Made by the fermentation of grape must, balsamic vinegar has a dark color and tart, yet sweet flavor. Known for its high antioxidant content, balsamic vinegar health benefits also include controlling high blood pressure and blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes.
What is Balsamic Vinegar?
Balsamic vinegar is a common type of vinegar made by the double fermentation of white grape must. According to the September 2016 study published in Metabolites, vinegar has been produced for at least 5,000 years, coinciding with the fermentation of grapes used in the winemaking process.
The main differentiation from white vinegar is balsamic vinegar is left to mature in wooden barrels for anywhere from 10 to 50 years. This results in a thick, darker-colored vinegar that has a more intense yet sweet flavor, according to the authors of the September 2016 study in Metabolites.
Balsamic vinegar production traces its roots back to Modena and Reggio-Emilia, two areas in Italy where rigorous protocols are in place to maintain the quality and output of balsamic vinegar. Officially called Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, or traditional balsamic vinegars (TBV), balsamic vinegar produced in these two regions will always contain an official seal, indicating authenticity and high quality.
Balsamic Vinegar Nutrition
According to the USDA, one cup of balsamic vinegar contains 1.25 grams of protein, 43.43 grams of carbohydrates and has a zero fat content. Along with 194.95 grams of water per cup of liquid, the amount of balsamic vinegar calories in one cup is 224.
Other balsamic vinegar nutrition includes a high mineral content of potassium, which is an electrolyte required by all cells in the body. Adding balsamic vinegar to your daily diet will help in proper muscle contraction and prevent the occurrence of low potassium or hypokalemia, which can cause constipation, weak muscles and tiredness.
Balsamic vinegar nutrition also contains minerals like calcium and sodium, which are responsible for blood clotting, regular heart function and controlling the body's blood volume. Phosphorus, another electrolyte found in the body, is present in a serving of balsamic vinegar and is responsible for the body's bone and teeth formation, as well as with nerve impulses and maintenance of the kidneys.
Balsamic Vinegar Uses
When incorporating more healthy vegetables and fruits into your diet such as watermelon, MedlinePlus suggests switching things up by making a watermelon salad drizzled with a balsamic vinegar dressing. Thanks to its tart and acidic flavor profile, balsamic vinegar can also be used in place of regular vinegar or lemon juice when making a basic vinaigrette that's used to dress a variety of fresh green salads.
The acidity of balsamic vinegar makes it a great addition to marinades used on meat and seafood. The acetic acid content present in balsamic vinegar can break down the proteins in meat, thereby tenderizing it prior to cooking. Other household balsamic vinegar uses are cosmetic ones — balsamic vinegar acts as a skin softener and can be added to a bath. It can also be used as a facial toner, or even as a scalp cleaner to braided hairstyles.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Nutrition Source explains that balsamic vinegar uses also extend into the pickling of foods. Balsamic vinegar can be used in place of white vinegar as a pickling agent where the vinegar's acidity is responsible for killing bacteria present in foods and extending their shelf life.
Balsamic Vinegar Health Benefits
An October 2018 study published in Antioxidants explains that balsamic vinegar derived from red grapes has the highest amount of antioxidants present, which are known to decrease the incidence of cancer and lower the risk of heart disease. This is further affirmed by the authors of the September 2016 study in Metabolites, who state that the balsamic vinegar health benefits include a decrease in both hypertension and inflammation.
Read more: Is White Vinegar Good for Health?
Although an August 2012 study published in the Diabetes & Metabolism Journal was conducted on rats rather than humans, its findings are worth mentioning. The study showed that one of the balsamic vinegar health benefits was its ability to work as an anti-diabetic and lower cholesterol levels.
Newer studies like the small October 2013 study of 14 people published in the Journal of Functional Foods have also shown similar, promising results. Researchers found that consuming small amounts of vinegar before a meal decreased the levels of glucose in adults predisposed to Type 2 diabetes. However, studies with larger human participants need to be carried out before the balsamic vinegar health benefits can accurately be determined.
- USDA FoodData Central: "Vinegar, Balsamic”
- MyFoodData.com: "Nutrition Facts for Balsamic Vinegar”
- Mayo Clinic: “Low Potassium (Hypokalemia)”
- MedlinePlus: “Phosphorus in Diet”
- MedlinePlus: “Calcium in Diet"
- MedlinePlus: “Sodium in Diet”
- MedlinePlus: “Diet-boosting Foods”
- Michigan State University Extension: “Red and White Vinegar Cooking and Household Uses"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Nutrition Source: “Vinegar"
- Metabolites: "Vinegar Metabolomics: An Explorative Study of Commercial Balsamic Vinegars Using Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry”
- SUNY Cobleskill: “Food Fraud”
- Antioxidants: "On the Characterization and Correlation of Compositional, Antioxidant and Colour Profile of Common and Balsamic Vinegars”
- Journal of Functional Foods: "Vinegar Ingestion at Mealtime Reduced Fasting Blood Glucose Concentrations in Healthy Adults at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes”
- Diabetes & Metabolism Journal: "Balsamic Vinegar Improves High Fat-Induced Beta Cell Dysfunction via Beta Cell ABCA1"