Vinegar has long had its place in the household kitchen cupboard. Unfortunately, the most commonly used vinegar is white distilled vinegar. The process of distillation renders it nutrition-less, removing minerals such as potassium and important acids which ward off bodily toxins and unfriendly bacteria. This highly processed vinegar can be demineralizing when ingested; therefore, it should not be used internally. It does however work well in all kinds of household cleaning chores.
There are much better choices of vinegar which meet culinary approval and have medicinal integrity. One that has gained in popularity over the years is apple cider vinegar. The taste is tart and fruity and complements many dishes. The best choice would be an organic, naturally brewed, unfiltered and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar made with whole crushed apples, especially freshly picked apples instead of the typical windfall apples. It is the apple cider vinegar made without heat or preservatives. Folklore has it that it can be taken with water as a restorative tonic.
Because of the concern people may have about E. coli due to the outbreak in unpasteurized apple juice, I was able to find out from the Vinegar Institute that “E. coli cannot survive in the low (acidic) pH of vinegar” and test results were negative. If it contains “mother,” then all the better. Mother is the name for the stringy protein molecules that form in authentic vinegar. If this is unappealing to you, it can be removed by gently filtering through an unbleached coffee filter or other appropriate method.
Apple cider vinegar has long been used in folk remedies. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used it in 400 BC to treat his patients. Dr. Jarvis, the author of Folk Medicine, states “One reason for the versatility of apple cider vinegar as a remedy in Vermont folk medicine is that it associates minerals with potassium. These are phosphorous, chlorine, sodium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, iron, fluorine, silicon and many trace minerals.” He also stresses the importance of the mineral potassium in particular as he states “potassium is to soft tissues what calcium is to hard tissues.”
Another illustration of the importance of potassium is stated by Paul Bragg, ND, PhD in his book Apple Cider Vinegar, about an experiment conducted in 1912. He states “Research scientist Dr. Alexis Carrel kept the cells of an embryo chicken heart alive and healthy for over 30 years by daily monitoring its complete nutrition, cleansing and elimination. The normal life span of an average chicken is 7–8 years.” The chicken embryo was given apple cider vinegar daily for its supply of potassium. Dr. Carrel could have gone on with the experiment, but he felt he had proved his point that healthy cells can continue to rejuvenate with proper maintenance.
Also explained by Dr. Paul Bragg is the body’s amazing ability to constantly rejuvenate itself. He explains that every three months a new bloodstream is built, every eleven months we build a new set of billions of body cells, and every two years new sets of bones and hard tissues are built. This constant state of renewal is indicative of the body’s fight to stay young, healthy, and full of life with proper nutrition, minerals, and elimination of toxins. Apple cider vinegar provides important minerals and also has a detoxifying effect on the liver.
Brown rice vinegar has been called the eastern version of apple cider vinegar.
The flavor has about half the sharpness and a subtle sweetness. When shopping for brown rice vinegar, Kyushu is a particular type that stands out from the rest. It accounts for less than one percent of Japan’s annual 100 million gallon production of vinegar. Unlike other brown rice vinegars, Kyushu is buried in the ground outdoors in glazed crocks where it is allowed to ferment. This keeps the temperature constant which is very important because variations in temperature can ruin a batch very quickly. This process includes high quality ingredients and is much more tedious than conventional brown rice vinegar, but the end result yields superior flavor and five times the amount of amino acids. Organic brown rice vinegar can be used in place of apple cider vinegar in various folklore remedies.
Authentic vinegar is very useful to the body and research suggests the amino acids are partly responsible for the medicinal effect. John and Jan Belleme, authors of Culinary Treasures of Japan, state in their book “Dr. Yoshio Takino of Shizuka University, Japan, has confirmed the importance of vinegar’s amino acids. According to Takino, the twenty amino acids and sixteen organic acids found in authentic rice vinegar help prevent the formation of toxic fat peroxides. He explains that when unsaturated fatty acids from vegetable oils and other foods are heated and exposed to light in cooking or oxidized during metabolism, fat peroxides can form, which contribute to aging and to cholesterol formation on blood vessel walls.”
Both apple cider vinegar and brown rice vinegar are used medicinally for various ailments. There are, however, other types of vinegar which are used all around the world to add taste and appeal to all types of dishes. Modena, Italy is known for its great tasting balsamic vinegar. It is made by gently crushing wine grapes and then boiling the juice in a vat. After several more steps it is poured into wooden casts to ferment. The method of making tradizional or the “real thing” takes years and is very expensive. The end product is a nice balance of sweet and sour and lends full, rich flavor to all it is sprinkled on. Balsamic vinegar is high in health-promoting resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red grape skins.
Wine vinegar differs according to the source of wine. Red wine vinegar adds a robust flavor and goes well with pungent greens, as well as meats and cheese, much like red wine itself. White wine vinegar has a more delicate flavor and is excellent with tender, young greens and pasta dishes.
The research that has been done on apple cider vinegar and brown rice vinegar speaks for itself concerning the health benefits. I was unable to find health-related information supporting other vinegar types. This is not to say, however, that this research is not in the works. Something to look for when shopping for either wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar is a type of preservative called sulfites. Marcio Bontempo, a medical doctor in Brazil has stated “one in five people are sulfite-sensitive,” and that “five percent of those who have asthma are also at risk of suffering an adverse reaction to the substance.” Whichever types of vinegars you decide to experiment with, by all means add them to your dishes to impart fresh, zingy flair to all your culinary creations.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #14.
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