Apple cider vinegar has been around for thousands of years. In ancient times, it was a treatment for coughs and infections. And today, apple cider vinegar is touted as a weight loss aid, acid reflux remedy and more.
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Take a look at the possible benefits of apple cider vinegar and the science behind its biggest health claims with dietitian Beth Czerwony, MS, RD, CSOWM, LD.
What is apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is apple juice that has been fermented twice. First, crushed apples are mixed with yeast, sugar or another carbohydrate. After a few weeks, natural bacteria and yeasts ferment the juice, changing the carbohydrates into alcohol. Then, a second fermentation process changes the alcohol into acetic acid — and now you have apple cider vinegar.
You can buy pasteurized or raw apple cider vinegar in stores. People most often use raw apple cider vinegar for health purposes because it may contain more natural bacteria and yeasts. These substances, known as “the mother,” are the cloudy sediment you see in the bottle.
Apple cider vinegar nutritional value
If you look at the nutrition facts label, apple cider vinegar doesn’t show high amounts of vitamins, minerals or even calories. Its potential health benefits are found in substances that aren’t part of the standard nutrition label, says Czerwony.
Apple cider vinegar’s claim to fame is acetic acid, which forms during fermentation. This acid may have a variety of health benefits.
Raw apple cider vinegar also contains:
- Natural probiotics (friendly bacteria), which may help with your immune system and gut health.
- Antioxidants, substances that can prevent damage to your body’s cells.
What are the health benefits of apple cider vinegar?
Some studies suggest apple cider vinegar could boost your health. But most of these studies are small and need further research to prove their claims, explains Czerwony. A few of ACV’s possible benefits include:
Lowering blood sugar
One of the biggest health claims for apple cider vinegar is related to diabetes and blood sugar control. A few small studies found that consuming apple cider vinegar after a meal could lower your blood glucose (sugar). This could be helpful for people with Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
But don’t expect vinegar alone to keep your blood sugar levels in check. “Apple cider vinegar might lower your glucose a little, but not enough,” says Czerwony. “To prevent or manage diabetes, follow a healthy diet and exercise plan.”
Calming acid reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD, acid reflux — no matter what you call it, it’s unpleasant. Many people swear by apple cider vinegar as an acid reflux remedy.
There’s no science to back up apple cider vinegar’s anti-heartburn power. But if your doctor says it’s OK, there’s likely no harm, either. Read what a gastroenterologist says about using apple cider vinegar for acid reflux.
If you’re trying to lose weight, every little boost can help. And apple cider vinegar may help with weight loss.
One small study showed that adding apple cider vinegar to a healthy diet might help people lose more weight. But these findings haven’t been proven with large, controlled studies. Find out what a Czerwony says about the apple cider vinegar diet.
How to use apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar adds a tangy zip to marinades and salad dressings. You can also add a splash to your favorite sauces and stews for extra flavor.
Many people use apple cider vinegar in jarring and pickling. Its acidity kills bacteria that can cause food to spoil.
Side effects of apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has a high acidity that erodes tooth enamel, which you can’t get back once it wears away. It can also damage your esophagus if you drink it straight.
To help prevent these problems, water it down. Add a tablespoon to a mug of warm water. This can cut down on the amount of acid hitting your teeth and throat.
Other possible side effects of apple cider vinegar include:
- Lower potassium levels: Don’t use apple cider vinegar if you have low potassium levels (hypokalemia), as it could make the condition worse.
- Interactions with medicines: Apple cider vinegar can interact with some medicines, including insulin and diuretic drugs (water pills). If you take any medications, ask your doctor whether you can safely take apple cider vinegar.
- Nausea and vomiting: Some people quite literally can’t stomach the taste and acidity of apple cider vinegar. If it makes you feel sick, stop using it.
Apple cider vinegar is also available in pills or gummies. There’s no standard dose, so follow the directions on the product or ask your doctor how much is safe for you. Look for a brand that has a seal of approval from a third party. The label may include a logo from:
- Banned Substances Control Group® (BSCG).
- Informed Choice.
- NSF® Certified for Sport.
- NSF® International.
- United States Pharmacopeia™ (USP).
Should you use apple cider vinegar?
The evidence so far says apple cider vinegar is safe for most people in small amounts. But Czerwony says to keep in mind that it hasn’t been approved to treat any health conditions.
If you take medications or have health conditions, ask your doctor before using apple cider vinegar or any other natural health remedy. And if you get the go-ahead, enjoy a splash of ACV in your next cup of tea.