Vinegar: Friend or Foe?

Do you like to be jealous? Sour vinegar is loved by many people.

Many individuals enjoy the tart flavor of vinegar. Some are unable to do without vinegar at each meal, and can even drink it directly. There are still numerous myths regarding vinegar: it can prevent cancer, act as a disinfectant, soften blood vessels… Does vinegar truly possess so many benefits?

Why do people enjoy vinegar?

Human ancestors created vinegar and wine because they noticed the fermentable acetic acid in the juices of plants. Across the globe, people have traditionally made vinegar from fruit wine, tropical fruit, palm tree sap, etc., and also used vinegar to marinate pickles and steep raw fish, meat and vegetable dishes.

The vinegar consumed by the Chinese is mostly brewed from glutinous rice, sorghum, millet, wheat bran, corn and rice. Using the fermentation of edible alcohol, the starch is decomposed and saccharified and converted into ethanol, and then the ethanol is converted into acetic acid under the action of acetic acid bacteria, to obtain this kind of liquid acid seasoning with rich flavor.

Vinegar is very popular because it contains taste components like acetic acid and amino acids with various characteristics. While enriching flavor, these flavors also have the following benefits: the dissociated acetate and hydrogen ions produce the sour sensation on the tongue, which can eliminate the fishy odor of some ingredients; its distinct aroma can increase appetite and offer refreshing appetizers; its unique lipophilicity can dissolve onion, ginger, garlic, aniseed cloves, etc., helping foods and seasonings volatilize and emanate fragrance, and increase the freshness, sweetness and aroma of dishes; it can inhibit the growth of various microorganisms, and has antiseptic functions that improve the safety of consuming cold dishes.

Are the rumors regarding vinegar true?

If one wants to know whether vinegar softens blood vessels and prevents cancer, they must first understand the ingredients of vinegar.

The constituents of vinegar usually include acetic acid, calcium, potassium, amino acids, succinic acid, gluconic acid, malic acid, lactic acid, B vitamins, etc. The content will vary due to the actual raw materials and manufacturing methods. Though it contains an assortment of nutrients, the nutrition and direct health benefits conferred by vinegar can be ignored because of the small amount of consumption, thus the primary function of vinegar is seasoning.

Eating Too Much Vinegar Cannot Cause Osteoporosis. According to chemical reactions, acetic acid will dissolve calcium carbonate, so that calcium will be lost, but only a small part of the vinegar we eat enters the bloodstream, and it is quickly metabolized by the liver into carbon dioxide and water, which does not directly act on human bones. It will not cause calcium loss within the body. Moreover, vinegar can also help individuals with insufficient gastric acid secretion convert insoluble calcium in food into calcium ions, aiding the body absorb calcium in food.

Vinegar Cannot Soften Blood Vessels. Acetic acid will be neutralized by the alkaline digestive fluids in the small intestine. The acetic acid that can be absorbed into the blood is very limited and will be quickly cleared by the blood stabilization system. Therefore, acetic acid will neither change the pH of the blood nor soften blood vessels. For persons with atherosclerosis, rather than recklessly drinking vinegar to “soften blood vessels”, it is better to improve and control the condition by quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, balanced nutrition, strengthening exercise, and balancing mentality.

Fumigating with Vinegar Cannot Truly Sterilize. Although vinegar contains more than 3.5% acetic acid, the boiling point of acetic acid is as high as 100 degrees Celsius. Fumigating at home can only thicken the vinegar, and the acetic acid content in the evaporated part is extremely low, which cannot achieve any sterilization effect at all.

Is There Any Harm in Drinking Too Much Vinegar? Some individuals in life regard vinegar as a health product that can be drunk directly, but drinking vinegar directly will have a certain impact on the oral mucosa and esophagus, which may cause inflammation and ulcers, and may also damage the gastric mucosa. This can lead to stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and even acute gastritis; for patients who restrict high-sodium diets consuming a large quantity of vinegar for health purposes will lead to excessive sodium intake, which is very harmful to blood pressure control; many vinegar or other vinegar drinks on the market contain a lot of sugar. Drinking too much is not good for blood sugar control and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. It can be seen that being excessively jealous like “overturning the vinegar jar” or “full of vinegar” is indeed harmful to physical and mental health.

How to Choose Vinegar Correctly?

Whether choosing vinegar based on a regional brand or choosing vinegar based on raw materials and taste preferences, the first thing to do is to read food labels to see clearly the acidity, sodium, sugar and other ingredients.

According to the regulations on vinegar in my country’s food safety standards, vinegar is a liquid acidic condiment with or without sugar that is brewed by microbial fermentation using various materials containing starch, sugar, and edible alcohol alone or in combination. The total acid content of vinegar is required to be ≥3.5g/100ml.

The higher the acidity number of the vinegar, the stronger the acidity. We can choose what we need according to different tastes and cooking purposes: mature vinegar has a strong and sour taste, and is generally suitable for hot and sour soup, vinegar-cooked fish, etc.; balsamic vinegar has moderate acidity and mellow taste, and is suitable for dipping when eating crabs and shrimps; rice vinegar tastes relatively light, slightly sweet and sour and is often used to fry sweet and sour food; white vinegar is usually fermented with edible alcohol, and its main components are acetic acid and water, which is very suitable for cold food and Western food.

Overall, edible vinegar is below 6 degrees. If the vinegar is marked with 9 degrees to 16 degrees, it is usually special vinegar with specific health functions and the price will be higher but it must have a health function approval number. Attention is required.The acidity of vinegar can not only be used as a reference for seasoning, but the appropriate concentration of acetic acid can also improve the nutritional value and sensory effects of cooked food.

Here are some additional tips for choosing and using vinegar safely:

  • Choose a vinegar that is made from natural ingredients, such as apple cider vinegar or white vinegar.
  • Avoid vinegar that contains added sugar or artificial flavors.
  • Start with a small amount of vinegar and gradually increase the amount as you get used to the flavor.
  • Do not drink vinegar straight. It can cause stomach upset and heartburn.
  • Use vinegar as a condiment, not as a main source of food.
  • If you have any health concerns, talk to your doctor before using vinegar.
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