Vinegar and Oil for Health!

by Steven Carney on April 10, 2014

This is post #104 on the site (about the health benefits of vinegars and virgin olive oil). The site is a collection of breakthrough articles and resources at your fingertips! Feel free to browse the information here.

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Most people have heard of vinegar and oil, used in salad dressings or in marinades. And people often buy pre-made dressings and marinades these days, because it seems more convenient. But you pay a price with your health because those bottled dressings use highly processed veggie oils, along with additives (colorings, flavorings, thickeners, preservatives, etc.).

As you will soon learn, dressings based on cheap veggie oils (corn, soy, canola, etc.), with high omega-6 fatty acids are actually unhealthy because they raise inflammation. To start, I would like to outline some history and benefits of vinegar, with oils to follow.

Vinegar history

Vinegar has been used throughout history as a cure all for a range of health problems. Although some of those claims may be exaggerated, vinegars do have many health benefits. Let’s explore vinegar’s history and use in more detail.

Vinegar was discovered around 5,000 BC, when wine became sour (“vinegar” means “sour wine” in French). It was used thousands of years ago in places like Babylon, Egypt and Europe. The Chinese also started making rice vinegar about 3,000 years ago.

Vinegar has been used traditionally for everything from foods to treatments: preserving food/pickling, salad dressings (with oil and seasonings), marinades, for tenderizing, as a flavoring, to kill germs/antiseptic, to stop itching from insect bites, even as a cleaning agent (especially white vinegar).

Although there many varieties of vinegar, the tart, acidic flavor and properties are similar. Here are some common vinegars: 

  • Apple cider (made from apple juice and a good overall vinegar with a mild flavor)
  • Rice vinegar (made from rice and quite mild, used in Asian sauces and the source of the “sour” tang in hot and sour soup)
  • Red or white wine vinegar (made from wines and used for a variety of dressings, marinades and flavorings)
  • Balsamic vinegar (made from Trebbiano grapes in Modena, Italy, usually aged in oak casks like a fine wine, sometimes for decades, used with a variety of foods, dressings and sauces)

Vinegars can also be made from fruits, malts and other carbohydrate sources (you need some sugars to make alcohol). And many vinegars now come in unique flavor combinations, such as garlic, herbs, spices or blends so there are many varieties to choose from. Feel free to explore!

How is vinegar made?

Vinegars are fermented from a variety of sources, like those mentioned above. The process is usually done in 2 steps, and are similar to making beer or wine, where yeast is used to turn carbohydrates into alcohol in the presence of oxygen. In fact, some people make their own vinegar from wine or beer (see links below for more info).

The second step involves fermentation with bacteria, acetobacter where the alcohol is turned into the acetic acid (that’s why a beverage with alcohol can turn into vinegar). Most vinegars are at least 4% acidic (average is 5-6%); some top out at 7%.

Health benefits for vinegars (Apple cider and Balsamic):

Here are some health benefits for vinegars (see links below for full details):

  • Can help with digestion/probiotic bacteria
  • Can help with congestion
  • Can be a source of some vitamins and minerals
  • Can help balance blood sugar
  • May help with blood pressure
  • Can provide helpful antioxidants (especially Balsamic)
  • Can help prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing (Balsamic)

Oils and EVOO

The main oil I recommend is EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil). It’s an amazing oil with unique properties but you have to make sure it’s not adulterated. In recent years, 50% or more of the EVOO sold has been adulterated with cheap processed oils like canola or soy. Apparently, EVOO in a plastic bottle is a good clue, so look for glass bottles (see links below for more details and brands).

One important distinction for EVOO compared to other veggie oils is that EVOO is made from olives. Although we think olives are a veggie, they are a fruit, not a seed or vegetable. That gives the oil some unique properties and benefits, especially when it’s made from the very first pressing as EVOO is supposed to be.

EVOO is also unique because is’s minimally processed, by pressing and filtering crushed olives (without high heat, solvents or other chemicals used for other oils), preserving the key nutrients and polyphenols/anti-oxidants unique to olives.

What’s in EVOO?

This gets a bit scientific but it will explain some important details. The main fatty acid in olive oil is called oleic acid, making EVOO a largely Mono-unsaturated Fatty acid (a MUFA), with only about 10% omega-6 linoleic acid. EVOO has a much better composition of fatty acids compared to most other refined veggie oils (which are higher PUFAs, or Poly-unsaturated Fatty Acids).

Important note: Although some people think olive oil is less healthy because it has about a 10:1 ratio of omega-6 to 3 ratio, it’s a myth that olive oil will raise inflammation. Why? Because those essential fatty acids comprise 10% of the total fat in EVOO. Here is an approximate breakdown of EVOO fatty acid composition (note the low level of about linoleic/omega-6 fat):

  • Monounsaturated fat (oleic acid): 70-75%
  • Saturated fat (palmitic): 10-15%
  • Omega-6 (linoleic): 9-10%
  • Omega-3 (ALA/linolenic): 1%

The composition of fats in EVOO is very good and so it’s a myth that olive oil is unhealthy because it has a 10:1 ratio of omgea-6 to 3 fats. EVOO is mostly a monounsaturated fat with several unique and potent anti-inflammatory chemicals, making it a potent anti-inflammatory oil.

Unique antioxidants and polyphenols in EVOO

EVOO has several beneficial antioxidant elements, including:

  • Up to 36 antioxidant compounds
  • Three key compounds: hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, and oleuropein
  • Oleocanthal, a unique compound with anti-inflammatory properties like NSAIDS or ibuprofen

Health benefits of EVOO

EVOO (used with dressings or flavorings without heating) offers health benefits for a range of conditions (see many links below for more research/info):

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Improved cholesterol
  • Lower inflammation
  • Unique polyphenols/antioxidants
  • Improved platelet/anti-clotting activity
  • Antimicrobial properties
  • Digestive health
  • Bone health

A 2010 study on the benefits of EVOO called, Biological Activities of Phenolic Compounds Present in Virgin Olive Oil said the following (see link below for full details):

In experimental studies (in vivo and in vitro), olive oil phenolic compounds have been shown to beneficially alter lipid composition, platelet and cellular function, microbial activity and bone formation, as well as reduce oxidative damage and inflammation. The modes of action detailed in the paper, may explain the low rate of diet-related diseases amongst populations residing in the Mediterranean region.

As mentioned earlier, most veggie and seed oils have higher amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared to olive oil. And that linoleic acid/omega-6 is a more inflammatory type of fat, common in processed veggie oils like corn, soy, canola or cottonseed. They make more inflammatory chemicals and because they are more processed than olive oil, they oxidize easily upon digestion, triggering extra inflammation.

Those oils are everywhere in processed foods, including cookies, crackers, cakes, chips, snack foods, frozen foods (meals/snacks), fried foods, salad dressings, sauces, mayonnaise, etc. Look at the ingredient list on those products and you’ll see those veggie oils listed, often partially hydrogenated, meaning the food has unhealthy trans fats. Those fats are harmful to health and don’t belong in your body!

Although EVOO is not high in omega-3 fats, it’s also low in omega-6 fats, which means it’s better than most other veggie oils. In fact, because EVOO is largely a monounsaturated fruit oil largely unprocessed and extracted without significant heat, it retains unique anti-inflammatory capabilities, including the unique compound called oleocanthal.

A comprehensive review study from 2013, called Polyphenols: Benefits to the Cardiovascular System in Health and in Aging found numerous health and cardiovascular benefits in olive oil (citations removed to avoid confusion, CVD is cardio vascular disease, see link below for full details):

Olive oil is rich in MUFAs and over 30 different phenolic compounds, which together, make this potent super food likely to be a key player in lowered incidence of atherosclerosis and CVD in aging Mediterranean populations. A study on elderly people consuming the Mediterranean diet, reported that the proinflammatory markers NF-kB, MCP-1, TNF-a and IL-6 as well as atherogenic marker MMP-9 was reduced in PBMC from these subjects. Additionally, the bioavailability of olive oil phenolics remains high after ingestion. The predominant phenolic compounds are a-tocopherol, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, and oleuropein.

Here are some related quotes from a 2005 study covered in Science Daily News:

Some of the health-related effects of the Mediterranean diet may be due to the natural anti-COX activity of oleocanthal from premium olive oils,” observes Monell biologist Gary Beauchamp, PhD.

The Mediterranean diet, of which olive oil is a central component, has long been associated with numerous health benefits, including decreased risk of stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, lung cancer, and some dementias. Similar benefits are associated with certain NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Now that we know of oleocanthal’s anti-inflammatory properties, it seems plausible that oleocanthal plays a causal role in the health benefits associated with diets where olive oil is the principal source of fat.

And here is another 2011 quote from a review study that verifies the anti-inflammatory effects of EVOO and oleocanthal called, Molecular mechanisms of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oil and the phenolic compound oleocanthal (link below has more details):

Oleocanthal is contained in virgin olive oil and possesses similar anti-inflammatory properties to ibuprofen. This pharmacological similarity has provoked interest in oleocanthal and the few studies conducted thus far have verified its anti-inflammatory and potential therapeutic actions.

Here is another quote from a 2009 review study on overall benefits of EVOO called, Chemistry and health of olive oil phenolics (Note: phenolics refer to the polyphenols and antioxidants in EVOO, see link below):

The Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower incidence of atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. The apparent health benefits have been partially attributed to the dietary consumption of virgin olive oil by Mediterranean populations. Most recent interest has focused on the biologically active phenolic compounds naturally present in virgin olive oils. Studies (human, animal, in vivo and in vitro) have shown that olive oil phenolics have positive effects on certain physiological parameters, such as plasma lipoproteins, oxidative damage, inflammatory markers, platelet and cellular function, and antimicrobial activity.

So you can see that EVOO is different than most other veggie oils. Because It’s from a fruit, not a seed, with largely monosauturated fats (about 75%) and only about 10% omega 6 fat that could raise inflammation. The unique polyphenols in EVOO help to lower inflammation overall, making EVOO a great choice for your health! A tablespoon or two a day should be about right.

Other healthy oils to consider are coconut, avocado and walnut oils, each of which has unique qualities and flavors (although some are quite pricy as well).

BTW, I included a few links below with recipes to make your own balsamic and EVOO salad dressing (or marinade) in a few minutes. Once you know how, it’s a snap! Skip the bottled dressings!

I hope this exploration of vinegars and oils, especially the unique properties of EVOO will give you a better understanding of the many health benefits of each, and inspire you to make your own dressings. Avoiding the more commercial dressings will help keep your health up and your systemic inflammation down, a recipe for good health and long life!

Questions? Drop me a line: or comment below the links.

Helpful links and sources for both vinegars and oils:


EVOO links:  (10)  (20)

A new study and article showing reduced heart attack risk with EVOO:

Make your own dressing links: 

© 2014 by Steve Carney/End Sickness Now


bette April 10, 2014 at 7:03 PM

Fantastic web site. A lot of useful info here. I am sending it to friends and sharing.
Thank you in your effort!

A.Scott.Brown April 11, 2014 at 8:38 AM

Informative as always. I’ve been living in China for over a decade and we now use the dark rice vinegar in just about everything.

One question I wanted to ask was how extra virgin olive oil compares to coconut oil. I’ve read claims that they’re comparable in terms of health benefits, and coconut oil is much more readily available here.

Steven Carney April 11, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Hey Scott! I didn’t realize you had been there for 10 years! I bet you have many interesting stories to tell!

EVOO and coconut oil are both healthy. Coconut was thought to be bad because it’s saturated but now it’s known that it a medium-chain fat so it’s healthy. I think a big difference is cooking. Coconut oil has a higher smoke point so it’s better if you fry things. EVOO is better as a dressing or in sauces.

Here is a link thta has a basic comparison:

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