Surprising superfoods: Apple Cider Vinegar
You may have a friend who insists on taking apple cider vinegar shots in the morning for fat burning. Or you may have seen apple cider vinegar drinks in the refrigerated section at the grocery store. With the exploding popularity of this seemingly basic pantry staple, you’re probably wondering what the buzz is all about.
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar Exactly?
Apple cider vinegar, or ACV, is a type of vinegar made from fermented apple juice.
Like other cider- and wine-based vinegars, it has between 5 and 6 percent acidity.
You may notice that there are different types of ACV available at the store. For instance, you may be most familiar with distilled ACV, which looks clear in the bottle. But raw, unfiltered or unpasteurized ACV contains a cloudy substance that floats around in the mix. This is called the “mother,” and it’s formed by natural enzymes during fermentation. No need to be wary of it: This stringy substance usually settles to the bottom of the bottle, and it’s completely safe to consume.
Regardless of the variety, you don’t have to refrigerate ACV, and it will last for a very long time. Vinegar, in general, has an almost indefinite shelf life. Even if vinegar’s appearance changes (it may look cloudier, for instance), it’s still okay to use.
As for nutrition facts, diluted apple cider vinegar contains an insignificant amount of calories per serving; almost no fat, carbohydrates, or protein; and no fiber. Think of it as a great way to add a burst of flavour to foods without adding calories or extra salt.
ACV isn’t just available in liquid form; you can also buy ACV tablets, capsules, and gummies. Keep in mind, though, that ACV supplements may not be as potent as liquid ACV and will likely be more expensive.
What Are the Possible Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar?
ACV has garnered superfood status, and devotees of the vinegar say that it can cure nearly everything that ails you – weight gain, digestive issues, skin woes, cancer and so on. Meanwhile, some companies tout ACV pills as a powerful source of vitamins and minerals, or for weight loss or “cleansing” support.
Few studies support these uses, so while you can add it to your diet without significantly upping your risk for weight gain, it’s best to stay realistic about it. ACV’s main health benefits may be due to the amount of antioxidant polyphenols (or plant chemicals) it contains, thanks to the fermentation process. It’s also rich in probiotics, which may benefit the digestive system and gut microbiome.
So what are the (potential) benefits?
Here are 6 possible health benefits of apple cider vinegar.
It’s High in healthful substances
Apple cider vinegar is made via a two-step process
First, the manufacturer exposes crushed apples to yeast, which ferments the sugars and turns them into alcohol. Next, they add bacteria to further ferment the alcohol, turning it into acetic acid — the main active compound in vinegar
Acetic acid gives vinegar its strong sour smell and flavour. Researchers believe this acid is responsible for apple cider vinegar’s health benefits. Cider vinegars are 5–6% acetic acid
Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar also contains a substance called mother, which consists of strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky appearance
Some people believe that the mother is responsible for most of its health benefits, although there are currently no studies to support this
While apple cider vinegar doesn’t contain many vitamins or minerals, it offers a small amount of potassium. Good quality brands also contain some amino acids and antioxidants
It can help kill harmful bacteria
Vinegar can help kill pathogens, including bacteria
People have traditionally used vinegar for cleaning and disinfecting, treating nail fungus, lice, warts, and ear infections.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used vinegar to clean wounds more than 2,000 years ago.
Vinegar is also a food preservative, and studies show that it inhibits bacteria like E. coli from growing in and spoiling food
If you’re looking for a natural way to preserve your food, apple cider vinegar could help.
Anecdotal reports also suggest that diluted apple cider vinegar could help with acne when applied to the skin, but there doesn’t seem to be any strong research to confirm this.
It may help lower blood sugar levels and manage diabetes
To date, one of the most convincing applications of vinegar is helping treat type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels caused by insulin resistance or the inability to produce insulin
However, people without diabetes can also benefit from keeping their blood sugar levels in the normal range, as some researchers believe that high blood sugar levels are a major cause of aging and various chronic diseases.
The most effective and healthiest way to regulate blood sugar levels is to avoid refined carbs and sugar, but apple cider vinegar may also have a beneficial effect.
Research suggests that vinegar offers the following benefits for blood sugar and insulin levels:
- A small study suggests vinegar may improve insulin sensitivity by 19–34% during a high carb meal and significantly lower blood sugar and insulin response
- In a (very!) small study in 5 healthy people, vinegar reduced blood sugar by 31.4% after eating 50 grams of white bread
- A small study in people with diabetes reported that consuming 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bedtime reduced fasting blood sugar by 4% the following morning
Numerous other studies in humans show that vinegar can improve insulin function and lower blood sugar levels after meals The National Centres for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) says it’s very important that people do not replace medical treatment with unproven health products
If you’re currently taking blood-sugar-lowering medications, check with your healthcare provider before increasing your intake of any type of vinegar
It may aid weight loss
Perhaps surprisingly, studies show that vinegar could help you lose weight
Several human studies show that vinegar can increase feelings of fullness. This can lead you to eat fewer calories and lose weight
For example, according to one study, taking vinegar along with a high carb meal led to increased feelings of fullness, causing participants to eat 200–275 fewer calories throughout the rest of the day
Furthermore, a study in 175 people with obesity showed that daily apple cider vinegar consumption led to reduced belly fat and weight loss:
- taking 1 tablespoon (12 mL) led to a loss of 2.6 pounds (1.2 kg)
- taking 2 tablespoons (30 mL) led to a loss of 3.7 pounds (1.7 kg)
However, bear in mind that this study went on for 3 months, so the true effects on body weight seem to be rather modest.
That said, simply adding or subtracting single foods or ingredients rarely has a noticeable effect on weight. It’s your entire diet or lifestyle that creates long-term weight loss.
Overall, apple cider vinegar may contribute to weight loss by promoting satiety, lowering blood sugar, and reducing insulin levels.
Apple cider vinegar only contains about three calories per tablespoon, which is very low.
It improves heart health in animals
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death
Several biological factors are linked to your risk of heart disease.
Research suggests that vinegar could improve several of these risk factors. However, many of the studies were conducted in animals
These animal studies suggest that apple cider vinegar can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as several other heart disease risk factors
Some studies in rats have also shown that vinegar reduces blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and kidney problems
However, there is no good evidence that vinegar benefits heart health in humans. Researchers need to do more studies before reaching any strong conclusions
It may boost skin health
Apple cider vinegar is a common remedy for skin conditions like dry skin and eczema
The skin is naturally slightly acidic. Using topical apple cider vinegar could help rebalance the natural pH of the skin, improving the protective skin barrier
On the other hand, alkaline soaps and cleansers could irritate eczema, making symptoms worse
Given its antibacterial properties, apple cider vinegar could, in theory, help prevent skin infections linked to eczema and other skin conditions.
Some people use diluted ACV in a facewash or toner. The idea is that it can kill bacteria and prevent spots
However, one study in 22 people with eczema reported that apple cider vinegar soaks did not improve the skin barrier and caused skin irritation
Talk to your healthcare provider before trying new remedies, especially on damaged skin. Avoid applying undiluted vinegar to the skin, as it can cause burns
Dosage and how to use it
The best way to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet is to use it in cooking. It’s a simple addition to foods like salad dressings and homemade mayonnaise
Some people also like to dilute it in water and drink it as a beverage. Common dosages range from 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 mL) to 1–2 tablespoon (15–30 mL) per day mixed in a large glass of water.
It’s best to start with small doses and avoid taking large amounts. Too much vinegar can cause harmful side effects, including tooth enamel erosion and potential drug interactions.
Some dieticians recommend using organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegars that contain mother
The bottom line
Many websites and natural healthcare proponents claim that apple cider vinegar has exceptional health benefits, including boosting energy and treating disease
Unfortunately, there’s little research to support most claims about its health benefits
That said, some studies suggest it may offer some benefits, including killing bacteria, lowering blood sugar levels, and promoting weight loss
Apple cider vinegar appears to be safe, as long as you don’t take excessive amounts of it
It also has various other non-health-related uses, including as a natural hair conditioner, skin care product, and cleaning agent.
But don’t rely on it as a magic weight loss cure or a treatment for chronic health conditions just yet.