The Best Vinegars for Diabetesby David Mendosa Patient Advocate
Vinegar has so many uses, ranging from cooking and canning to cleaning. But it’s especially valuable if you have diabetes. The problem is to learn what type of vinegar to use for cooking, salad dressing, and blood glucose management. People have been using vinegar for at least 5,000 years, so we now have more types than we can count. For people with diabetes, these are the ones to know.
Distilled white vinegar
This is the least expensive and most widely available type of vinegar. It has the most uses, too. Because distilled white vinegar is the most acidic, it has the strongest taste. While people use it more often as a folk remedy, cleaner, disinfectant, pesticide, and in their laundry than in cooking, its clean, crisp flavor works well in salads, marinades, and many recipes.
Apple cider vinegar
This type costs more than distilled white vinegar, but is the second most common vinegar in our kitchens — with good reason. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar has good flavor and may have many medicinal properties. This strong brown vinegar holds up well to any of the pungent greens that you might like in your salads. The apple cider vinegar I use the most is organic, raw, unfiltered, and unpasteurized.
Many people prefer red or white wine vinegars, which are less acidic than distilled white or apple cider vinegars. These full-bodied vinegars are as good as apple cider vinegar for bringing out the flavor of the greens in your salad. Champagne and sherry are two of the best specialty wine vinegars. Any of these wine vinegars are good for making marinades or to liven up soup or chili.
This vinegar adds freshness, but with yet lower acidity than wine vinegar. Rice vinegar combines well with sesame oil. Most commonly used in Asian dishes, rice vinegar from Japan has a sweet, light flavor that you may appreciate in vinaigrette or a stir-fry. Chinese rice vinegar is somewhat sharper in taste. If you have diabetes, you may want to avoid seasoned rice vinegar because of its added sugar.
Real balsamic vinegar comes only from specific regions of Italy and doesn’t have any balsam, which is a fragrant resin. Balsamic vinegar means “curative vinegar.” Save this vinegar for special occasions, like drizzling over fresh strawberries. Of all the vinegars, it’s the highest in carbohydrates and calories, so limit what you use. One tablespoon of balsamic vinegar has 3 grams of carbohydrates. Real balsamic vinegar can also be frightfully expensive.
Vinegar can help manage the ‘dawn phenomenon’
You may be able to reduce how high your blood glucose level goes in the morning before breakfast — something known as the "dawn phenomenon" — with a little vinegar.
Many ways to cook with vinegar
Berkeley Wellness has dozens of great recipes for using vinegar in your favorite foods. I especially appreciate their recipes for Sweet & Sour Peanut Sauce that calls for rice vinegar or cider vinegar, Green Beans With Fresh Tomatoes and Basil that uses red wine vinegar, and How to Steam an Artichoke that includes specialty tarragon vinegar, made by infusing the tarragon herb into various types of vinegar.
Using a substitute for vinegar
If somehow you happen to run out of all of the types of vinegar, you may have a good substitute in your pantry or your yard. Most lemons or limes have a similar acidic level to that of vinegar, although each of these tart citrus fruits contain carbohydrates. They're also powerful enough that you only need half as much juice as vinegar.
Vinegar can be a free food
Beyond the many great uses of all these types of vinegars, consider that except for the seasoned and balsamic types, vinegars have few if any carbohydrates or calories. This makes it one of our few free foods. It doesn’t go bad and needs no refrigeration. It’s a household item as versatile as duct tape or WD-40 and costs even less per ounce. Think of it as a staple of your diet.