TO YOUR HEALTH
By Lisa Masé
Photography by Brent Harrewyn
Tangy yet sweet, apple cider vinegar is a tonic that can help support good health during the colder months.
I grew up mixing it with elderberry syrup for a delicious and invigorating tonic. Whenever all of the cousins crowded around my grandmother’s expansive table for a winter dinner, she would pour a splash of this vinegar-syrup mixture into our glasses. The resulting pink tinge gave us the illusion that we were sipping on wine.
The flavor of apple cider vinegar is unparalleled: warming, sweet, sour and strengthening. It may take courage to sample your first spoonful, but you will be glad you did. This fermented food, made from all the apples that are too sour or pockmarked to eat, is a key ingredient in many folk remedies.
Apples are high in pectin, a type of insoluble fiber. You might know it as a thickening ingredient in jam. This is particularly important because high-fiber foods increase feelings of satisfaction. These delightful local fruits are rich in inulin, a prebiotic compound that feeds the healthy bacteria in our guts. As its name implies, apple cider vinegar is made from apples and contains pectin and inulin, too.
Apple cider vinegar taken before meals will help proteins break down into amino acids. Once broken down, the amino acids fuel some of the body’s essential processes, such as protein biosynthesis and neurotransmitter creation. Specifically, the amino acid tryptophan plays a critical role in the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter found in the brain. Because serotonin helps balance mood, we often feel satiated and content after savoring tryptophan-rich foods.
Mashed apples, stored in a clean bucket covered with a cloth, will over time produce cider and, eventually, vinegar. As these apple bits interact with the bacteria in the air around them, they ferment. Sugars and pectin break down to form a slightly alcoholic brew, which is currently trending in Vermont: hard cider. Beyond this point, the cider forms a “mother,” a concentrated portion of culture, which breaks down further to create vinegar.
The final product is rich in beneficial probiotic bacteria to maintain a balanced intestinal microbiome. This balance supports healthy digestion and strong immunity. It also reduces the oral bacteria that can exacerbate cavities or infections, protects the liver and kidneys from being taxed by the richer foods of winter, and can help regulate blood chemistry. According to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this delicious vinegar improves insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar when eaten as part of a meal or taken before bedtime.
Apple cider vinegar contains chlorogenic acid. A recent study published in the Biochemical Pharmacology Journal explains that this acid helps prevent LDL cholesterol, known as “bad cholesterol,” from oxidizing. In addition to its many benefits, this sweet and sour tonic is available locally. Try Honest to Goodness from Washington, Vermont.
To make your own, pour a jug of freshly pressed cider in a Mason jar, cover it with a cloth and let it sit out on your counter for about a week. Include it in more of the foods you cook. It makes a great substitute in soup recipes that call for wine. Surprisingly enough, a teaspoon adds a delicious depth to chocolate cake.
Most of all, enjoy your food, be well and try these recipes to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet.
Lisa Masé spices her life with fenugreek and coriander, savors cookbooks like novels and stays healthy with a daily dose of apple cider vinegar.