An Italian aged vinegar, balsamic vinegar uses include in salad dressings. It is enjoyed for both its taste and perceived health benefits including antioxidant qualities. Although its claim to health is not yet medically proven, balsamic vinegar is widely available on grocery store shelves.
Balsamic vinegar, which traditionally is made in Italy, is purported to have health benefits stemming from its active ingredients including polyphenols, micronutrients and other bioactive compounds. While research has not been conclusive, potential positive benefits of eating balsamic vinegar could include antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antioxidative, antiobesity and antihypertensive effects.
Balsamic Vinegar Health Benefits
Balsamic vinegar, which originated in Italy — the country still produces a majority of balsamic vinegar — is made from grape must (freshly crushed grape juice with all the skins, seeds and stems). The must is fermented into a thick, dark brown liquid that is then aged for at least a month and sometimes much longer.
Balsamic vinegar is somewhat sweeter compared with other vinegars such as apple cider or white vinegar. It is commonly used in salad dressings, marinades, drizzled onto roasted vegetables or as a garnish.
An article published in the April 2017 edition of Food Chemistry Journal _details some of the believed health benefits of balsamic vinegar — and vinegars in general. Vinegar contains polyphenols, micronutrients and other bioactive compounds, leading them to produce antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antioxidative, antiobesity and antihypertensive effects according to the _Journal.
A May 2014 review of vinegar published in the Journal of Food Science noted further potential benefits of vinegar as antibacterial activity, blood pressure reduction, antioxidant activity, reduction in the effects of diabetes, prevention of cardiovascular disease and increased vigor after exercise. Some also believe consuming vinegar can help with weight loss.
Balsamic Vinegar Uses
Surprisingly, not all balsamic vinegars are the same. Traditional balsamic vinegar from Italy is labeled "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale" and has a D.O.P. stamp, which shows that the origin and location of production (Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy) has been verified. This is the expensive stuff that has been aged for 12 years or more. It should be sparingly used to accent aged cheese or fresh mozzarella, or on roasted vegetables.
There are more affordable — and less aged — balsamic vinegars, some that are also produced in Italy but that could also come from the United States. (Note that true balsamic vinegar should contain only one ingredient: grapes). This is the vinegar you'll want to incorporate into your salad dressings or marinades.
Balsamic vinegar can also be slicked on vegetables before they go into the oven to roast or as a glaze for salmon. You could also reduce it into a very thick syrupy sauce to pour over a dish of vanilla ice cream.
Unlike white vinegar which doubles as a household cleaner, balsamic vinegar use should be kept to food preparation only. It can add a hint of sweetness to dishes that would benefit from its mellow flavor.
Balsamic Vinegar Health Risks
Using too much vinegar can have some negative effects. As a topical application, the National Capital Poison Center cautions against using it to treat wounds and states that it is not effective at inhibiting the growth of many bacteria that cause wound infections.
Side effects of consuming balsamic vinegar could include erosion of your teeth enamel from the acid in vinegar. There is some belief that acidic foods or liquids like vinegar could exacerbate acid reflux. If you drink straight balsamic vinegar in large quantities, your throat may become inflamed and it might cause stomach pain. Another side effect of drinking too much vinegar is that it could cause or worsen nausea.
If vinegar gets splashed in your eyes, it can be very painful. Irritation and redness can occur, as well as corneal injury. If you get balsamic vinegar in your eyes you should immediately wash your eyes thoroughly with room temperature water.
- University of Chicago Medicine: "Debunking the Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar"
- National Capital Poison Center: "Vinegar, Not Just for Salad"
- Food Chemistry Journal: "Varieties, Production, Composition and Health Benefits of Vinegars: A Review"
- Journal of Food Science: "Functional Properties of Vinegar"
- Harvard School of Public Health: "Vinegar"
- USDA: "Nutrient Database - Distilled White Vinegar"
- USDA: "Nutrient Database - Balsamic Vinegar"
- MedGenMed: Vinegar: "Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect"