You may like to know what exactly you ingest or use in your household. Why should things like cleaning products or chemicals be treated differently than food? In this article, we’ll list the ingredients used in vinegar and what those ingredients mean.
Vinegar is comprised of acids. It is one of the sharpest, most pungent tastes around, so be wary when cooking with it. Keep in mind that you can use tamer kinds of vinegar (white wine, sherry) as much as you want, but you have to be careful with white vinegar. Use it only when a recipe calls for a lot of sugar because the stronger vinegar needs to be balanced by sweetness.
After water, this is the main naturally occurring component in vinegar. Kinds of vinegar can range from having 3 to 10% acetic acid and may even run as high as 20%. The acetic acid is naturally produced through acetobacter bacteria fermentation in the third stage of converting alcohol into vinegar. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) generally is at 5% acetic, however, it may vary by a percent or two based on age, evaporation, and processing. Pure acetic acid, produced chemically is called glacial acetic acid. It is used in industry and should not be confused with vinegar, as it can be toxic. Distilled vinegar should also not be confused with acetic acid as it is NOT made from diluted glacial acetic acid.
The USDA in its Compliance Policy Guides [Sec. 562.100] is clear on acetic acid use in food and its proper labeling:
“The labeling of a food in which acetic acid is used is considered misleading if it implies or suggests that the article contains or was prepared with vinegar. Acetic acid should not be substituted for vinegar in pickled products which consumers customarily expect to be prepared with vinegar.”
The pH scale: The acidity to alkalinity scale runs from 0 to 14, with neutral being 7, acid being less than 7, and alkaline being greater than 7. Distilled vinegar at 5% strength is reported to have a pH of 2.4, while ACV at 5% has been reported to have a measurable pH of about 3.5 to 4.25, but some may be lower based on brand, evaporation over time in storage etc. To compare: Lemon juice has a pH of around 2.0. Stomach acid ranges from 1.5 to 3.5 making some ACV slightly more alkaline.*
It is simple to measure the pH of your vinegar by using a pH strip (litmus paper), easily purchased at pharmacies, winemaking sites or some health food stores.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Note: Vinegar, even at 5% with a pH of 5 is a strong irritant of the mucous membranes of the eye, skin, and mouth and is still too acidic to take full strength. To prevent damage to your teeth and esophagus, when drinking ACV, make sure to use a tablespoon diluted in at least 8 oz. of water. If it is still too acidic, reduce the vinegar and increase the water. Hydration is always a good thing!
Acetic acid is also a natural acid found in our body and it is fundamental to all forms of life. It is central in the system, called the Krebs cycle, in which all oxygen-using organisms metabolize fats and carbohydrates to generate energy. Note that this may be a factor in claims that it may help with weight loss.
Other Acids & their benefits
Malic acid is another acid that helps provide the unique acid flavor of ACV. In the body, malic acid converts to malate, which is another nutrient that is involved in the Krebs cycle generating energy from fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Malic acid is naturally found in apples and many other fruits and vegetables.
Tartaric acid is another acid found in ACV that adds to the complex flavor profile of ACV. It occurs naturally in grapes and other plants, it also has antioxidant properties beneficial to human health.
Citric acid is useful in the body’s Krebs cycle of energy production.
Lactic acid is beneficial in the intestines, helping to support probiotic lactic producing bacteria and discouraging the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
What is the “Mother” in apple cider vinegar?
Often found in unfiltered and unpasteurized ACV, the mother is composed primarily of cellulose, similar to that found in kombucha, housing yeast, and bacteria. Also known as Mycoderma Aceti, the mother forms a cloud of filmy strands in your bottle of vinegar. People unfamiliar with ACV may feel that their vinegar has gone “off” and should be discarded when it becomes cloudy with the mother.
But don’t do it! While it looks unappetizing, it is an indication that there is a culture of beneficial acetobacter bacteria alive in the vinegar and it may confer far more health benefits to you than would a clear vinegar.
A 2015 article in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition reported on a study that analyzed the mother in ACV and found that it “contained significant bioactive substances” such as a high iron content as well as “dominant phenolic compounds of gallic acid and chlorogenic acid,” two powerful antioxidant organic acids that may offer the body protection from free radicals that cause inflammation. Gallic acid is also found in tea and grapes. Chlorogenic acids found in coffee, eggplant, prunes, and green coffee extract. A study reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that chlorogenic acid may slow the release of glucose from the intestines into the bloodstream after a meal, which may provide a benefit for diabetics trying to control their blood sugar.
If you can’t get past the cloudy film when using your ACV, simply pass it through a coffee filter before using it, but just know that you might be missing out on some additional nutritional benefits.
Other Factors in Apple Cider Vinegar
Various websites and booklets claim that ACV contains substantial amounts of vitamins, minerals and pectin fibers and that they are the reason for the benefits of ACV over other kinds of vinegar. Unfortunately, these vitamins, minerals and pectin fiber are in such negligible amounts that their nutritional profile is not measurable. However, having said that, even little bits of nutrients can have a synergistic effect with other substances and cannot be discounted. A little is better than none, as some would say.
There you have it, folks. Apple Cider Vinegar is comprised of apples, sugar, and yeast. The finished product contains a variety of acids. If you understand the components and strengths of different kinds of vinegar, you can properly implement them into your diet.
If you’re interested in snagging all the benefits of ACV without the potent taste, check out Zhou’s Cider Detox for an alternative that’s easier on the taste buds.