Have you ever wondered if apple cider vinegar truly deserves its nutritional crown? We talked to dietitian-nutritionist Gina Consalvo, MA, RD, LDN about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar to get to the bottom of the nutrition claims you've always been a bit hesitant to accept.
Referred to as ACV by foodies, apple cider vinegar is a common ingredient in salad dressings and marinades and can also be used in homemade vegetable wash or facial cleanser.
To make it, apple juice is fermented with bacteria and yeast, which converts the sugars to alcohol. After the yeast produce alcohol, the acetic acid-forming bacteria convert the alcohol into vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is rich in organic acids such as acetic acid, citric acid, and lactic acid. This vinegar also contains phenolic compounds (gallic acid, catechin, epicatechin, and chlorogenic acid), which are bioactive compounds that have antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory effects.
You'll often see that apple cider vinegar is sold unfiltered "with the mother." This means that the bacteria and yeast cultures are left in the vinegar. This sediment is said to be rich in enzymes and gut-friendly probiotic bacteria, although there is not enough scientific evidence to support the importance of the mother in ACV's health benefits.
Now that we know what apple cider vinegar is, let's take a closer look at the purported health benefits.
What are the claims?
But beyond its culinary uses, the amber-colored vinegar has been credited with a myriad of benefits (one review counted 36). They include everything from lowering cholesterol to boosting weight loss to improving digestion to even aiding with hair loss. But what does science have to say?
Research published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology, Biochemistry found that a small pool of study participants given 1 to 2 tablespoons of ACV over a 12-week period lost more weight, body fat, and inches from their middle than participants that were given a placebo.
While the results were not partially dramatic (they only lost about a pound), the participants were not given an exercise or diet regimen to follow, which would have helped them shed some additional weight.
One promising study found that the elixir can ward off the lipids that collect in the blood and contribute to high cholesterol. When patients with high cholesterol consumed 2 tablespoons of ACV twice a day, they noted reduced cholesterol, "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglycerides after eight weeks compared to the beginning of the study. However, because other studies have found insignificant changes in cholesterol levels after taking ACV, more investigations are needed.
A review published in Integrative Medicine Alert summarized multiple studies that have linked ACV to decreased blood glucose: an important health benefit to diabetes patients. Researchers believe that one of the ways apple cider vinegar may reduce blood glucose levels is by delaying gastric emptying (which can also make you feel full for longer). The review notes that results are promising, but additional research is needed.
Is apple cider vinegar good for you?
The bottom line? Apple cider vinegar does have some health benefits (most of the evidence points to being helpful in weight loss, decreasing postprandial glucose, and lowering lipid levels), but it is not a miracle solution.
The best way to lose weight is a common-sense combination of diet and exercise. However, Consalvo notes that ACV may indeed aid weight loss efforts. "As long as you don't have a problem tolerating acidic foods, there is no harm in adding an ACV regimen to your weight loss plan," she adds.
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How to add apple cider vinegar to your diet.
To get in on the trend, Consalvo recommends mixing one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with eight ounces of water and slugging it back once a day before sitting down to eat. Experts warn that you should consume no more than two tablespoons of ACV a day.
To reap the most benefits, consume the cocktail before a carbohydrate-rich meal. Insulin and blood-sugar levels typically spike after a carb-heavy meal, but apple cider vinegar may help counteract that, boosting satiety and helping weight loss efforts, notes Consalvo.
Word to the wise: Since consuming too much acetic acid can irritate your throat or interact with certain supplements and medications, consult with your primary care physician or dietitian before adding ACV to your diet, advises Consalvo. If you get the go-ahead, try it in these 30 Awesome Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar.