Adding a shot of apple cider vinegar to your diet supposedly puts you on the fast track to better health. In reality? Well, it’s not that simple. The fermented vinegar has been around for years. But, it’s now viewed as a staple that helps burn fat, curb your appetite, and balance your blood sugar. However, it can also have some potential drawbacks. It can damage your teeth, reduce potassium, and impact insulin levels for those with diabetes. We spoke to experts to break down what apple cider vinegar can—and can’t—do for you.
What is apple cider vinegar, and why it is so popular?
Apple cider vinegar is a type of natural vinegar, says Nutritionist and Fitness Expert Adnan Munye. It’s quite popular in the natural health community for supposedly providing numerous types of health benefits. To make apple cider vinegar, yeast is first exposed to the crushed apples. Once the yeast converts the sugar in the apples to alcohol, bacteria is added. It then ferments the alcohol into acetic acid.
Plenty of research indicates that vinegar has long been used for various disinfectant and antimicrobial purposes, says Rebecca Lee, a NYC-based registered nurse and founder of Remedies For Me, a holistic health website. Apple cider vinegar is simply one of the most widely used types when it comes to natural remedies, either as a staple in the kitchen, an addition to daily diets, or a product to try to improve health and battle different health ailments.
How should you consume apple cider vinegar?
There’s actually no official recommendation regarding how much apple cider vinegar you should consume in a day. Experts generally agree small amounts are fine. For example, one to two teaspoons diluted in water to help with digestion before a meal. But taking too much can cause harm to your body.
It can also be diluted with olive oil for salad dressings, says Stella Metsovas, clinical nutritionist and author of Wild Mediterranean. Or enjoyed on-the-go with a big glass of water and fresh fruit. Apple cider vinegar in tablet form does exist. But ingesting it in that form is not recommended.
“The taste of vinegar is very off-putting for most people,” says Lee. However, you can adapt by drinking a small amount every day, she adds. In Lee’s personal experience, she trained herself by first drinking one small teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a large glass of water. As she adapted, she worked her way up to two teaspoons, and then eventually to two tablespoons. “You can also drink apple cider vinegar straight, mix it in teas, sprinkle it over food or salads, or apply it topically,” Lee says.
What are the benefits of adding apple cider vinegar to your diet?
On the whole, apple cider vinegar has been shown to reduce body fat, aid in weight loss, ward off post-meal blood sugar spikes, help you to eat less overall, and increase a sense of fullness. According to Registered Dietitian Lisa Hayim, it can also specifically help individuals with Type 2 diabetes. The vinegar may slow down the breakdown of starch into sugar, which leads to smaller blood sugar surges. Lee notes that it can minimize your risk of heart disease and stroke since it lowers cholesterol levels. Additionally, it may even kill cancerous cells. Finally, Metsovas says that the organic acids, flavonoids, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals found naturally in apple cider vinegar could boost gut health.
“Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties. [This] means it could potentially help everything from skin issues to headaches,” says Elizabeth Moye, a nutritionist and certified health coach. “It regulates blood sugar levels and fights diabetes. Because it is full of malic acid, it is said to majorly help with digestion. Apple cider vinegar helps to break down carbohydrates, particularly starches, which makes it great for relieving bloating, too. It aids in weight loss and is a solid go-to when it comes to sugar cravings because ingesting vinegar helps you feel more satiated in the short-term. Apple cider vinegar can also help balance your pH, encourage lymphatic drainage, and enhance circulation. [This] makes it a great tool when it comes to detoxification.”
Are there any negatives or potential side effects of consuming ACV?
Excess consumption of apple cider vinegar can lead to several side effects, says Munye. These include decreased appetite, nausea, a reduction in potassium levels in the body, injury to your teeth and esophagus (or stomach burns).
“It’s acidic, and more is not necessarily better,” warns Hayim. “The high acid content can damage the lining of the throat, erode teeth enamel, and even damage stomach lining. And, not all apple cider vinegar is the same. The less processed version will be unfiltered and appear murkier and brown. The more clear and translucent, the more likely it has been filtered and lost some nutrients.”
For the most part, it’s better to change your diet and workout routine than to rely on vinegar as a magical health solution. If you do choose to add apple cider vinegar to your diet, be sure to talk to your doctor first.