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The Health Benefits of Black Vinegar

You may have used balsamic vinegar, but have you ever tried black vinegar? This aged, fermented vinegar has a unique flavor and may even have health benefits.

Chances are you’ve used a variety of vinegars to enhance fresh salads and other recipes that could use a flavor boost. Some of the most popular choices are apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, and balsamic vinegar. It’s less likely that you’ve tried black vinegar, a condiment that’s rapidly growing in popularity in Japan. What are the taste and health benefits of black vinegar?

What Is It?

Black vinegar is a type of vinegar made from whole grains, most commonly barley and rice. Once made, it’s allowed to age for long periods ranging from several months to years in much the same manner as a good balsamic vinegar. This prolonged aging process adds to its taste and complexity. Black vinegar has become a popular addition to many Asian foods, particularly Chinese cuisine due to its distinctive flavor. In Japan, black vinegar, made from rice, is known as Kurosu and is marketed for its health benefits. Some Japanese residents drink black vinegar daily as a health tonic.

Is It Healthy?

The Japanese claim that black vinegar has a multitude of health benefits including blood thinning properties and the ability to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. One study conducted on rats showed that black vinegar successfully lowered the blood pressure of hypertensive rats. Few human studies have been carried out to confirm or refute the claimed health benefits of black vinegar, but its medicinal use is growing in Japan. It’s a good source of citric acid, a compound important for cellular energy production. The claims that black vinegar increases energy levels make sense from a scientific standpoint. Black vinegar is also thought to have anti-tumor properties, although there are no studies confirming these claims. It’s also a good source of vitamins and amino acids.

How Does It Taste?

The taste of black vinegar varies with the type of grain used in its production. In addition to barley and rice, sorghum and millet can be fermented to create black vinegar. These grains produce a vinegar that’s less sweet than the more traditional black vinegar made from fermented rice. There can be a great deal of taste variation among black vinegars depending upon the grain used and the length of time they’re allowed to ferment.

How to Use It

Black vinegar can be purchased at most Oriental grocery stores and some natural food markets. It can be added to soups for an extra dash of flavor and it makes an excellent dipping sauce for dumplings when mixed with soy sauce and sesame oil. It also makes a flavorful marinade and can be used in place of balsamic vinegar in salad dressings. It’s complex, smoky, sometimes sweet flavor adds a whole new taste dimension to foods.

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