This Super-Ingredient Offers Endless Health Benefits
The above statement reflects the glowing recommendation that introduced me to apple cider vinegar (ACV). I heard about the ACV craze from a friend at the climbing gym, raving about the super ingredients health benefits. Following her recommendation, it didn’t take long to hook me. So I guess it contains healthy bacteria? And it targets multiple systems in the body? It only takes a tablespoon a day to keep the doctor away? I had to know more. A few days later my curiosity piqued and a Google search yielded more praise for ACV. The super ingredient promised plentiful results regarding heart health and skincare, to name a few benefits.
ACV’s long list of endorsements was impressive, including a shout out from Olympian Gabby Douglas. I had to try it for myself. I pulled the Braggs ACV out of my pantry and poured a capful into a small glass, noting the sharp aroma that filled the air. My first thought upon swallowing? It was a regrettable decision — my throat burned, my eyes watered and mouth filled with a taste that lingered. Not to mention it was sourer than initially anticipated. I consulted Google once again, wondering where I went wrong. It turns out that while I was busy researching the health benefits of ACV, I missed the caveat: ACV needs to be diluted. Its acidic properties make it too potent on its own — it’s pretty severe; it can burn your throat and esophagus and damage your teeth.
Lesson learned, but I was still convinced of its health benefits. The super-ingredient worked its way into my diet, included in small amounts in dressings, marinades and cleansing drinks. A few months later, I stumbled across Pressed Juicery’s line of health and wellness shots. Their Digestion Shot consisted of ACV, as well as ginger, probiotic, parsley, aloe vera, celery and moringa. Unfortunately, the product is temporarily discontinued for the time being, but the lime-green rendition was petite and delightful. It was just the boost that I was looking for.
Thinking about adding a dash of ACV into your daily routine? You can try this easy drink recipe at home:
- 5 Cups ripe Watermelon
- 1/3 Cup light Honey
- ½ Cup raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- Bubbly Water
Method: Puree watermelon until liquefied and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Add the honey and apple cider vinegar and stir well. Chill for 1-2 days in the refrigerator. (This process will dilute the vinegar taste, so you can play around with the time chilled.) Add ice cubes and bubbly water to dilute the mixture to your desired taste. Enjoy!
A Brief History
Now that you know my history with ACV, allow me to backtrack and give you a history about this delectable ingredient known as vin aigre. Venerable and divine, vin aigre, otherwise known as French sour wine, has a rich and diverse history. According to an old legend, the discovery of vinegar was accidental: old wine that turned sour yielded its result and its name. In 5,000 BC the Babylonians made vinegar from the date palm fruit and used it as a preservative and a condiment, mixed with herbs and spices. Traces of vinegar found in Egyptian urns and vases suggest its use in 3,000 BC too. The Chinese first recorded the use of rice vinegar for cooking in their history books in 1,200 BC, demonstrating vinegar’s vast reach across the globe.
Well-used and beloved by many cultures, vinegar is a versatile super-ingredient, made from fruits, grains, rice and wine. Today, eleven essential kinds of vinegar exist, according to Food & Wine. Light or heavy, sour or sweet, you’re sure to find many uses for vinegar. It interacts with other foods well, making it a great addition to your favorite recipes. A vinegar-based marinade coagulates protein, which in other words, means that it tenderizes meats without additional heat — but be careful, too much vinegar can overcook meats. For Italian food lovers, a touch of vinegar in pasta salad keeps the noodles from sticking together and it thickens pasta sauces.
If you’re a fan of Asian cuisine, enjoy a Crunch Roll with rice vinegar, spicy tuna, crispy seaweed, and tempura or finish a feast with a Hungarian classic: roasted pears drizzled in balsamic vinegar and topped with honey. ACV, in particular, is the perfect addition to classic American cuisine too. A homemade vinaigrette drizzled over a garden salad—or my personal favorite, a cucumber salad—adds sharp flavor to a healthy fix, while a dash of vinegar added to a spicy steak sauce brings piquant interest to your classic family-style barbecue.
All About Apple Cider Vinegar
By now you’re probably wondering what makes ACV, in particular, so special. ACV’s claim to fame comes from the liquid’s medley of tart and sweet flavor. The vinegar is the result of a lengthy process: the liquid from crushed apples is combined with bacteria and yeast, causing the liquid to ferment, turning the sugary substance into alcohol. From there, a second fermentation process occurs, transforming the alcohol into vinegar. This process results in quite the ubiquitous taste: a mixture of potent acidity and sweet-and-sour flavor. Today ACV is a common ingredient in salad dressings, marinades and chutneys. Its distinct and tangy flavor packs an unforgettable punch, making it a choice ingredient that adds a little kick to any dish.
“Apple cider vinegar is perfect for slaws, as the apple flavor adds a touch of sweetness that nicely compliments veggies and holds up well with cabbages. It’s also essential for barbecue sauce, to complement and balance the sweetness of black-strap molasses,” says Chef Eric Miller of Bay Kitchen Bar.
When selecting ACV at a grocery store, choose organic and unpasteurized ACV for the best results—a fan favorite is Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar, which is cheap and unfiltered. Filtered ACV looks clear, rather than colored. The key to selecting ACV is to look for a murky amber-colored liquid with a cloudy substance near the bottom of the bottle. This cloudy substance, known as “the mother,” contains the healthy and beneficial bacteria in ACV. This bacteria makes ACV a superstar; a super-ingredient.
Can’t wait to add it to your diet? Then by all means, give apple cider vinegar a try with this dinner recipe:
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 (1 ½-pound) Boneless Pork Shoulder Roast (Boston butt), trimmed
- ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ¼ Teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
- 2 ½ Cups sliced Onion
- ½ Cup fat-free, lower-sodium Chicken Broth
- ¼ Cup Rice Vinegar
- 2 Teaspoons ground Cumin
- ½ Teaspoon ground Allspice
- 2 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
- 5 Cups chopped fresh Kale
- 1 Teaspoon Canola Oil
- 2 peeled Apples, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
- 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Teaspoon Brown Sugar
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and coat with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Season the pork with salt and pepper and add to pan. Cook for 7 minutes and turn to brown evenly. Remove the pork and cover it to keep it warm.
- Coat the pan with the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add onion, stir occasionally, and cook for about 5 minutes or until browned. Add chicken broth, rice vinegar, cumin allspice and garlic cloves. Bring the pan to a boil and stir. Place the pork back in the pan, cover, and bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours. Add kale, cover, and bake for 30 minutes.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and coat the pan with canola oil. Add apples and cook for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the apple cider vinegar and brown sugar and cook for 1 minute or until dissolved. Drizzle the apple and vinegar dressing over the pork and kale to complete the dish. Enjoy!
The Super-Ingredient, Explained
ACV is always helpful to have around the home. In the kitchen, ACV is an effective produce cleaner, fighting bacteria and pesticides—but beware; this method will leave a lingering taste of vinegar on your veggies and fruits. ACV compliments some produce more than others. Pickling squash, cucumbers and carrots with ACV can lead to a delicious and well-preserved vegetable medley. It can also be used to preserve meats and poultry.
In terms of health benefits, ACV contains vitamins B1, B2, B6, and folic acid, which helps the body convert food into fuel and energy, boosts the immune system, and assists with protein and red blood cell metabolism. ACV is good for your cardiovascular system too: chlorogenic acid reduces LDL cholesterol levels, fiber maintains blood glucose levels and fights pre-diabetes, while acetic acid lowers blood pressure. Acetic acid is a particularly important component in ACV, as it reduces the absorption of carbohydrates and starches, so consider drinking a tall glass of water with a teaspoon of ACV (and lemon to taste) before consuming starch-heavy courses.
Dying to try it out? Here’s one more dinner recipe that we love:
- 1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Teaspoon Brown Sugar
- 3 Cups (400g) Watermelon, cut into 1cm pieces
- 1 large Zucchini, cut into 1cm pieces
- 1/2 Teaspoon Coriander seeds, toasted, crushed
- 1 small Red Onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 bunch Mint, leaves chopped
- 1/4 Cup pitted Kalamata Olives, chopped
- 1/4 Cup extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 4 x 1 1/2 (200g) Cup Skinless Salmon Fillets, pin-boned, cut into 2cm-wide strips
- Lemon Wedges, to serve
- Combine and stir 1 teaspoon salt, sugar and vinegar in a bowl. Thread uncooked salmon onto skewers and brush pickling liquid over salmon. Set aside for 5 minutes.
- To make the watermelon salsa, combine and toss 1 tablespoon pickling liquid with watermelon, zucchini, coriander, seeds, onion, mint, olives and 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss.
- Preheat a barbecue pan to high. Drain salmon, dry with a paper towel and brush with 2 tablespoons oil. Cook salmon skewers for 2 minutes or until crisp, flip, and cook for 1 minute.
- Top with salsa, serve with lemon wedges and enjoy!
Does The Super-Ingredient Live Up To The Hype?
Certainly, if you’re considering incorporating ACV into your diet for its health benefits, it’s important to consider its proven benefits. A Google search yields results in favor of the ACV craze, but sometimes scientific trials are taken out of context and cited incorrectly. One common myth about ACV is that it aids weight loss, but closer examination reveals that ACV has minimal impact on weight loss. Scientists believe that using ACV as part of a diet inspires people to eat healthier overall. It is also a general belief that ACV aids digestive health, but as of yet, there is no definitive proof to support this claim. On the other hand, many people claim that ACV causes acid reflux due to its highly acidic properties.
Many studies confirm the vast benefits of ACV, but many offer inconclusive results. So we still have a lot to learn about this wild and wacky, sweet and tangy super ingredient. There isn’t substantial evidence to confirm that weight loss correlates with the use of ACV, but, made from the ever-nutritious apple, it’s guaranteed to help your heart, boost your immune system and benefit your metabolism. The sour wine offers a host of confirmed health benefits, not to mention subtle flavor in every bite. Add a twist to your favorite salad with a new vinaigrette, or reinvent your BBQ wings with a touch of ACV. Introduce the super-ingredient into your diet in petite amounts, and prepare for nutritious and delicious results.
Historical + Fun Facts
- The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, suggested mixing apple cider vinegar and honey to cure the common cold and chronic sore throats.
- By the 19th century, vinegar was established as a necessity in the home and a hallmark of fine dining. Thomas Jefferson’s home in Monticello, particularly his gardens and vineyards, bear witness to the history of vinegar.