Look into the latest nutrition archives and you’ll no doubt read about the benefits of fermented foods (actually for centuries.) Think yogurt, cheese, wine and beer for example. Certainly staples in the Napa Valley

One of the easiest foods to access without waiting days to DIY is apple cider vinegar. The word “vinegar” comes from the French term “vin agre,” or sour wine.

Apple cider vinegar is the result of apples pulverized into a slurry of juice and pulp, which is then fermented so that the fruit sugar converts to acetic acid.

What I’ve found most intriguing about apple cider vinegar over other vinegars is that our bodies metabolize it differently.

You might think it increases the levels of acid in our blood pH but in fact it has a very alkalizing effect, similar to lemons.

There have been many studies of the health benefits of apple cider vinegar and while many are backed by science, others are a little far-fetched.

Apples are nutrition powerhouses and deserving of the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

They contain a wide range of nutrients such as pectin (fiber), beta-carotene (antioxidant), and lots of minerals such as potassium, good for counteracting too much sodium.

When converted to vinegar, more enzymes and acids become available for digestion. By helping break down proteins and other nutrients, apple cider vinegar may in fact enhance digestion. Many remedies for digestive issues include consuming 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with one-half of a cup water just before a meal.

This helps stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes in the stomach and helps breakdown rich foods that may otherwise cause discomfort.

Along those lines, apple cider vinegar is also said to be a friend to diabetics.

A study in the journal Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism found that adding 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a meal containing carbohydrates reduced post-meal blood glucose in healthy people by about 20 percent; the vinegar appears to slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream.

Where apple cider vinegar is a bit over-hyped is in connection with weight loss. Something called “delayed gastric emptying” is the best argument among the theories circulating about apple cider vinegar’s weight-loss power; the idea is that apple cider vinegar assists in this process, so you’ll feel more satiated. But the research I’ve seen so far isn’t compelling enough to be a reason to consume it for guaranteed weight loss.

Additional purported benefits of consuming apple cider vinegar are: easing arthritis, knocking out Candida, reducing high cholesterol, clearing up skin issues, curing allergies and throat irritations.

The amoeba-like substance referred to as the “mother of vinegar that you see floating in the fluid is believed to contain most of the cider’s nutrients, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria.

These bacteria may help boost the immune system. To best reap the brew’s medicinal benefits is by purchasing raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar – with the ‘mother.’

Apple cider vinegar’s bright, crisp taste and tart flavor work well with lentil soups, slaws, baked beans, braised cabbage, and roasted winter squash. Bean salads and cooked whole grains also take well to apple cider vinegar’s tang.

Or try apple cider vinegar in a hot or cold beverage lightly sweetened with natural honey or maple syrup.

Spring Beet Salad with Cider Vinegar Dressing

Serves 4-6

Spring has sprung! And with that comes a bounty of fresh green veggies from the farmers’ market. Yes, the Napa Farmers’ Market is opening early this year – Saturday, April 15—from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the South Century Center. Beets and greens will be available…see you there!

5 golden or red beets

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

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Sea salt

3 cups spring greens

1 Tbsp. walnut oil

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces

1/2 cup fresh goat cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse the beets and cut off the greens, saving them for another use (smoothies:) Rub the beets with the olive oil, wrap in foil and place on a baking sheet (in case they leak).

Bake until you can pierce through the middle of each beet with a knife, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let cool.

While the beets are cooking, gently bring the vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat until it is reduced by a third. Remove from the heat and let cool.

When the beets are cool, use a paring knife to remove the skins, which should peel off easily. Cut each beet into thin slices using a sharp knife. Sprinkle them with salt and toss them in the reduced vinegar.

Toss the greens with the walnut oil and a few grinds of pepper. Top the salad with the beets, walnuts and cheese. Use a spoon to drizzle the remaining vinegar on top, as desired. Serve immediately.

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