritive value, too. Believed to have been discovered when wine “spoilt” turning acidic, vinegar has been in use since 5000 BC. The Babylonians made vinegar from dates and the Egyptians from figs. Vinegar is acetic acid and water, but contains organic acids and polyphenols (chemical compounds found in plants which have the ability to protect against chronic diseases).
There are lots of vinegars used in cuisines around the world—from the common apple cider vinegar to the expensive champagne vinegar and Balsamic vinegar. True vinegar is made from any sugar containing foods like grapes, apple, figs, rice, coconut, cane, dates, honey, potato, beer and malt that is regionally available.
Low Glycemic Index (GI): Long before hypoglycaemic agents came into use, vinegar teas were popularly used as glucose lowering drinks. Vinegar has definitely shown to reduce the GI of a mixed meal. This means it reduces the post prandial (after food) blood sugar and insulin response in insulin
Low LDL cholesterol: Animal studies show that a high dose of vinegar added to a cholesterol containing diet seems to lower LDL and total cholesterol levels, as compared to a diet which does not have added vinegar. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, participants who consumed oil and vinegar dressing on salad had a lower risk of heart diseases.
Anti-tumour activity: Studies done in test tubes (in vitro) show that Kurosu, a Japanese vinegar made from unpolished rice and extremely rich in polyphenols, inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells while Japanese sugar cane vinegar causes death of human leukemia cells.
How to make vinegar part of your cooking
Low salt: Since vinegar retains the flavour of the original food it is made from, it is a great ingredient to lend piquancy and palatability to salads and cooked dishes that are less salted or spiced for health reasons. If you want sweetness, use Balsamic vinegar on salads.
Satiety: The taste of vinegar can provide satiety to a meal. Weight watchers, take note!
Low fat: Instead of adding cream or butter in casseroles or soups recipes, try herb-infused wine vinegar. Use red wine vinegar to braise lamb or white wine vinegar for chicken that you may want to roast or grill so as to reduce oil intake. Instead of oil, pickle in vinegar infused with hot peppers or garlic.
(The author is a nutritionist)