Beyond delicious, certain oils and vinegars have health and wellness benefits, too
For many of us, oil and vinegar are just perfunctory salad toppings. We drizzle them over greens without a second thought. Even foodies, who may value the elevated varieties of each, often only think of them as a way to add flavor.
It turns out that for all these years we may have been doing ourselves more of a favor than we realized. In fact, certain oils and vinegars (and other fermented offerings) have significant health benefits for everything from digestion to immunity. “Not a day goes by that I don’t use olive or avocado oils in my cooking: heart-healthy plant-based fats, rich in omega-6s, help reduce inflammation, joint and nerve pain and blood pressure,” says Kelly Boyer, a licensed holistic integrative nutrition and health coach and chef/founder of healthy haute meal delivery service, Paleta. “Apple cider vinegar is another staple. My grandmother swore it warded off sickness and cured ‘bubbly belly,’ and now we know that fermented vinegar fights bad bacteria in the gut and helps absorb the healthy fats from plant-based oils.”
Boyer—who is also a late-stage cancer survivor—also swears by kombucha and a “trifecta” vinaigrette made with avocado oil, apple cider vinegar and miso whisked with fresh herbs.
Entrepreneurs and conscious growers are getting wise, creating oils and vinegars (and fermented beverages, in general) with health in mind. Here, we check in with a few top companies taking these condiments to the next wellness level.
Backstory: Dana St. Pierre first learned about plant-based folk remedies from his grandmother, who grew up on a horse farm in Germany before emigrating to Massachusetts. He first began to combine her recipes as a teenager, adding apple cider vinegar at the recommendation of a country doctor along with other ingredients like oranges and lemons from his backyard, after he moved to Arizona. Ultimately, he shared his tonic with his wife, Amy Huebner, who has training in integrative nutrition. When she saw how much it helped ward off colds and the like, she was hooked. Together, they decided to share his creation with the world, cofounding Shire City Herbals and their hero product, Fire Cider.
The Difference: St. Pierre spent 12 years creating his concoction, which Huebner says tastes way better than straight apple cider vinegar too. “It’s apple cider vinegar turned up to 11 with a bunch of organic roots, fruits and spice,” enthuses Huebner. “There’s really nothing else quite like it.”
The Benefits: A tablespoon of Fire Cider a day can boost immunity and energy, says Huebner. Plus, the microorganisms in fermented food are great for digestion and overall health. Apple cider vinegar alone is known for everything from keeping the body’s pH in balance to warding off infection. “Many of our ingredients—like ginger and turmeric—have anti-inflammatory properties,” she says. “I used to get every big that was going around. Now, I swear by a daily shot to ward off the winter wolves!”
The Latest: New launches still under wraps.
firecider.com ; from $14 per bottle
BREW DR. KOMBUCHA
Backstory: In 2006, founder and CEO Matt Thomas realized his vision for a casual teahouse, launching organic Townshend’s Tea Company with myriad varieties and recipes and even an herbal apothecary line. In 2008, he began fermenting his teas into 100 percent raw kombucha: Brew Dr. was born.
The Difference: Brew Dr. Kombucha is produced entirely in-house, from recipes brewed with organic tea, dried herbs, roots and fruit to the two-week probiotic fermentation process. “We stay true to a no shortcuts approach,” says Thomas. No juice or flavoring is added at the end and every ingredient is USDA-certified organic and, thus, non-GMO.
Benefits: General well-being and especially gut health. Fermentation keeps everything in balance. “Every bottle hosts billions of naturally occurring probiotics including beneficial bacteria, yeasts, and organic acids (acetic acid, lactic acid, gluconic acid, glucuronic acid and propionic acid),” says the founder. “Also, the organic acids are known to improve bioavailability of vitamins, prevent accumulation of heavy metals and insoluble oxalates, inhibit pathogenic bacteria, support joint health, modulate immunity and prevent cancer proliferation.” The company also prioritizes sustainability, relying on renewable energy, supporting nonprofits like ECO for elementary school science enrichment and composting byproducts.
The Latest: Three new flavors for spring and summer include Mango Habenero, Mint Lemonade (like a probiotic mojito!) and Ginger Turmeric.
brewdrkombucha.com; from $3 per bottle
Backstory: La Tourangelle founder, Matthieu Kohlmeyer, has oil milling in his DNA: His father owned and operated an artisanal nut mill in France’s Loire Valley. As a business school student, Kohlmeyer relocated to Canada in 2000, and that was when he realized that North American nut oils were often poor quality and expensive. So, in 2002, he shipped four traditional roasting kettles and a hydraulic nut press from France and created the first French style nut oil mill in California. La Tourangelle was born, first with walnut oil, followed by hazelnut, pistachio, pecan and almond.
The Difference: From the beginning, La Tourangelle’s vision was to create delicious but healthy nut oils using 150-year-old French methods. Kohlmeyer travels the world, investigating potential ingredients from Chile to Polynesia to Myanmar. The company prioritizes sustainable farming and fair working conditions.
The Benefits: The non-GMO, expeller-pressed oils have various properties: Avocado oil is a superfood full of “good fat,” for example, while walnut oil is packed with omega 3s for neuro-protection, and grapeseed oil, packed with linoleic acid, combats high cholesterol and heart disease. “Oils are one of the purest ingredients to hydrate, regenerate and nourish,” says the founder, who says applying the oils to skin and hair can have upsides from anti-aging to increased shine. “Some of the oils are also full of antioxidants and help fight against free radicals.” (The company also has an oil-based skincare line.)
The Latest: AvoCoco Oil—the best of avocado and coconut oil—is designed as a butter substitute. Walnut Pesto oil is a dipping oil made with fresh basil and garlic.
latourangelle.com; from $5.99
COBRAM ESTATE OLIVE OIL
The Backstory: Founding farmers Rob McGavin and Paul Riordan met in agriculture college and bonded over a desire to bring amazing olive oil back to “the people.” In 1998, they first applied their unique, conscious practices to Australian olive groves and, more recently, added California to their repertoire. Now, they are able to harvest two separate seasons, pressing the harvests within hours of picking.
The Difference: Combram Estate owns its own nurseries, groves and bottling facilities for truly tree-to-table olive oil with quality control. The California Select is made from Sacramento Valley olives with an aroma of fresh cut grass and tropical fruit, while the Australia Select is created from what they call the “Holy Trifecta” of olives with notes of tomato and fig bush.
The Benefits: Olive oil has long been considered a great substitute for less healthy options like butter, but the quality of the product and consciousness of ingredients makes a big difference. “Our extra virgin olive oil is chock full of a wonderful thing called, ‘polyphenols,’” says Adam Englehardt, president of U.S. Operation. “These flavor-packed antioxidants have been proven to help fight inflammation, aging, weight gain and are great for your heart. We are able to guarantee all the amazing health benefits of extra virgin olive oil because of how high-quality our oil is.”
The Latest: The brand only just launched in the U.S. in 2016!
cobramestate.com; from $10.99
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