Balsamic vinegar is a deep brown vinegar that’s made from unfermented grape juice. It’s known for having distinctive, bold, complex flavors and a tart aftertaste. Real balsamic vinegar is aged in barrels for months or even years, and it can be quite expensive. Balsamic vinegar has become a popular ingredient in food preparations, especially salad dressings and marinades. People use it as a low-fat additive and part of a heart-healthy diet.
Some people believe that balsamic vinegar is good for you all by itself. It’s been suggested that balsamic vinegar can contribute to weight loss, low cholesterol, and even a glowing complexion.
It helps lower cholesterol
Of all of the benefits of balsamic vinegar, this one is perhaps the most well-documented. Balsamic vinegar is an excellent choice for those looking to maintain or lower their cholesterol levels. The antioxidants found in balsamic vinegar target the “scavenger cells” that are toxic to your body and inflate your LDL (unhealthy cholesterol) levels. By consuming balsamic vinegar as a dressing or glaze, you can consume enough to help your body protect itself against clogged arteries.
It aids in healthy digestion
The main active compound in balsamic vinegar is acetic acid, which contains strains of probiotic bacteria. These probiotics don’t just preserve food — they can also enable healthy digestion and improve gut health. There’s also positive immune system benefits to having these healthy bacteria called gut biome. The probiotic compounds in acetic acid could be part of the reason some people swear balsamic vinegar makes them feel full.
It supports weight loss
The vinegar family is known for its anti-obesity characteristics, and balsamic vinegar is no exception. As mentioned above, balsamic vinegar contains probiotic compounds that help you feel fuller, longer. Unlike other flavoring agents like butter and mayonnaise, balsamic vinegar is fat-free. Though it isn’t a magic weight loss potion, there’s reason to believe that incorporating balsamic vinegar into your diet will help you reach your weight loss goals.
Balsamic vinegar is an anti-glycemic. In a 2006 review, studies even indicated that after consuming vinegar, people with insulin resistance experience a blood sugar plateau for up to five hours. Using balsamic vinegar as a condiment can make your meals more diabetes-friendly, and help you avoid blood sugar spikes that happen after eating.
It improves blood circulation
Balsamic vinegar contains polyphenols, which are under investigation for how they help your cardiovascular system. You might not think about it often, but balsamic vinegar is a fruit product because it’s made from grapes. Grapes have been found to keep your blood platelets from aggregating, which may prevent cardiac diseases. This might be part of the reason why Mediterranean cultures have been using balsamic vinegar for centuries as a “healing” and “anti-aging” ingredient.
It may help with hypertension
Balsamic vinegar’s benefits for your cardiovascular system extend to your blood pressure, too. A laboratory study from 2001 revealed that rats with hypertension had better blood pressure after consuming vinegar over a long period of time. By consuming 1 to 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar as a dressing or marinade, you’re not only making your food more delicious — you’re helping your heart health, too.
It can improve your skin
Other types of vinegar, like apple cider vinegar, might appeal more as topical acne remedies because the smell of balsamic vinegar is quite pungent. The dark, stain-prone color of balsamic vinegar might also put you off from applying it directly to your face. But balsamic vinegar contains both acetic acid and antimicrobial compounds, as well as antioxidants. Consuming balsamic vinegar as part of your regular diet might make your skin look clearer and your complexion brighter.
Risks and side effects
The risks of balsamic vinegar are low compared to the potential health benefits, according to one review of the literature.
If you drink raw balsamic vinegar, your throat may become inflamed and your esophagus could be damaged. There are instances where drinking vinegar can cause stomach pain or hurt the lining of your stomach. Be careful to monitor how much vinegar you’re consuming. Stop using balsamic vinegar right away if you feel it’s contributing to heartburn or gastric issues.
A balsamic glaze is an easy way to start including balsamic vinegar in your diet. All you need is sugar, salt, and a high-quality bottle of balsamic vinegar.
Mix 16 ounces (oz.) of balsamic vinegar in a saucepan with a 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of ground sea salt. Turn the saucepan on medium heat and let it boil. The mixture should cook down to about 8 oz. as you stir it occasionally. The resulting glaze will be thick and syrupy. Let it cool and store in an airtight container.
For a dose of antioxidants, vitamin C, and vitamin K, try this classic antipasto recipe. You’ll need:
- 2-3 beefsteak heirloom tomatoes
- 8 oz. mozzarella cheese
- 2-3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
- fresh basil leaves
- sea salt
Slice the beefsteak tomatoes length-wise. In between the tomato slices, add thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese. Layer basil over the tomatoes and mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, and balsamic vinegar to taste.
Balsamic vinegar is a safe food additive that contains no fat and very little natural sugar. It’s been proven effective to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood pressure. Some research suggests it can also work as an appetite suppressant, and it contains strains of probiotic bacteria. It’s also simple to add to your food, and tastes delicious.
While the health benefits of balsamic vinegar are still being studied and aren’t fully understood, there’s little reason not to try adding balsamic vinegar to your diet.