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5 Benefits and Uses of Coconut Vinegar

Health + Wellness
Povareshka / iStock / Getty Images

By Alina Petre, MS, RD

Coconut vinegar is a staple in Southeast Asian and Indian cuisine that is rapidly gaining popularity in the West.


It's made from the sap of the flowers of coconut trees. This sap ferments for 8–12 months, naturally turning into vinegar.

Coconut vinegar has a cloudy, white appearance and a slightly milder taste than apple cider vinegar. It can add a touch of sweetness to salad dressings, marinades, soups and warm dishes.

It is claimed to offer a range of health benefits, including weight loss, improved digestion, a stronger immune system and a healthier heart. However, not all benefits are supported by research.

Here are 5 benefits and uses of coconut vinegar, backed by science.

1. Contains Probiotics, Polyphenols and Nutrients

Coconut vinegar is often touted as a rich source of many nutrients, as the sap used to make it is rich in vitamin C and potassium. The sap also contains choline, B vitamins, iron, copper, boron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc (1).

Research further shows that coconut vinegar provides a range of polyphenols—beneficial plant compounds that may protect against conditions like diabetes and heart disease (2, 3).

Moreover, due to the 8- to 12-month fermentation process, coconut vinegar is also a source of gut-friendly bacteria known as probiotics (4).

That said, research on how fermentation affects the vinegar's vitamin and mineral content is lacking. It's also worth keeping in mind that some manufacturers make coconut vinegar from coconut water rather than coconut sap.

Coconut water contains fewer nutrients than sap and is fermented for a shorter time, using a fermentation starter, such as cane sugar or apple cider vinegar. This is believed to yield a vinegar of lower nutritional value—though no studies can currently confirm this.

Regardless, coconut vinegar is typically consumed in very small amounts, meaning it likely won't contribute many nutrients or polyphenols to your diet.

Summary

Coconut vinegar contains probiotics, polyphenols and may be rich in certain vitamins and minerals. However, it's typically consumed in small amounts and therefore unlikely to contribute large amounts of nutrients to your diet.

2. May Lower Blood Sugar and Help Fight Diabetes

Coconut vinegar may help lower blood sugar levels and offer some protection against type 2 diabetes.

Just like apple cider vinegar, coconut vinegar contains acetic acid—the main active compound in vinegar.

Several studies report that acetic acid may help lower blood sugar spikes after a carb-rich meal (5, 6, 7).

Research also shows that vinegar may reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and help improve insulin sensitivity by as much as 34% (8, 9, 10, 11).

The blood-sugar-lowering effects of vinegar appear strongest when ingested with meals (12).

Coconut vinegar may provide similar benefits as other types of vinegar. However, no studies have looked at the direct effects of this type of vinegar on blood sugar levels or diabetes risk. Therefore, more research is needed to confirm these effects.

Summary

Coconut vinegar contains acetic acid, a compound which may help lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. However, there are no studies specifically on coconut vinegar. Therefore, more research is needed.

3. May Reduce Hunger and Help You Lose Weight

Coconut vinegar may also help you shed unwanted weight.

It is not only calorie-free but also contains acetic acid, a compound which has been shown to help reduce hunger and help you feel fuller for longer (13, 14).

Several animal studies link acetic acid to lower appetites. This compound may also help turn off fat storage genes and turn on fat burning ones (13, 14, 15, 16).

Moreover, research in humans reports that having vinegar with your meals may help you feel fuller for longer. In one study, people who added vinegar to one meal ate up to 275 fewer calories over the rest of the day compared to those who didn't add vinegar (17, 18).

One small study further reports that ingesting vinegar with meals may slow down the rate at which your stomach empties—potentially leading to increased feelings of fullness (19).

Research also links vinegar to weight loss.

In one 12-week study, participants who had 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) of vinegar per day lost up to 3.7 pounds (1.7 kg) and reduced their body fat by up to 0.9%. In comparison, participants in the control group gained 0.9 pounds (0.4 kg) (14).

Studies specifically on coconut vinegar are lacking. However, since it contains the same active compound as other types of vinegar, it may act in the same way. That said, more research is needed to confirm this.

Summary

Coconut vinegar contains acetic acid, a compound linked to reduced hunger, increased feelings of fullness and weight and body fat loss.

4. May Improve Heart Health

Coconut vinegar may improve the health of your heart.

In part, this may be due to the potassium content of the coconut sap used to make this type of vinegar. Potassium is a mineral linked to lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke (1, 20).

Animal studies further show that vinegar may reduce triglyceride and "bad" LDL cholesterol levels while increasing "good" HDL cholesterol (21, 22, 23).

What's more, rat studies observe that vinegar may reduce blood pressure—a major risk factor for heart disease (24, 25).

Additionally, one animal study specifically on coconut vinegar reported that it may lower inflammation, body weight and cholesterol levels—all of which may contribute to a healthier heart (26).

In humans, research shows that taking 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) of vinegar per day may help reduce belly fat and blood triglyceride levels—two additional risk factors for heart disease (14).

One observational study notes that women who ate salad dressings made with oil and vinegar 5–6 times per week were up to 54% less likely to develop heart disease (27).

However, keep in mind that this type of study cannot show that the vinegar caused the drop in heart disease risk. Human studies on the specific effects of coconut vinegar are lacking, so more research is needed.

Summary

Coconut vinegar may act in a similar way to other types of vinegar, potentially reducing risk factors for heart disease, such as belly fat, blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, more research is needed to confirm these effects.

5. May Improve Digestion and Immunity

Coconut vinegar may contribute to a healthy gut and immune system.

In part, that's because coconut vinegar is made by letting the coconut flower sap ferment for 8–12 months. This process naturally gives rise to probiotics, which are bacteria beneficial to your gut health (4).

Moreover, coconut vinegar contains acetic acid, a compound which may help fight off viruses and bacteria. For instance, acetic acid is effective against E. coli bacteria, a well-known cause of food poisoning (28).

For it to work, simply add a bit of the vinegar to water and soak your fresh fruits and vegetables in the dilution for about two minutes. One study showed that this simple washing method can reduce bacteria by up to 90% and viruses by up to 95% (29).

Coconut vinegar may also be effective at preventing the growth of G. vaginalis, a major cause of vaginal infections. However, this benefit was observed in a test-tube study. Therefore, it's still unclear how to use the vinegar to achieve this benefit in real life (30).

What's more, this vinegar is also touted to boost the immune system due to its potential nutrient content. The sap used to make coconut vinegar is indeed a great source of iron and vitamin C, two nutrients linked to stronger immune systems.

However, it's unclear how much of the vitamin C remains in the vinegar after fermentation, so more research is needed to support this claim (1, 31).

Summary

Coconut vinegar contains probiotics and acetic acid—both of which may contribute to a healthy digestion. It may also provide some immune-boosting nutrients, but more research is needed to confirm this.

Is Coconut Vinegar Safe?

Coconut vinegar is generally considered safe.

That said, it is acidic, so regularly drinking it straight up may damage your esophagus and the enamel on your teeth.

For this reason, coconut vinegar may be best ingested diluted in water or mixed with other ingredients, such as oil in a salad dressing or marinade.

Like other types of vinegar, coconut vinegar may help lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. People taking blood-sugar- or blood-pressure-lowering medications may want to check with their healthcare practitioner before adding coconut vinegar to their diet.

Summary

Coconut vinegar is generally safe. However, people taking blood-sugar- or blood-pressure-lowering medications may want to check with their doctor before regularly adding this, or any, vinegar to their diet.

The Bottom Line

Coconut vinegar is a unique alternative to other types of vinegar.

It has a milder taste, appears to be nutritious and may offer several health benefits. These range from weight loss and a lower risk of diabetes to a healthier digestion, immune system and heart.

That said, though research links vinegar consumption to these benefits, few studies have been done specifically on coconut vinegar and none have compared it to other types of vinegar.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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