Vinegar Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Close-Up Of Various Vinegars On Table Against White Background
Eskay Lim / EyeEm / Getty Images

Vinegar is an aqueous solution made from water and acetic acid. The word "aqueous" simply means that the solution is dissolved in water. Acetic acid is an organic compound that is used to make a wide variety of products, including household and food items. It is this acid that gives vinegar its tart flavor. In the U.S., vinegar must be at least 4% acetic acid by volume.

Plain white vinegar is often used in cooking, but it can also be used around the house for cleaning, deodorizing, and sanitizing. Flavored vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, and champagne vinegar, is also quite common for use in cooking.

Some health benefits have been linked to the use of different types of vinegar, but not all of them are supported by strong scientific evidence. Vinegar has a strong sour taste is usually consumed in very small quantities. In fact, the word "vinegar" comes from the French words vin aigre, which means "sour wine."

Vinegar Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information, for a one-tablespoon (15g) serving of vinegar, is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 3.2
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 0.8mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0.1g
  • Fiber: 0.g
  • Sugars: 0.1g
  • Protein: 0g

Carbs

A one-tablespoon serving of vinegar is likely to contain only about 3.2 calories and roughly 0.1 grams of carbohydrates. There is no fiber and just a trace amount of naturally occurring sugar in vinegar. The serving size is very small, but vinegar is not often consumed in large amounts. For instance, a packet of vinegar that you might get at a fast-food restaurant is likely to contain about 9 grams of vinegar.

There is no recorded glycemic index for vinegar. But since the food contains almost no carbohydrates, the glycemic index is negligible.

Fats

Vinegar contains no fat.

Protein

Regardless of the amount used, vinegar does not contain protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

A single serving of plain, white vinegar does not contribute many substantial vitamins or minerals. Even if consumed in larger amounts, the liquid provides no significant micronutrients.

Health Benefits

Vinegar has a long history of use in folk medicine. Not all of the popular uses have been supported by strong scientific evidence.

May Improve Weight Loss Outcomes

This "benefit" is highly debated. While apple cider vinegar is highly promoted in the media as a weight loss aid, there is limited evidence to support its efficacy. The studies that do exist usually involve participants who are using apple cider vinegar along with a calorie-controlled diet, so it is hard to pinpoint whether diet or the vinegar contributed to the weight loss.

For example, a 2018 study compared overweight and obese individuals who consumed either a reduced-calorie diet or a reduced-calorie diet along with an apple cider vinegar drink. The diet in combination with apple cider vinegar helped study participants reduce belly fat, overall weight, body mass index (BMI), triglyceride levels, cholesterol, and appetite more than the diet alone.

But there wasn't a big difference between groups. The low-calorie diet/vinegar group lost an average of about 8.8 pounds. The diet group an average of 5 pounds. The difference in BMI between the two groups was just over half a point. There were only 39 participants who took part in the study, and it only lasted 12 weeks.

Other studies have found a link between apple cider vinegar and weight loss, but the studies are either dated or limited in scope. Medical experts still suggest that there is not enough evidence to support its use for this benefit.

May Help Manage Infections

Vinegar has been used for thousands of years to treat infections and other illnesses. And in fact, many home remedies for common infections include vinegar. For example, a vinegar solution (5% acetic acid—or white vinegar—mixed with equal parts of isopropyl alcohol or water) is a common treatment for swimmer's ear, also called acute otitis externa.

However, in clinical practice guidelines, otolaryngologists note that this formulation has not been formally evaluated in clinical trials despite its similarity to other well-studied, effective treatments.

May Promote Wound Healing

There have also been studies suggesting that a 1% acetic acid solution (vinegar) may be helpful in accelerating wound healing because of its ability to combat a wide range of bacteria and fungi. However, the study was modest in size (100 participants) and while different vinegar solutions were tested, only the 1% acetic acid solution was found to be effective. Vinegar that you buy at the store will be 4% acetic acid or higher.

There have also been studies suggesting that apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial properties but these tests have been done in test tubes, not on humans. So, before considering vinegar as a wound treatment or to manage any infection speak to your healthcare provider about the best course of action.

Helpful In the Management of Allergies and Asthma

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) suggests that people with allergies and asthma use a vinegar solution rather than a commercial product for household cleaning. The organization points out that common allergy triggers like mold, pet dander, and dust mites can be released into the air when they are disturbed during cleaning. They add that harsh chemicals in some commercial cleaners can aggravate asthma symptoms or allergies.

Instead, AAAAI suggests that you make your own cleaning solution out of 2 cups vinegar, 2 cups very hot water, 1/2 cup salt, and 2 cups borax. You can apply the cleaning solution to trouble spots, let it sit, and then scrub it away and rinse with clean water.

Also, some people with egg or lentil allergies may benefit from using vinegar. One limited study published in 2009 suggested that vinegar added during the cooking process of these foods may reduce allergic symptoms. However, the study was very limited in scope and there have not been more recent studies to corroborate this finding.

Still, it might be helpful to have vinegar on hand if you have an egg allergy. Researchers suggest that a combination of 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 1 tablespoon of liquid, and one tablespoon of vinegar is a suitable replacement for eggs in recipes where leavening or binding is needed.

May Help Reduce Skin Irritation in Children

Children who have allergic or irritant contact dermatitis may have difficulty bathing as many personal hygiene products contain preservatives, fragrances, emulsifiers, and detergents that can irritate their skin. Pediatric experts have made suggestions to make bath time more enjoyable and less irritating to a child's skin.

One recommendation is to acidify the water with vinegar to a pH of 4.5 to reduce skin pH and improve barrier function. Authors of one study suggest adding three to four cups of apple cider vinegar to a half bath (approximately 20 gallons) is sufficient to achieve these results.

Allergies

True allergies to vinegar are rare. The reports that do exist are generally attributed to sulfites found in fermented liquids like vinegar. Sulfites are sulfur-based chemical compounds that are sometimes used in foods to preserve freshness. They are found naturally in a variety of foods such as dried fruits, molasses, sauerkraut, and pickled foods.

According to the FDA, about 1% of the U.S. population is sensitive to sulfites, and about 5% of those that are sensitive will react. People with asthma are at increased risk. Symptoms generally occur within minutes after consuming a sulfur-containing food but may take hours to appear. Symptoms may include hives, diarrhea, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, anaphylaxis can occur.

There has also been at least one report of an allergic reaction to unpasteurized apple cider vinegar that did not contain sulfites. The patient who reacted did not react to pasteurized vinegar, so the allergy was attributed to the "mother" or the mass of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria that is responsible for turning alcohol into acetic acid (i.e. turning wine into vinegar).

Adverse Effects

There have been some instances of adverse reactions after vinegar ingestion, but reports are very limited. There has been at least one report of someone unintentionally aspirating vinegar and passing out briefly as a result.

Also, there is a report of a woman suffering from potassium deficiency related to vinegar. The woman had reportedly consumed approximately 250 milliliters (a little over one 8-ounce cup) of apple cider vinegar daily for six years. Researchers theorized that the vinegar caused her to excrete excess amounts of potassium.

There was a 2002 report published in the Hong Kong Medical Journal where a 39-year-old woman drank one tablespoon of rice vinegar in an effort to dislodge a piece of crab shell from her throat (using vinegar in this way is a popular Chinese folk remedy). She experienced a second-degree caustic injury to the esophagus and upper stomach area, but her symptoms resolved on their own after several days.

While more recent reports of adverse effects are lacking, at least one study author suggests that more research should be done regarding the medicinal use of vinegar on a regular basis since using it regularly is becoming more common.

Lastly, if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity you should choose your vinegar wisely. Some types of vinegar are gluten-free, but malt vinegars that are made from gluten-containing grains are not gluten-free, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.

Varieties

There are many different types of vinegar. You'll find many varieties in the store, and you can also make vinegar at home. These are the most common types of vinegar and their most popular uses:

  • Apple cider vinegar: This easy-to-find vinegar is made from fermented apple juice, you can add this vinegar to tea, marinades, or salad dressings. Some people prefer using this variety of vinegar in dishes that include pork.
  • Balsamic vinegar: Made from pressed, aged, and oaked grapes, this Italian vinegar has a sweet taste that blends well with olive oil for salad dressings or as a dipping sauce for bread. But the uses don't end there. Balsamic vinegar can be used in marinades or even to top ice cream. Depending on the age of the bottle, balsamic vinegar can cost up to hundreds of dollars.
  • Black vinegar: Also called Chinkiang vinegar, this type of vinegar is found in Asian food stores and is often used in Chinese recipes. Its umami flavor makes it a perfect dipping sauce for dumplings and other dishes.
  • Champagne vinegar. As you might expect, this vinegar is made from Champagne, and like white wine vinegar, it has a light, refreshing flavor. It can (usually) be used interchangeably with white wine vinegar in salad dressing and other recipes, although it has a crisper finish.
  • Distilled white vinegar: You'll find this variety in any supermarket, and it is exceptionally versatile. It is distilled from grain and has a harsh, biting aroma that can overpower a recipe. Still, some people use it as a pickling agent and as an ingredient in sauces like ketchup or barbecue sauce. White vinegar is also commonly used as a household cleaner.
  • Malt vinegar: This is the type of vinegar that is most commonly served with fish and chips. Some people prefer it to ketchup as a dipping sauce for French fries. Derived from barley-based beer, malt vinegar has a dark, mild, nutty flavor.
  • Red wine vinegar: Commonly used in Mediterranean dishes, this vinegar is derived from red wine, and although it packs a punch, it has a mellow sweetness to it. It can be used in sauces, reductions (especially for red meat dishes), and salad dressings (especially for bean or lentil salads).
  • Rice vinegar: This vinegar is made from fermented rice wine. It has a slightly sweet taste and is a popular ingredient in Asian dishes. Its counterpart, red rice vinegar, is made from fermented red rice. Use rice vinegar when making sushi rice or combine it with other ingredients to make a dipping sauce for egg rolls or sauce for noodles.
  • Sherry vinegar: Made from sherry, this Spanish vinegar is more closely related to balsamic vinegar than red wine vinegar. It has a distinct nuttiness and is sweeter than red wine vinegar and relatively mild. A splash of sherry vinegar is often added to gazpacho.
  • White wine vinegar: Made from white wine, this vinegar has a lighter, fresher taste than many other kinds of vinegar, making it perfect for light salad dressings. It is also less acidic and can also be used in soups and other lighter dishes (such as chicken or fish).

Other types of vinegar include raisin vinegar, beer vinegar, apricot vinegar, and cane vinegar. You might also see cleaning vinegar on store shelves (although it is more likely to be found in a hardware or houseware store). This type of vinegar has a higher acid concentration and is not meant to be consumed.

When It’s Best

Vinegar is available all year long in supermarkets.

Storage and Food Safety

Store vinegar in a glass container away from sunlight at room temperature. As a result of its high acidity, vinegar can last a long time. Some say that vinegar can last indefinitely, but cooks often say that their products will last two years unopened and about one year opened.

You may notice sediment in balsamic vinegar. This is normal and it does not mean that your vinegar is bad. Other types of vinegar may become cloudy after you open them, but again, this does not mean that the vinegar has gone bad.

How to Prepare

The most common use for vinegar is in vinaigrettes. If you have a favorite vinegar, you can use a basic recipe to make a dressing for a salad or use the vinaigrette to marinate meat or drizzle on foods. The key is getting the right ratio of fats and acids.

Usually, a 3:1 fat to acid ratio is a good starting place for vinaigrettes. That means you'll want to choose an oil (like olive oil) as your base. Then whisk in your favorite vinegar and a pinch of salt. The vinaigrette can be used as-is, or you can add herbs, spices, or other ingredients, such as mustard, shallots, or garlic.

Store the vinaigrette in a glass container with a lid, and be sure to shake it before using it again.

Recipes

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18 Sources
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