I keep learning how much flavor even a little vinegar adds to certain dishes. I was curious about the nutritional value of vinegar and what it is, exactly, so I looked it up. The Vinegar Institute was one of the sites I found and it has all the basic information about this popular condiment. For example, I learned that:
"Vinegar is made by two distinct biological processes, both the result of the action of harmless microorganisms (yeast and “Acetobacter”) that turn sugars (carbohydrates) into acetic acid. Many of our favorite foods involve some type of bacteria in their production – from cheese and yogurt to wine, pickles and chocolate. The first process is called alcoholic fermentation and occurs when yeasts change natural sugars to alcohol under controlled conditions. In the second process, a group of bacteria (called “Acetobacter”) converts the alcohol portion to acid. This is the acetic, or acid fermentation, that forms vinegar. Proper bacteria cultures are important; timing is important; and fermentation should be carefully controlled."
And as for its nutritional value: "Vinegar contains many vitamins and other compounds not found in acetic acid such as riboflavin, Vitamin B-1 and mineral salts from the starting material that impart vinegar with its distinct flavor."
I have only used apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, and red wine vinegar in my cooking so far, but the above site lists all sorts of other vinegars you can buy and what they're made of.
I have known for years about the health benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar, but wondered if this extended to other types of vinegars. Knowing that vinegar goes through quite a fermentation process to become vinegar (explained above), and that foods fermented to this state are good for digestive health, I was interested to find this site, which explains how vinegar is good for us. For one thing, it increases calcium absorption, which is pretty important, particularly for women in general and for people with lactose intolerance. It can also help control blood sugar levels. In fact, "A study cited in 2004 in the American Diabetes Association's publication Diabetes Care indicates that vinegar holds real promise for helping people with diabetes."
And since vinegar has an almost indefinite shelf life (no surprise, since it is used to preserve such things as pickles), it is a great thing to have in your food storage! Oh, and of course it also has other household uses.