Apple cider vinegar has existed for thousands of years. In ancient times, it was a treatment for coughs and infections. And today, apple cider vinegar is advertised as an aid to weight loss, acid reflux medicine and more.
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Check out the potential benefits of apple cider vinegar and the science behind the biggest health claims with nutritionist 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 yeast ferment the fluid, changing the carbohydrates into alcohol. Then, a second fermentation process changes the alcohol to 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 yeast. These substances, known as “mothers”, are the cloudy sediments you see in bottles.
Nutritional value of apple cider vinegar
If you look at the nutrition facts label, apple cider vinegar does not indicate high amounts of vitamins, minerals or even calories. Its potential health benefits are found in substances that are not part of the standard food label, Czerwony says.
The claim of apple cider vinegar for fame is acetic acid, which is formed during fermentation. This acid can have a variety of health benefits.
Raw apple cider vinegar also contains:
- Natural probiotics (friendly bacteria), which can help your immune system and intestinal health.
- Antioxidants, substances that can prevent damage to your body cells.
What are the health benefits of apple cider vinegar?
Some studies suggest that apple cider vinegar may boost your health. But most of these studies are small and need further research to prove their claims, Czerwony explains. Some of the potential benefits of ACV include:
Lowering blood sugar
One of the biggest health claims for apple cider vinegar is related to diabetes and blood sugar control. Several small studies found that consuming apple cider vinegar after a meal could lower blood glucose (sugar). This can be helpful for people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
But do not expect the single vinegar to keep your blood sugar levels under control. “Apple cider vinegar can lower your glucose a bit, but not enough,” says Czerwony. “To prevent or manage diabetes, follow a healthy diet and exercise plan.”
Soothing acid reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD, acid reflux – no matter what you call it, is uncomfortable. Many people swear by apple cider vinegar as a remedy for acid reflux.
There is no science to support the anti-heartburn power of apple cider vinegar. But if your doctor says it is okay, there is likely to be no harm. Read what a gastroenterologist has to say about using apple cider vinegar for acid reflux.
If you are trying to lose weight, any small lift can help you. And apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss.
A small study showed that adding apple cider vinegar to a healthy diet can help people lose more weight. But these findings have not been proven by large and 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 soft zip to marinades and salad dressing. You can also add a splash to your favorite sauces and dishes for extra flavor.
Many people use apple cider vinegar in quarrels and pickles. Its acidity kills bacteria that can cause food spoilage.
Side effects of apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has a high acidity that erodes tooth enamel, which you can not return after consuming. It can also damage the esophagus if you drink it right.
To help prevent these problems, water it. Add a tablespoon to a mug of warm water. This can reduce the amount of acid that hits your teeth and throat.
Other possible side effects of apple cider vinegar include:
- Lower potassium levels: Do not use apple cider vinegar if you have low potassium levels (hypokalemia), as it may worsen the condition.
- Drug interactions: Apple cider vinegar can interact with several medications, including insulin and diuretics (water pills). If you are taking any medication, ask your doctor if you can safely take apple cider vinegar.
- Nausea and vomiting: Some people literally can not 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 chewing gum. There is no standard dose, so follow the instructions on the product or ask your doctor how safe it is for you. Look for a brand that has a seal of approval from a third party. The label may contain a logo from:
- Prohibited Substances Control Group (BSCG).
- Informed Choice.
- NSF® Certified for Sports.
- NSF® International.
- United States Pharmacopoeia (USP).
Should you use apple cider vinegar?
Evidence so far says that apple cider vinegar is safe for most people in small amounts. But Czerwony says keep in mind that it has not been approved to treat any health condition.
If you are taking medication or have a medical condition, ask your doctor before using apple cider vinegar or any other natural health remedy. And if you get the guts, enjoy an ACV splash on your next cup of tea.