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Coconut Vinegar Is Taking Over the Superfood Scene

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Coconut milk, coconut flour, coconut oil—coconut madness has been sweeping health food stores for the past few years. (Just check out these 10 Tasty Coconut Oil Recipes.) But there's one nutty product you may not have tried: coconut vinegar.

Chances are you've heard a thing or two about but another trendy vinegar, apple cider (ACV). ACV has been touted for its antibiotic-like properties and ability to help prevent indigestion and aid in weight loss—but not without a few moans about how terrible it tastes going down. (Find out more about the 7 Health Benefits of Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar.)

Turns out, coconut vinegar has all the same benefits of ACV, but with fewer calories (zilch, in fact!) and a much more tolerable taste and smell (it still has a little bit of a bite, but it's slightly sweeter and not quite as pungent). A shot of coconut vinegar—while not quite as delish as a kamikaze shot—is definitely worth the pucker though.

Popular in the Philippines, this type of vinegar is relatively new to the U.S. market, so there isn't much established research on the benefits of it. But we do know a few pretty convincing facts: For starters, it's a naturally fermented food, made from the sap from coconut trees. "This makes it extremely good for your gut health because of the prebiotics and probiotics (healthy bacteria for your gut) they contain," says LA-based clinical nutritionist, personal trainer, and author Jennifer Cassetta.

Looking for more than a kickstarter for your gut? Coconut vinegar has most of the same health benefits of other foods in the family, but amplified, since the natural fermentation process improves the nutrient content of any fruit, says Nikki Ostrower, nutritionist and founder of NAO Nutrition. Coconut vinegar, specifically, is high in potassium, B vitamins (bring on that energy!), and 17 health-promoting amino acids. This is an added perk since amino acids are building blocks for protein and muscle tissue and are linked to energy and fat loss, Ostrower says. Plus, like all natural vinegars, the coconut variety also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which help fight illness and infections, she adds. (Want another coconut product to add to your diet? Here's Everything You Need to Know About Coconut Oil.)

Not only does it offer a multitude of health benefits, but it's figure-friendly too. With zero calories and no sugar, there's no need to stress about adding it to your already health-conscious diet. (Check out The Best and Worst Foods for a Bikini Body.) According to Ostrower, the acetic acid (what gives vinegar it's vinegary taste) found in the coconut variety can also help keep your blood sugar levels from spiking, which is important for stabilizing energy levels and healthy organs in the long run.

So if it has all the health benefits of ACV and it tastes better, how can you start using it immediately? The great thing is, if apple cider vinegar is already a staple in your kitchen, you can use coconut vinegar the same way. "I encourage myself and clients to use coconut vinegar on a daily basis," says Ostrower. She recommends using it as a detox first thing in the morning by mixing a tablespoon of the vinegar with a tablespoon of room temperature water. "It's like putting the key in the ignition and jump starting your digestion." Think of it like lemon and water with even more benefits. (See more Simple Ways to Detox Your Body.)

If your tastebuds haven't quite warmed up to the flavor yet, try adding to your favorite salad dressing, or in marinades or sauces instead. The kick of vinegar makes it an especially great add-in for sweet sauces and Asian dishes (Coconut Secret has some great recipes you can start with).

You can find coconut vinegar at most large health food stores like Whole Foods, but it's also an easy snag online. Ostrower recommends one made by Coconut Secret ($5; amazon.com).

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