Coconut Vinegar: The Next Big Thing Or A Trend Worth Skipping?

Is coconut vinegar just the next hip trend, or could it mean big things for your health and beauty?

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October 29, 2017
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You already love apple cider vinegar, coconut water, and coconut oil. So, how excited are you at the prospect of receiving some of the benefits of both apple cider vinegar and coconut in one tasty liquid? Very, right? The advent of coconut vinegar in the States has health and beauty bloggers buzzing, but we want to know if the scientific community is ready to make big promises to back up the hype.

Without a doubt, coconut vinegar is the hip, trendy thing, and this newcomer on the Western healthy living scene shows potential to be touted as a hot new “superfood.” But as yet there aren’t enough studies about the use of coconut vinegar to make any scientific conclusions about whether it works the way we hope it does.

While we wait for the results of more research to roll out, experts are looking to coconut vinegar users’ reports of benefits and to data from experiments involving similar substances—such as apple cider vinegar (ACV) and coconut sap—to explore and inform their exploration of the many ways coconut vinegar (CV) might help you live your best life.

So, what is coconut vinegar?

If you’re familiar with ACV, then coconut vinegar won’t seem too foreign to you. Coconut trees and their flowers produce a sap that naturally ferments over time when stored in the right conditions. Vinegar makers like Wilderness Family Naturals (which describes the process of producing CV) then bottle the fermented goodness and voila! A seemingly all-purpose health and beauty elixir makes its way onto a shelf at your favorite grocery store.

While it’s long been used for cooking in South Asian cuisines, it’s a relatively recent import to the United States. So depending on your local grocer’s stock, you may have to head to a health food specialty store or try shopping online to nab it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t released precise CV nutrition information yet, but you can look at the info for coconut sap, its source material, to get an idea of what you’re in for.

Word on the street is that coconut vinegar may offer all the benefits of ACV, but with even more promising results. As Claire Martin, a former esthetician-turned-nutritionist who now specializes in holistic nutrition and wellness, explains, “Coconut trees grow in highly nutritious coastal soil [which] gives its vinegar a higher nutritional value than apples … it’s loaded with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, including B12 and acetic acid.”

According to Martin and beauty blogs like Holistic Vanity, coconut vinegar can be used in the same ways ACV can—from topical beauty treatments to home health remedies, cleaning, and, of course, cooking.

Given all these uses, it would be easy to jump on the bandwagon and invest our hopes in getting big results from coconut vinegar. But when it comes down to it, although there is evidence that apple cider and some other vinegars actually live up to their proponents’ claims, there just aren’t enough studies about coconut vinegar for scientists to tout it as the same or better than other well-researched vinegars.

As nutrition expert Michael Joseph wrote in an article for Nutrition Advance, “The distinct lack of studies on coconut vinegar makes it difficult to provide a fair assessment.” That said, the nutritional content of coconut sap is a bit more impressive than the nutritional content of apples, so it’s not far off to conclude that CV would work similarly to “ACV” with some extra oomph.

Joseph also notes that “despite the lack of specific studies, coconut vinegar is relatively new, and studies will likely appear as it grows more popular in the future.”

Is coconut vinegar worth your time (and money)?

Many sources say CV is worth a try for lots of uses. And given what the experts have to say, it seems like a viable health remedy when it comes to ingesting it, but using coconut vinegar in cosmetic and cleaning applications requires a bit of caution. Read on to find out how you can use CV, when to avoid it, and why.

Healthy Habits

Like other vinegars that have proven health benefits, coconut vinegar is a raw, fermented food, meaning it contains various enzymes that benefit gut health. It functions as a strong probiotic, which is another buzzword in the healthy living community that does actually hold up to the hype surrounding it. So if promoting good bacteria balance in your gut is important to you (and it should be), then go ahead with the vinegar!

If you’re already an ACV user, you likely know that it’s famous for aiding diabetes patients, as several studies have suggested it can help the body regulate blood sugar. Since it’s the acetic quality in vinegar that’s thought to create this effect, and we know that coconut vinegar has a higher acetic content than the apple cider variety, it makes sense to conjecture that coconut vinegar might be equally—if not more—effective, although no studies have proven that yet.

When it comes to known upsides of coconut vinegar specifically, a major one pertains to its taste. According to Martin, it has a “milder, sweeter, and brighter flavor,” than other vinegars, and “doesn’t taste as acidic as apple cider vinegar even though it is higher in acetic acid … which is commonly used to supplement weight loss efforts.”

In fact, in addition to being a calorie-free jolt of flavor that’s great in in tea, marinades, and salad dressings (read on!), Martin explains that “coconut vinegar is loaded with 17 amino acids, vitamins like potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus and minerals like B1, B6, B12, and inositol. Inositol increases insulin resistance and lowers blood sugar. B vitamins are a building block for good health, playing a key role in keeping you energized and [maintaining healthy] metabolism.”

Beauty Bonuses of Coconut Vinegar

ACV is already a well-known tool in many green beauty kits, and Martin says it’s safe to use coconut vinegar just like you would employ its apple cider cousin in your beauty routines. She also says it’s great to use for “hair conditioner or a facial toner” but advises being “careful to patch test because CV’s acetic acid content can be harsh for certain skin or hair types.” Try it out first in a diluted form (mixed with water or another beauty product you know your skin or hair tolerates well), to make sure it’s right for you.

Try this: Soak a cotton ball with one part coconut vinegar to three or more parts water and apply as a homemade toner. Or for a hair conditioning rinse, add a few tablespoons vinegar to a cup of water. Apply to hair and let sit for a couple of minutes, then gently rinse.

Tons of of anecdotal evidence (even from dermatologists) abounds about ACV’s ability to freshen your complexion—and if ACV, why not coconut vinegar, too?  Of course, if you want published, scientific proof, you’ll have to wait patiently for research to confirm the testimonials. Still, Women’s Health suggests that vinegar’s pH is ideal to combine with your bathwater for a 15-minute soak to restore the natural balance of your skin. Just make sure not to use it without diluting, as you could come away with a bad reaction.

We do know that ACV has proven antifungal properties, in part because of its acetic content, which means even more acetic CV could help with yellowing nails, athlete’s foot, and even dandruff.

Home Hacks with Coconut Vinegar

Most of my friends (and most definitely my husband and daughter) know me as a bit of a clean freak. In fact, I’d say, for better or worse, my relaxation and happiness are often tied to my sense of whether my home is clean, pleasant, and presentable. Still, I worry about the harsh chemicals that most of the really effective cleaning products on the market contain, so I’m excited about the possibilities of using coconut vinegar as a natural home cleanser that’s safe to use (diluted) around kids and animals.

As Martin tells me, “it’s high acetic acid content” makes it a great booster to “add to your next batch of gym clothes laundry,” or you can “mix with some water for an all-purpose cleaner” that you can store in an easy-to-use spray bottle. My former cleaning lady swears any white vinegar also works as an ant deterrent in the kitchen, but I haven’t found it to be noticeably effective for that.

A 1997 study found straight vinegar in general to be somewhat effective in killing E. coli and Salmonella, and later studies found it to be a good killer of some waterborne bacteria involved in burn infections. But as CNN recently noted, “will apple cider or other vinegars sanitize or disinfect your home? Probably not enough [on its own] to make you feel germ-free.”

So it seems like the evidence for coconut vinegar being a powerful nutritional additive is strong (I’m on board), but the potential beauty and cleaning uses are still not tested enough to convince the likes of me.

Steal a nutritionist’s routine

Martin says she “like[s] taking coconut vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar as a daily tonic during allergy season because of its lighter flavor.” But she warns against drinking it “straight up,” as its high acetic makeup (which is one of the reasons it’s so effective) can literally burn your throat and cause indigestion and (you’ll definitely want to avoid this) flatulence. If you’ve had these problems with ACV before, Martin says she “would not recommend coconut vinegar as a daily tonic because it has an even higher acetic acid content.”

But if you’re up for a little dose of tang, Martin also makes a killer raw salad dressing, and she shares her recipe with HealthyWay:

  • 1 part ground turmeric
  • 1 part coconut vinegar
  • ½ part minced garlic
  • 2 parts tahini
  • 3 parts olive oil
  • 2 parts water
  • Dashes of salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne

Mix all ingredients until “smooth and creamy,” and you’ve got what Martin calls “a great nutritional powerhouse for cool weather problems like muscle aches, low blood circulation, or colds.”

Vinegar Throwdown: Coconut or Apple Cider?

Okay, here are the basic comparisons:

  • The two are similar in cost.
  • Apple cider vinegar is a cloudy light brown (just like unfiltered apple cider), while coconut vinegar is a cloudy white liquid.
  • Apple cider vinegar is more readily available in brick and mortar stores, but coconut vinegar can be purchased online easily, and as it gains in popularity, it will likely make an appearance at your local grocer.
  • Many people, including Martin, say that coconut tastes a bit sweet and is more palatable than apple cider vinegar.
  • Still, it’s vinegar! Don’t expect it to be sugary or taste exactly like coconut.
  • Bottles of both contain a cloudy blob of goop called the “mother,” which according to Martin is really a colony of bacteria and yeast that contains “beneficial vitamins, minerals, and bacteria.”
  • CV seems to come out on top nutritionally. As Martin notes, “If compared side by side, the raw ingredients of coconut vinegar (coconut sap) beat those of apple cider vinegar (apples) in every one of the 17 amino acids, minerals, and vitamins that occur in each vinegar.” It’s important to note, though, that some brands of coconut vinegar are made from coconut water instead of sap, and these are not as nutritious, according to Martin. Be sure to check the label before you buy.

Just because something is new (to you) doesn’t mean it’s bad or scary, but the reverse is true as well. Coconut vinegar may be a hot trend, but so far, there’s no evidence that it’s anything close to a cure-all. When it comes down to it, CV is likely just as safe as ACV, and there’s a possibility that it may have some advantages over ACV because it comes from a more nutrient-dense source. It also has a greater acetic content, which might increase its health benefits but could also make it more irritating to people with sensitive skin or digestive systems.

If you’re the type to wait for scientific evidence to weigh in on health and fitness trends, we suggest sitting it out a year or two until the scientific community has a chance to conduct thorough coconut vinegar research. Or if you’re an intrepid explorer who loves to be on the cutting edge of nutritive wellness trends, we say go for it and try adding coconut vinegar into your healthy living practice.

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