In the natural healthcare community, apple cider vinegar has been proclaimed to have numerous health benefits. Many of my patients have asked me what I think about it, curious about whether or not it really lives up to all the claims…
Is there any evidence that consuming apple cider vinegar can provide health benefits, or are these claims all just a bunch of hype?
In this article, we’ll explore these topics related to apple cider vinegar:
- A few of the potential benefits
- Some of the risks (and a couple of cautionary guidelines you need to know)
- 4 Ways to incorporate it into your diet if you’re inclined to try it out for yourself
How is Apple Cider Vinegar Made?
Before going any further, let me establish that from this point forward, I am going to be referring to organic raw apple cider vinegar (ACV). This product is different from clear, filtered vinegar. ACV is made through a two-step fermentation processes.
First, apples are crushed and exposed to yeast, which ferments the natural sugars in the apples and turns the sugar to alcohol. Bacteria are then added, which results in further fermentation, turning the alcohol into acetic acid. When the final product is unfiltered, strands of proteins (referred to as the “mother”), enzymes, and beneficial bacteria remain in the solution. This is what gives ACV its murky appearance. These healthy ingredients will settle to the bottom of the bottle, so be sure to shake the contents before consuming!
Bragg’s makes the most popular product, which is unfiltered, organic, and unpasteurized.
What’s In Apple Cider Vinegar?
The compounds contained in ACV have each been associated with a variety of potential health benefits. These include:
- Acetic acid
Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
Relief from Acid Reflux and Heartburn
Many of my patients with heartburn and reflux think their symptoms due to too much stomach acid, and often, so do their doctors. They end up taking over-the-counter or prescription antacids, acid blockers, and proton-pump inhibitors. It turns out that most cases of heartburn are actually caused by insufficient stomach acid, so these meds never solve the real cause of the problem…
Several of my patients have found that taking ACV is quite helpful.
Other possible causes of heartburn are an imbalanced stomach pH, a lack of digestive enzymes, and too few probiotics. These nutrients are contained in ACV, so try adding 1-2 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water, and drink it 2 or 3 minutes before eating to ease reflux and heartburn. The acetic acid may help break down food and reduce the symptoms.
Improved Sensitivity to Insulin (help for pre-diabetes)
One study published in Diabetes Care  indicated that vinegar can significantly improve postprandial insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant subjects. This was in response to a high-carbohydrate (87 grams) meal: orange juice and a white bagel with butter.
Here’s the bottom line, I don’t recommend that anyone eat 87 grams of carbohydrate in one sitting!
However, if you have insulin resistance – or, as a little bit of insurance, you’d like to improve your sensitivity to your own insulin – ACV may help. It certainly won’t have the strong action of medication for insulin sensitivity, though. If you are taking any drugs for diabetes or pre-diabetes, check with your doctor before trying ACV.
This is one proclaimed benefit that I never mention to my patients who desire to lose weight… But with an internet search, it’s going to come up. So, here’s where the claims come from:
Because ACV can slow gastric emptying (and perhaps because it causes mild nausea in some people), it can result in a decrease in appetite and the sensation of fullness. Therefore, a reduction in caloric intake could occur – and hence, weight loss would be the outcome.
ACV contains about 5% acetic acid, which makes it a weak acid. In its concentrated form (don’t drink it straight out of the bottle), it will have rather strong acidic effects. Possible risks of using concentrated ACV are:
- Skin burns
- Throat burns
- Erosion of tooth enamel
When ACV is diluted properly and taken (initially) in very small doses, increasing gradually, these effects should not be an issue for most people. Also reported are potential drug interactions, so if you are taking medication, always check with your doctor before trying ACV.
4 Ways to Use Apple Cider Vinegar
I recommend that you purchase Bragg’s Organic Raw ACV. Due to it’s recent popularity, you’ll find it in every grocery store these days.
1. ACV Drink
A typical recipe is 1 tablespoon of ACV, plus a bit of local honey (to taste, usually about 1-2 teaspoons), added to about 32 ounces of water. For some people, the addition of the honey isn’t necessary.
Personally, my favorite way to incorporate ACV in my day is by drinking bone broth. I prefer salty, savory flavors over sweet ones. When I make my bone broth, I only use 1-1.5 tablespoons of ACV in a 6-quart stock pot of bones and water. So, quite often I’ll add an additional half teaspoon of ACV to a large mug of warm Bone Broth. I usually add 2 large Himalayan salt crystals to my morning mug as well. Yup, I like my salt!
3. Salad Dressing
This one is pretty simple. Instead of lemon juice or Balsamic vinegar, try mixing ACV with extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil to make a savory dressing for your fresh salad. I also use this on steamed or broiled veggies like Brussels sprouts and asparagus.
4. Homemade Mayonnaise
While I typically use fresh squeezed lemon juice in my homemade mayonnaise, I have tried it with ACV. Here’s my recipe:
2 egg yolks, preferably from organic, pastured eggs
- 1 cup of oil, either extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s) – make sure to shake the bottle first
- 1 tablespoon purified water
- 1 teaspoon Celtic Sea salt
- Before you start, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature.
- Put the egg yolks in a food processor or blender. Sprinkle with salt and add water.
- Start blending while slowly pouring the oil into the feed tube.
- After the mayonnaise has gotten thick, add the ACV and gently mix with a spoon.
You know that it would be imprudent to imbue any single nutrient or remedy with the sole power to cure something that ails us. Keep in mind that consuming 1-3 teaspoons of AVC per day will only provide a very minute amount of the nutrients listed above. So, it’s your overall good habits that matter!
It’s true, though, that little things done consistently over time add up, and can make profound improvements in your wellbeing. So in conclusion, consuming ACV – when included in a complete wellness lifestyle – can certainly have it’s place. You are your own best nutrition guru, so try out apple cider vinegar and see how you feel!
Have you tried ACV? Beyond the dietary uses, what about using it in your hair? I’ve never tried this, and I’m wondering if it really works. I’ve read claims that say it removes residue and makes the hair shinier. Let me know about your experience!
- Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16015276
- Vinegar and peanut products as complementary foods to reduce postprandial glycemia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16321601
- Vinegar Improves Insulin Sensitivity to a High-Carbohydrate Meal in Subjects With Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/27/1/281.long