You may have heard there’s a new darling in the wellness scene that combines the health benefits of apple cider vinegar and our love for all things coconut. That rising superstar is coconut vinegar. That’s right, the tropical fruit that has given us everything from coconut water and coconut sugar to coconut butter and coconut oil has spawned yet another health elixir. Fans tout its gut benefits and low glycemic index.
But is this coco-loco condiment worth the hype? Here’s what you need to know about coconut vinegar.
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Coconut Vinegar: The New Probiotic
You’ll find coconut vinegar in supermarkets or health food stores in the same aisle where balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar are sold. A bottle can range from $4-7, depending on whether it’s organic or not.
But coconut vinegar doesn’t come from the white-flesh tropical fruit we’re all familiar with. It’s actually made from the sap of coconut blossoms (Yes, coconut trees have blossoms!) and aged eight months to a year. During that aging process, the sap naturally ferments, which preserves many of its enzymes, nutrients and minerals.
You may notice a “mother” — the cloudy substance made of strands of proteins, enzymes and gut-friendly bacteria — at the bottom of your bottle of coconut vinegar; it’s similar to what you’d find in apple cider vinegar and kombucha. This sweeter-tasting vinegar contains nine essential amino acids — the building blocks for protein — as well as other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, potassium and phosphorus, according to registered dietitian Julie Harrington.
“Potassium is important in balancing electrolytes, controlling high-blood pressure and metabolizing sugar,” says Harrington. Research has shown that potassium is also a key nutrient for good gut health and better sleep. As for vitamin C or ascorbic acid: It’s “an antioxidant that’s required for metabolic processes in the body, including tissue growth and adrenal gland function,” Harrington says. And then there’s phosphorus, which works with calcium to build bones and facilitate your body’s ability to use other nutrients, she adds.
Since coconut vinegar is a naturally fermented food, it also contains probiotics, which support your gut and healthy digestion, says Ginger Hultin, a Seattle-based registered dietitian. (For more all-natural sources of probiotics, head here.)
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The Health Benefits of Coconut Vinegar
“Like all natural vinegars, coconut vinegar also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which helps fight illness and infection,” says Harrington. And there’s evidence that it may contain antioxidant compounds, too, thanks to the fermentation process.
Others claim that coconut vinegar helps to stabilize blood pressure and blood sugar levels following a high-carbohydrate meal. “Studies do indicate that the higher the acetic acid in vinegar or other fermented foods, the greater the positive effects on blood sugars,” says Hultin.
However, Hultin notes that current scientific studies were conducted in animals and most did not specifically look at coconut vinegar. As for controlling blood sugar with vinegar? Both Hultin and Harrington say it’s not the only answer. “There’s not one food that is a cure-all. It’s a combination of an overall healthy diet,” says Harrington. And it’s not going to help you detox, according to Hultin.
Plus, in the grand scheme of things, vinegar isn’t going to be a major contributor to your diet. “When you look at the label of vinegar of any type, you’ll see zero in every category as vinegar isn’t a good source of nutrients in general,” says Hultin.
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Eating with Coconut Vinegar
That said, Hultin and Harrington say that vinegar can be a healthy addition to your diet. If apple cider vinegar is already a staple in your pantry, you can simply swap in coconut vinegar instead. Plus, its slightly sweeter taste may make it more palatable, too.
Or, try whisking it into dressing or add it to marinades and sauces. You can also add some to tea or hot water for a morning tonic. Just don’t chug a shot. “Due to its acidity, it can irritate your throat and harm the enamel of your teeth,” says Harrington.
Hultin says to discontinue coconut vinegar if you notice stomach or digestive discomfort. And since there are some medical reasons to avoid vinegar, she recommends to “check with your doctor to ensure there aren’t any medication interactions,” she says.