Vinegar adds an appealing tang to soups and salads, and you can use distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar for cleaning, too. Both are produced in a similar way, but they have different ingredients as their base. This alters their flavor and appearance.
Apple Cider Vinegar vs. White Vinegar
All vinegar is made via a two-stage fermentation process. In the first stage, yeast is added to a plant food, such as grains, fruit, rice or potatoes. The yeast feeds on the sugars and starches in the food, and the liquid ferments into an alcohol.
Next, an acetic acid bacteria called Acetobacter is introduced and left to ferment again over a period of weeks or months. Some vinegars are left much longer than that; for example balsamic vinegar, made from grapes, may be fermented for as long as 25 years, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Obviously, apple cider is made from fermenting apples and their juices. Distilled vinegar, often called white vinegar (but not to be confused with white wine vinegar), is made by fermenting alcohol, which is made with grain. This results in a more neutral vinegar that is clear in color, as opposed to the slightly fruity flavor and darker color of apple cider vinegar.
Because of its fuller flavor, apple cider vinegar is more often used for dressings and marinades, while distilled vinegar is used in pickling. The latter is also commonly used as a cleaning solution. Using apple cider vinegar for cleaning is possible, but because of its color not as common. Other distilled and apple cider vinegar uses are numerous, including using either as an antibacterial agent, digestive aid, appetite suppressant and cough treatment.
Vinegar Uses and Benefits
Vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, is the darling of the alternative health and nutrition world. From curing heartburn to helping you drop pounds, experts have recommended daily doses as a cure-all for myriad ailments. But before you take your morning shot of the sour stuff, you should know that the research is sparse and inconclusive.
Vinegar is low in calories and big on flavor. If you're on a reduced-calorie diet, using vinegar to add punch to your foods instead of higher calorie condiments may help you feel more satisfied with a smaller portion of food.
Researchers of a study in the Journal of Functional Foods in April 2018 supplemented a reduced-calorie diet with a 15-milliliter dose of apple cider vinegar at lunch and dinner in overweight and obese individuals. Another group followed only the reduced-calorie diet.
The National Capital Poison Center warns that you should never mix vinegar with bleach, which would create a chlorine gas solution that can be highly irritating. Additionally, the acid in vinegar can erode tooth enamel and exacerbate acid reflux. People with chronic kidney disease may not be able to tolerate excess amounts of vinegar.
At the end of 12 weeks, the apple cider vinegar group had lost more weight than the diet-only group. The apple cider vinegar group also had reduced body mass index, hip circumference, visceral adiposity index and appetite scores, and improved cholesterol profiles.
In an interpretation of study results, Edwin McDonald IV, MD, wrote for University of Chicago Medicine that the proposed effects were modest at best and not grounds for getting rid of your gym membership. The study participants followed a reduced-calorie diet and exercised. The vinegar may have helped to curb appetite, but it's no magic bullet.
McDonald says there's more promise for vinegar's antibacterial effects. The regular recalls for lettuce are enough to make you want to give up salad altogether. While it's not a foolproof method, dressing your greens with vinegar could help kill the bacteria that can make you sick. However, he urges people to still use common sense and proper food-handling techniques.
Vinegar's antibacterial effects come in handy when cleaning your home on a budget. A bottle of distilled vinegar costs pennies an ounce, compared to expensive products made specifically for cleaning. As long as you don't mind the smell, you can have sparkling clean toilets and a save money, too.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Vinegar"
- Journal of Functional Foods: "Beneficial Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on Weight Management, Visceral Adiposity Index and Lipid Profile in Overweight or Obese Subjects Receiving Restricted Calorie Diet: A Randomized Clinical Trial"
- National Capital Poison Center: "Vinegar"
- University of Chicago Medicine: "Debunking the Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar"