The unfermented juice from the white Trebbiano variety of grapes grown in northern Italy is used to prepare balsamic vinegar. This vinegar is allowed to age for three years or longer and the resulting syrupy liquid has a dark color with a bitter and strong flavor. Although it was previously used for the subtle complexity of flavor it imparts to food, balsamic vinegar health benefits are now being studied in a wide range of health conditions ranging from indigestion to diabetes and cancer.
Why Balsamic Vinegar is Beneficial?
Balsamic vinegar health benefits are a result of it being derived from red grapes, which contain the flavonoid called quercetin that has strong antioxidant properties. Besides, they also contain another antioxidant class of compounds called the pyenogenols that have beneficial effects. Balsamic vinegar is a rich source of several minerals such as calcium, zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, potassium, manganese, phosphorus and sodium.
Balsamic Vinegar in Traditional Medicine
Ancient folk medicine used balsamic vinegar as a seasoning and tonic to help relieve indigestion and fatigue. Sung Tse in the 10th century used vinegar as a disinfectant for cleaning hands before autopsies. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used vinegar to clean wounds. Later day medical practitioners used vinegar to treat several ailments such as dropsy, stomachache, croup and poison ivy
Health benefits of Balsamic Vinegar
Scientists working on balsamic vinegar health benefits have found evidence that support the traditional use of this compound. Besides, certain scientific studies have also discovered potential anticancer activity of this compound.
Antiseptic Benefits : Vinegar has been used for its antimicrobial action on wounds since the times of Hippocrates. Besides antibacterial effect, it also has action against viruses and fungi. However, it is less effective as a household disinfectant against disease-causing germs.
Improved Immune System : Balsamic vinegar helps to improve the body’s resistance to diseases caused by cell damage due to free radical reactions. This action is a result of the antioxidant properties of quercetin and pyenogenols. As a result of this antioxidant action, the body achieves a greater resistance against diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular complications.
Cardiovascular Benefits : Research findings show that the flavonoids present in grape juice have a role to play in preventing coronary artery thickening. This reduces the risk of developing coronary artery disease. Some studies have also found that using an oil and vinegar dressing on salads affords protection against heart disease because such dressings contain omega-3 fatty acids.2 Animal studies have shown that balsamic vinegar can reduce blood pressure in rats although this is yet to be investigated in humans.
Weight Loss Benefits : Balsamic vinegar is less fattening than other marinades and dressings; this makes it a useful component in the diet of people seeking to lose weight.
Besides, it also has an appetite-depressing action, which lowers chances of overeating, and also contributes to weight loss.
Anti-diabetic Benefits : Balsamic vinegar health benefits include its ability to increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin. This results in better maintenance of blood sugar levels. Many studies in humans have reported that using vinegar at mealtimes has a hypoglycemic (blood glucose-lowering) effect. Some researchers have also found that adding vinegar to rice reduces the glycemic index of the rice, making it a better food option for diabetics. Vinegar has shown an antiglycemic effect even in people with type 2 diabetes.
Anti Cancer Benefits : Balsamic vinegar health benefits against cancer are being intensively researched. No definite information is available of the specific antitumor factor in vinegar, although the acetic acid has shown an ability to inhibit growth of tumors in laboratory studies. Some studies have found that a compound called resveratrol found in grapes has the ability to inhibit growth of tumors of the liver and breast and this may be one of the factors that contribute to the anticancer effects of balsamic vinegar.
Digestive Benefits : Balsamic vinegar has the ability to increase the activity of the enzyme pepsin that is present in the stomach. Therefore, it has the effect of improving digestion. This digestive benefit is believed to arise from the polyphenols present in balsamic vinegar.
How to Select and Store
When it comes to balsamic vinegar, there are many commercial varieties available. While each one of them has their own unique flavors, some are not really authentic and aged vinegar, and therefore, choosing the right one is a tough task. However, it is best to purchase a brand that bears the term “Tradizionale/DOC” because this is the authentic balsam prepared in the traditional way. Balsamic vinegar is to be stored in a cool and dark place, away from exposure to heat.
Precautions while using balsamic vinegar
Although vinegar is generally considered safe for use, some people may develop low potassium levels and inflammation of the esophagus.
Balsamic vinegar health benefits are many. There is no denying the fact that using it as a salad dressing is a healthier option to other calorie-loaded dressings.