Move over apple cider vinegar, there's a new health elixir making headlines. Advocates say coconut vinegar may have similar health and beauty benefits, but there's not a lot of science to back up their enthusiasm.
Apple cider vinegar has a reputation among its fans as a cure-all that can help with a number of ailments. It's become a staple in the kitchen and the medicine cabinet that many reach for to do everything from treating acne to lowering blood pressure. But many are intrigued that perhaps coconut vinegar may also offer similar benefits.
The nutrient breakdown
Coconut vinegar is sourced from coconut trees — but not the white, fleshy fruit that we're familiar with. Rather, it's made from the sap of coconut blossoms. Because coconuts are grow in nutrient-rich soil, this sap tends to be loaded with nutrients as well, nutritionist Lynnley Huey, MPH, RD, tells Reader's Digest. Although some manufacturers insist that coconut vinegar is a good source of potassium, fiber, amino acids and various vitamins, it's difficult to find good sources that back that up.
Nutrition Advance points out that though there is no strong data on the nutritional benefits of coconut vinegar, there is data on coconut sap. And coconut sap is rich in potassium, magnesium and an array of amino acids.
The health benefits
There is little, if any, science to support health claims of the benefits of coconut vinegar; the claims are anecdotal. People have said that adding raw coconut vinegar to your diet can stabilize blood sugar, reduce cholesterol levels, enhance weight loss, relieve digestive distress, control coughs, ease the sting of sunburns and insect bites, and clear-up acne, dandruff, and other skin ailments.
While coconut vinegar has yet to surface in any measurable studies, apple cider vinegar has been the focus of some. According to WebMD, many of its health claims aren't supported by modern research, however.
There have been a few studies that back apple cider vinegar's health potential:
Scientists in Japan found that drinking apple cider vinegar might help lower obesity. In the study, patients lost between 2 to 4 pounds over a 12-week period, with the help of vinegar.
A small study found that apple cider vinegar improved blood sugar and insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes. A study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, found that nighttime consumption of apple cider vinegar has a favorable effect on waking glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Vinegar has antioxidants called polyphenols that can help stop cell damage that can lead to diseases like cancer. But studies on whether apple cider vinegar can actually lower your chances of having cancer have been mixed.
(On the downside, too much apple cider vingegar can cause your potassium levels to drop too low.)
Coconut vinegar is slightly sweeter and has a milder taste than the apple cider variety. So if you like to drink your vinegar as a possible health tonic — say mixed with water or tea and honey — coconut vinegar may be a more palatable choice. But if you're just adding it to salad dressings or other recipes, it's likely that you won't be able to tell the difference. With both vinegars though, most experts agree that you should not try to drink it straight as this can damage your esophagus and the enamel of your teeth.
So which vinegar should you choose? If you're fond of apple cider vinegar, coconut vinegar may be another choice to add to your arsenal. Both can be enjoyed as a possible health tonic by mixing a teaspoon with tea or water; or added to recipes like salad dressing and marinades. You can swap the two out depending upon your recipes or preferences. But as always, check in with your doctor before making either vinegar a daily part of your diet.