The Weight Loss Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
All About Apple Cider Vinegar: How It Can Affect Your Health, How to Cook and Clean With It, and More
You may have a friend who insists on taking apple cider vinegar shots in the morning for fat burning. Or you may have seen apple cider vinegar drinks in the refrigerated section at the grocery store. With the exploding popularity of this seemingly basic pantry staple, you’re probably wondering what the buzz is all about.
First, let’s explore exactly what apple cider vinegar, or ACV, is. ACV is made from fermented apples and water. Like other vinegars, ACV has 5 percent acidity. (1)
You may notice that there are different types of ACV available at the store. For instance, distilled ACV looks clear in the bottle, and it may be the one you’re most familiar with. (2) But raw, unfiltered or unpasteurized ACV contains a cloudy substance that floats around in the mix. This is called the “mother” and is formed by natural enzymes during fermentation. No need to be wary of it: This stringy substance usually settles to the bottom of the bottle; it’s also completely safe to consume. (3)
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Regardless of the variety, you do not have to refrigerate ACV, and it will last for a very long time. (3) Vinegar, in general, has an almost indefinite shelf life, according to The Vinegar Institute, an international trade association for vinegar manufacturers. Even if your vinegar changes appearance (it may look cloudier, for instance), it is still okay to be used. (4)
As for nutrition facts, you can be sure that ACV won’t pack on the pounds. In fact, apple cider vinegar contains only 3 calories per tablespoon, as well as no fat, carbohydrates, protein, or fiber. You can think of it as a great way to add a burst of flavor to foods without adding calories or extra salt. ()
What Are the Possible Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar?
ACV has garnered superfood status, and fans of the vinegar say that it can cure nearly everything that ails you (weight gain, digestive issues, skin woes). Truth is, there are few studies that support these uses, so while you can add it to your diet without significantly upping your risk for weight gain, it’s best to stay realistic about it.
One way ACV is weight loss friendly is it has very few calories. However, you may also have heard that some people take a shot or tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to stimulate fat burning. The fact of the matter is, taking ACV will likely do little to actually change your body composition or weight. As registered dietitian Katherine Zeratsky points out for the Mayo Clinic, this thought doesn’t have scientific support behind it — and the only way to actually lose weight is through a generally healthy diet and by incorporating fitness into your routine. (6) The advice is far less flashy than supplementing with something as trendy as ACV, but it’s exactly what really works.
That said, there is some preliminary research suggesting that ACV may be beneficial for health. One animal study showed that obese rats who took apple cider vinegar daily saw a reduction in total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels due to its antioxidant benefits. (7) It’s important to note, however, that this study was done only on rats, so it’s not known if these findings hold up when applied to humans.
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One plus about vinegar is that it’s been shown to possibly help people with type 2 diabetes. In fact, one study in theAnnals of Nutrition and Metabolismfound that taking 2 teaspoons (tsp) of vinegar with a meal containing complex carbohydrates reduced postprandial glycemia (a spike in blood sugar after a meal) by 20 percent compared with a placebo. That measure is important when it comes to managing the disease. (8) What’s more, a randomized, placebo-controlled study in theEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutritionthat looked at acetic acid (vinegar) found that people taking vinegar before a meal had an improved insulin response. (9)
That said, research isn’t in agreement across the board. An earlier small study found that ACV didn’t decrease the body’s glucose response following a carb-rich meal. (10) All that is to say, the effect isn’t so clear.
Another piece of evidence for vinegar’s effects for diabetes: A study inDiabetes Carefound that people with diabetes who drink 2 tablespoons (tbsp) of ACV before bed with an ounce of cheese had reduced fasting glucose levels the next morning compared with a control group who ate the cheese snack with water. (11) As promising as that sounds, it’s important to note that this research involved only 11 participants. It’s an extremely small sample to generalize to the public. And it goes without saying that if you have type 2 diabetes, you should work closely with your healthcare team (doctor, registered dietitian) on the best way to control the condition, rather than relying on ACV.
Finally, beyond weight and diabetes, ACV may have some surprising properties. In a case study in the journalAlternative Therapies in Health and Medicine,doctors cured a 32-year-old woman suffering from chronic yeast infections with topically applied apple cider vinegar. (Researchers mentioned that other integrative treatments weren’t successful.) (12) That said, experts caution against putting anything in your vagina, as it can disrupt its natural pH balance. Do not try this on your own without consulting your gynecologist first.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Diabetes: A Cure or an Aid?
What Are the Possible Health Risks of Apple Cider Vinegar?
When consumed in moderation, ACV is generally safe. But ACV isn’t available in just liquid form. You can also buy ACV tablets and take it as a supplement. Companies tout these pills as a powerful source of vitamins and minerals or for weight loss or cleansing support. (, 14) But it’s important to practice caution when taking these versions of ACV.
Earlier research notes that it’s not clear that some ACV supplements even contain apple cider vinegar in the first place, and many contain several times the amount of acid found in regular vinegar, which could lead to burns when swallowed or even be toxic. () Always have a discussion with your doctor about anything you take, even if it seems as innocent or natural as vinegar.
What’s more, in this case, too much can really be a bad thing. Drinking excessive amounts of ACV could decrease potassium to hazardous levels, something that can be dangerous if you have a condition such as high blood pressure. Since ACV may interact with medication, this is another instance where you should tell your doctor if you’re regularly taking ACV. (16)
There’s also the risk of believing vinegar can do things that haven’t been proved. For instance, there is an Internet rumor that vinegar can be used to treat cancer. As CNN points out, it’s largely based on research where Japanese scientists inhibited the growth of cancer cells with vinegar. However, this was in petri dishes — far from people. They note that there are no studies in humans. If you have cancer, seek doctor care for treatment. (17)
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How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar in Your Food and Drink
One of the most common — and classic — uses of ACV is in food preparation. As vinegar brand Heinz points out, distilled ACV is a natural fit for salads and marinades, as well as canning and pickling. (The 5 percent acid content allows for pickling.) Unfiltered ACV can be used in cooking, salads, and marinades, and a teaspoon can be mixed into drinks to give sips some kick. (18) Bragg, another popular vinegar brand, suggests sprinkling ACV over popcorn. As for cooking, the pleasing tang of ACV can have a starring role in coleslaw, barbecued beef, kale chips, and even fruit syrups for mixed drinks. (19)
If you’re taking apple cider vinegar (by the spoonful, as a shot) as a supplement, stick to a limit of 1 to 2 tbsp at a time, notes the University of Washington. (16)
ACV is also used in many beauty and cleaning products, like shampoo. Overwhelmingly, it’s a safe ingredient. The Environmental Working Group rates ACV as a low overall hazard when in beauty products and an A (or lowest concern) as a cleaning ingredient. (, )
When it comes to cleaning, you’re probably already familiar with how white vinegar can be used in cleaning sprays for countertops and windows or as a refresher when added to laundry. However, there are some clever ways to incorporate it into your cleanup routine. ACV can be used to clean sticky scissors, remove sticker residue from surfaces, deodorize a coffeepot, and spray on fabrics to give them a fruity smell. (22)
Bottom line: You can use apple cider vinegar on more than just salads. The ingredient may help you control your blood sugar and can be part of a healthy diet. Just don’t rely on it as a magic weight loss cure or to control chronic health conditions.
Video: The Latest Apple Cider Vinegar Trend
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