Found in salad dressing, chips, and pickled foods, it seems like we just can’t get enough vinegar. With so many varieties and an endless number of uses, it's understandable why we love vinegar. If flavor alone isn't enough, vinegar also packs a handful of healthful benefits. We know the benefits of apple cider vinegar on our health, but what about its cousin balsamic vinegar?
What is balsamic vinegar?
Traditional balsamic vinegar is made from the juice of white grapes. The juice is cooked down to a concentration. During this process the sugar in the juice starts to darken, or caramelize, causing the dark color of balsamic vinegar. Like wine, the vinegar is then fermented and undergoes a slow aging process in wooden barrels. The minimum aging period is 12 years; some can age for as long as 25 years.
Benefits of balsamic vinegar
1. Antioxidants. Fight against free radicals with antioxidants—the same type found in red wine. Research has found that balsamic vinegar could decrease the oxidation of “bad” cholesterol and help prevent plaque formation in arteries.
2. Improves blood pressure. Research has found that foods high in antioxidants, such as balsamic vinegar, may help improve blood pressure by preventing cell damage.
3. May help your body produce insulin. A study in 2012 demonstrated that balsamic vinegar improved beta-cell functioning in rats, and beta cells produce insulin. It does, however, contain sugar, so pay attention to how much you use. According to the USDA, one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar contains 2.7 grams of carbs.
4. Immunity support. Antioxidants found in balsamic vinegar repair cell damage and help improve the immune system. By eating more antioxidants your immune system may be able to provide the defense your body needs.
5. Weight control. Balsamic vinegar slows down digestion and helps prevent overeating. Because of it’s natural sweetness it makes a healthy salad dressing and marinade without the use of added sugar.
Uses of balsamic vinegar
Dipping whole-grain bread in extra-virgin olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar can be a great light appetizer before a meal.
For a breadless Italian sandwich, try making an Asparagus Caprese Sandwich, with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.
Mix balsamic vinegar with extra-virgin olive oil and your favorite herbs and spices for a quick and healthy salad dressing or marinade.
Balsamic vinegar adds a unique taste to sweet desserts. It can be drizzled on fresh strawberries or try it over these Blue Cheese-Stuffed Strawberries.
When buying balsamic vinegar, it’s important to check the label. Avoid vinegar that has added sugar or color. As always, consult your physician before making any changes to your diet.