Originated from Italy, this condiment is an aromatic, thick, dark, syrup-like, aged type of vinegar, prepared by the reduction of cooked grapes. Balsamic vinegar, though popularly referred to as wine vinegar is not a form of wine vinegar as it is prepared from grape pressings, whose fermentation process has been hindered. It is then aged for a period of 3 to 12 years. The best balsamic vinegar is prepared in the hills of Modena, in Italy, where unique and flavorful balsamic vinegar is formed from Trebbiano grapes. This vinegar is known to be a cut above the other types of vinegar. Unlike the sharp taste of vinegar, balsamic vinegar has a rich, sweet flavor. You need to taste it to believe it!
Italians have been relishing balsamic vinegar for centuries, however, the American palate has been able to savor this only since the past two decades. Today, balsamic vinegar is one of the most popular condiments available in American grocery stores and is used in various sauces, marinades, salad dressings, dips, desserts, etc. The popularity surge of this dark, syrup-like condiment is not only because of its remarkable taste, but balsamic vinegar health benefits also play a major role in adding points to the popularity chart.
Health Benefits of Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar retains most of the nutrients present in the parent grapes and comprises nutrients like iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium in adequate amounts. Thus, incorporating balsamic vinegar into one's diet plan will benefit both the palate and the body.
Oxidation reactions taking place in the human body to produce energy, conduce to formation of cell-damaging free radicals as natural by-products. Free radicals damage cell membranes and manifest themselves in terms of premature aging, hardening of arterial walls and cancer. Antioxidants from balsamic vinegar destroy these free radicals and prevent cells from being destroyed. It is also seen to slow down the aging process.
The grapes from which balsamic vinegar is formed is known to contain a bioflavonoid called quercetin, which has antioxidant properties. Along with vitamin C, this antioxidant strengthens the immune system to fight cancer and other infectious diseases and inflammations. A strong immune system means less susceptibility to illnesses. Balsamic vinegar also contains polyphenols which are anti-cancer agents.
Reduces Risks of Heart Attacks
Balsamic vinegar is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, thus, does not have any negative effects on the heart. When high-cholesterol dressings are substituted with balsamic vinegar, heart health is automatically seen to improve, because the unwanted fat is not getting deposited in the blood vessels. Moreover, since balsamic vinegar is low in sodium, it enhances heart health and reduces high blood pressure. Thus, balsamic vinegar helps reduce the risk of strokes and other heart related ailments.
Natural Pain Reliever
In ancient times, folk healers used this vinegar to relieve people of their body pain. Some people are also seen to get relief from migraines and headaches, while in some balsamic vinegar is a trigger. So one has to keep a close watch on how it affects one's body. Moreover, they also used balsamic vinegar to treat wounds and infections. The anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties in the vinegar is also seen to heal wounds. A diluted solution of balsamic vinegar is applied on nail infections and acne due to its healing properties.
The polyphenols in balsamic vinegar stimulate the activity of pepsin enzyme in the body. Pepsin is a digestive enzyme, which helps break proteins into smaller units (amino acids). Moreover, these polyphenols also assist the intestine in absorbing amino acids expeditiously. Efficient amino acid absorption enables the body to utilize it for cell building, repair and other body maintenance work. Thus, balsamic vinegar aids the digestion process.
Balsamic vinegar makes good salad dressings, thus, making a good substitute for mayonnaise or other fatty salad dressings. With no fats content, the calories (One teaspoon corresponds to 5 calories) come mainly from the sugar content in the grapes. When the high calorie mayonnaise is substituted by balsamic vinegar, the net intake of calories is automatically reduced. This in turn leads to weight control. Moreover, balsamic vinegar keeps a person feeling full for longer. The acetic acid content in the vinegar slows down the transition of food from the stomach to the intestine. Thus, balsamic vinegar keeps a person feeling satiated for longer.
Believed to Control Diabetes
Research reveals that consumption of at least 3 to 4 tablespoons of vinegar a day enhances insulin sensitivity. The greater the insulin sensitivity, the better the diabetes control. However, the exact details about how vinegar helps control sugar levels is still a mystery. Several other researches also extend the study for balsamic vinegar. However, balsamic vinegar is prepared from grapes, which is high in sugar content. So balsamic vinegar is high in sugar content. Many people have found their blood glucose rising after consuming balsamic vinegar, so even if you do have it, keep a track of your blood glucose and check if it suits you. Beware of the commercially available balsamic vinegar, which mostly is nothing but grape juice mixed with strong vinegar and sugar.
Besides these health benefits, this vinegar also reduces the frequency of headache inceptions, strengthens bones (calcium absorption), energizes the body, slows down aging process and prevents anemia. Authentic balsamic vinegar would have been aged for a minimum period of 3 years to a maximum period of 100 years. The longer the aging process, finer the vinegar quality. However, commercial balsamic vinegar produced in a few hours is also available in the stores. The difference is visible in the rates. So be alert while picking up a bottle of balsamic vinegar!