17 January 2011

Puckery goodness: why unfiltered raw apple cider vinegar is the bees knees

Fermented unfiltered raw apple cider -- with its distinctive amber tone and cloudy, veil-like sediment (known more familiarly as ‘mother’) -- may not look terribly appealing compared to its clarified supermodel cousin, but its inner personality more than makes up for any physical shortcomings. You may have heard about its reputation as being a popular health tonic, but perhaps you’ve never taken the time to explore it any further. Lucky for you, all the facts you really need can be found below. Phew -- what a time-saver -- that's what we're all about here at This Dish Is Veg :)

First of all, vinegar – or, in Latin, ‘feeble wine’ – is a sour, lip-smacking acidic liquid that develops when ethanol is fermented via acetic acid bacterial. Okay…that doesn’t sound particularly yummy, but some of the most healthful foods known to mankind are actually the result of hard-working bacterial colonies, such as miso, tempeh, cheese, kefir, yogurt, pickles and sauerkraut. In the case of apple cider vinegar, fresh apple juice is augmented with yeast, sugar and heat in order to trigger the fermentation process. The vinegar ‘mother’ – a byproduct of acid-forming bacteria and yeast – then emerges. This funky-looking underdog can either be used to create new apple cider ‘babies’ (future batches of the tangy liquid), filtered out, or consumed for optimal health benefits.

Since unfiltered apple cider vinegar is minimally processed, a bountiful array of vitamins, enzymes, acids, mineral salts and other healthful components remain intact. Despite its long held ‘folk remedy status’, relatively recent scientific studies have confirmed that there are valid benefits to consuming two tablespoons daily. There are a few caveats, however. Due to the highly acidic nature of apple cider vinegar, it can potentially compromise the integrity of tooth enamel and/or harm delicate mouth and throat tissues, so diluting it in water or juice is highly recommended before chug-a-lugging.

Exactly what does this amber dream do once it slides down the hatch? Some pretty interesting things, actually. At the top of the ‘ah ha!’ list is the fact that it has been clinically proven to reduce blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics by roughly 5%, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Studies have also found that it potentially aids weight loss by detoxifying the liver, ramping up the metabolism and enabling dieters to experience a sense of fullness, plus it is capable of reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Furthermore, those who are prone to allergies and colds benefit since apple cider vinegar’s high level of potassium is known to trigger detoxification, tissue repair and, ultimately, greater overall stamina.

If you’re already pretty healthy as is (you lucky duck, you...), perhaps you’ll appreciate what apple cider vinegar can do for your physical appearance. Ohhhh...now I got your attention. Some insist that consuming it day in and day out will endow the complexion with a natural cosmetic-free glow, likely because it facilitates better overall blood circulation. It also restores the proper pH balance to one’s skin, resulting in a more supple appearance with a reduced incidence of eczema, dryness and acne. When used as a post-shampoo rinse (one quart of water with one half cup of apple cider vinegar), hair care residues are successfully removed, leaving locks detangled, lustrous and frizz/dandruff-free.

Now, drinking two tablespoons every day (even when diluted) is not for the faint of heart – it requires, at least for some, a steely resolve. Fortunately, there are a few ways to trick your taste buds so you get your health-endowing fix without kicking your gag reflex into high gear. All of these recipes – from Jerusalem Artichoke Pickles and Lentil Pate to Broccoli Sunflower Seed Salad and Vegetable Chutney With Garlic call for vinegar in some way, shape or form. Tweak it with the apple cider variety and you’re as good as gold.

Not crazy about the cost of this glorious vinegar at your local natural food store? Join the club…it’s kinda pricey. Did you really think that I’d forget the DIYers out there? Just about anyone with a green heart and a love of recycling can create their own apple cider vinegar for mere pennies on the dollar using phooey little apple scraps that you might have been tempted to compost. This simple tutorial offers all the deets. Ain’t the internet grand? Now let’s all raise a glass to our collective health – bottoms up!

Elizah Leigh | @elizahleigh
Elizah Leigh's master's degree in education combined with her passion for the written word and deep-seated interest in environmental issues has proven to be the ideal trifecta for her present status as a green journalist. Currently commissioned to write a reference book on vegetarianism, Elizah hopes to inspire people through her words. Follow Elizah on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/bengarney