May 7, 2015 by Johanna Burani
Vinegar is 95% water, contains no protein, fat, vitamins, or hardly any other nutrient (it only “weighs in” at 2 calories/tablespoon). Yet the ancient Babylonians, Greeks and Romans praised it for its medicinal virtues, as do many of today’s cultures. Vinegar has been used to treat wounds, burns, insect bites, poison ivy, headaches and chronic fatigue. It is also believed to promote digestion and relieve stomachaches.
A word to the wise before I go any further, however: too much vinegar can irritate mucous membranes!
Research findings, accumulating since the 1980s, indicate that vinegar also seems to help with lowering blood glucose levels in both diabetic and non-diabetic subjects. Citing just one study, researchers at Arizona State University compared a vinegar drink to a placebo and concluded that their subjects’ glucose levels one hour after consumption were 35% lower after the vinegar drink than after the placebo. The volunteers also consumed 300+ fewer calories for the rest of the day after the vinegar drink consumption.
Acetic acid, which is what vinegar is, seems to suppress the activity of several digestive enzymes. This slows down the passage of food through the gut resulting in a slower release of the glucose that the food has become into the bloodstream. Thus the subjects had lower glucose levels and felt fuller longer. Another way of saying it is that the acidic component of a carbohydrate-rich food will lower its glycemic index value.
You don’t have to drink laboratory concoctions of vinegar to achieve these benefits. Try vinaigrette dressings on salads or cooked vegetables and meats; you could also add vinegar to stews and soups.
Here is one of my favorite vinegar-based recipes. It’s been a real crowd pleaser every time I’ve served it.
- 1 lb cipolline (approximately 30)
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Cut an “x” in the root end of each onion. Drop the onions into the water and boil for 3 minutes.
- Drain the onions into a colander and cool under running cold water. Put the onions back into the saucepan, cover them with cold water and let them sit for at least 15 minutes (longer would be better). This is the secret to avoiding gastric distress later on.
- Drain the onions again in the colander and pat dry with a paper towel. Snip off the pointed top of each onion using kitchen scissors. The outer skin will now easily peel away.
- Heat the oil in a medium sized shallow pan. Add the onions, making sure they form just one layer. Brown them on all sides (approximately 10 minutes). Use two spoons to turn them in the pan.
- Add the remaining ingredients (sugar, vinegar and salt) and mix well. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 45 minutes. Turn occasionally.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a warm serving dish. Add a few tablespoons of water to the syrup in the pan and amalgamate well. Pour the sauce over the onions and serve.