Could apple cider vinegar possibly live up to all the hype? Even if you’ve never used it before, you’ve most certainly heard its name mentioned in numerous health articles as an all-powerful “cure-all.” But it turns out that apple cider vinegar, or ACV for short, is not just a fad. It’s antimicrobial and antioxidant. It regulates blood sugar, pH levels, and even promotes healthy gut flora. And also a whole lot more! Keep reading to learn more about what ACV is, how it can help you, and the best apple cider vinegar to buy (along with what kinds to avoid).
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
You’ve surely heard of both apple cider and vinegar. But what exactly is apple cider vinegar? Well, first, apple juice is required to make apple cider. Unfiltered apple juice (complete with pulp intact) is left to ferment, resulting in cider. Then, that cider is left to ferment again, which turns it into vinegar. During the fermentation process, bacteria turns into what’s known as acetic acid, which gives ACV (and vinegar in general) many of its health benefits.
Basically, vinegar can be produced from any type of fermentable carbohydrate. So why use apples? Because included in apple cider vinegar is what’s known as the “mother,” which makes ACV even healthier than other types of vinegar.
During a slow fermentation process, the bacteria of acetic acid grows on top of the liquid surface. The “mother” of vinegar is the combination of acetic acid bacteria and yeast which accumulates during this process. (1)
It actually looks kind of gross, though, so why leave it in? Because the mother is full of good bacteria and beneficial enzymes, which can improve one’s health in a way beyond what you can get from simply eating an apple. (2)
The murkier your apple cider vinegar is, the better. The mother can only form if the vinegar is unfiltered and unprocessed. That’s why, as we’ll go over further down below, the best apple cider vinegar is undoubtedly the kind sold raw. (3)
Now that you have a better idea of just what apple cider vinegar is, let’s go over five fantastic benefits that it has to offer. As we’ll outline briefly later on, though, there are even way more!
At the end of the article, we’ll go over the best apple cider vinegar to look for, and which kinds to skip.
Five Fantastic Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
1. Apple Cider Vinegar Helps Control Diabetes
Apple cider vinegar has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics. In one study conducted by Arizona State University, test subjects who consumed apple cider vinegar with their meals saw reduced glucose levels by as much as 34%! And taking ACV at night can even result in lower blood glucose levels the next morning. (4, 5)
But why does it work so well? One theory is that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar may prevent complex carbohydrates from completely digesting and breaking down into sugar. The end result, of course, would be less sugar floating around in the bloodstream. (3)
There’s still, however, a lot of research waiting to be done – a crazy thought considering that the diabetes industry, estimated to be worth around $250 billion, cannot take the time to look deeper into a potential remedy that only costs a few dollars!
2. Apple Cider Vinegar is an Appetite Suppressant
Apple Cider Vinegar has recently become wildly popular in the fitness and weight loss community. Many claim (myself included) that ACV works as a useful appetite suppressant. Some take it before a meal to prevent themselves from overeating, while others might take it when they’re done eating for the day and want to subdue hunger pangs.
The reason for this may be the way that ACV’s acetic acid acts when it enters the digestive system, giving a person an increased sense of satiety. Again, there’s still a lot of “official” research waiting to be done, but with ACV as cheap as it is, there’s no harm in trying it for yourself. (6)
Apple cider vinegar can also help control those pesky sugar and refined carb cravings. As mentioned above, this is likely due to its ability to regulate blood sugar.
In a recent article, I wrote about the numerous benefits of intermittent fasting. It turns out that ACV is a perfect companion for intermittent fasters, as the vinegar itself is nearly calorie free. It has just around 3 calories per serving, which is not enough to trigger an insulin spike.
Therefore, you can take advantage of its appetite suppressant qualities to help you get through your daily fasting periods. Furthermore, as we’ll go over below, it’s great for the gut and is even touted as a beneficial digestive aid.
Note: Be careful about adding honey or other sweet beverages to your ACV when consuming it in your fasting state, as these could potentially reset the clock on your fast.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar Helps Regulate pH Levels
Like all vinegars, apple cider vinegar is considered to be acidic. Foods that are acidic have a pH level of under 7, while anything alkaline has a pH above 7. ACV’s pH level, for example, is somewhere between 3 and 5%. (7)
The blood, on the other hand, must always maintain a pH balance of between 7.35 and 7.45. The body works very hard at maintaining this balance, and will even extract resources from other organs in order to balance blood pH.
(It’s important to note that different parts of the body have different pH levels – for example, the stomach must be acidic in order to break down foods. But a balanced blood pH is especially important for the body to survive.)
Proponents of the Alkaline Diet say that eating more alkaline-forming foods is highly beneficial, because it allows the blood to maintain a healthy pH level on its own without much extra effort by the rest of the body. This frees up many resources for our body to fight off disease or regulate other bodily systems.
So where does apple cider vinegar come in? A person on the alkaline diet may instinctively avoid ACV due to its acidic nature. However, just because something is acidic doesn’t mean it can’t be “alkaline-forming.” Citrus fruits, for example, are acidic, yet have an alkalizing effect on the body when consumed. According to a number of sources, such as the web sites Healthy Bliss and Superfoodly, ACV works in much the same manner. (7, 8)
To sum it up, apple cider vinegar is alkalizing, promotes healthy pH levels, and is perfectly compatible with the Alkaline Diet – all good things!
Note: Some uses for ACV involve applying it topically, as it’s been known heal wounds and sunburns. Be cautious, though, because the vinegar is still very acidic on its own.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar is Great for the Gut
As apple cider vinegar comes from apples, it works as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are foods which help nourish the good bacteria already present in your gut. If you’re unfamiliar with the topic of gut health, bacteria and the immune system, you can learn more here. Essentially, having an adequate amount of “good bacteria” in our guts is highly important for our overall health and wellbeing.
The type of prebiotic found in ACV is known as pectin, which helps strengthen helpful bacteria while ridding the gut of harmful pathogens. It may even be the pectin that aids in both the appetite suppressant and blood sugar-regulating qualities of ACV that we mentioned above.
But wait, there’s more! It turns out that ACV is both a prebiotic and a probiotic! When ingesting a probiotic, you’re actually introducing brand new helpful bacteria to your microbiome.
A 2016 study found that the mother in ACV contains 5 kinds of living, beneficial strains of bacteria: oenococcus, acetobacter, gluconobacter, komagataeibacter and lactobacillus. (7, 9)
It’s still hard to say whether apple cider vinegar works as well as other fermented probiotic foods, such as kimchi or kombucha, but there’s no denying that it’s good for your gut in a number of ways.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar is Good for Heart Health
Apple cider vinegar is also good for the heart! Studies done on rats in 2008, for example, have shown that ACV is able to lower cholesterol levels. Cholesterol in itself is not necessarily bad, but high levels of it can clog the arteries, forcing the heart to pump harder than it needs to. The same rats from the study also showed lower triglyceride levels as well. (1)
Additionally, apple cider vinegar is known to contain polyphenols, compounds which help fight against disease and oxidative stress. Polyphenols can reduce the threat of cardiovascular disease by healing the heart and by fighting free radicals.
Most studies on ACV in particular have been conducted on animals. However, a study on humans in relation to heart health was conducted in Japan with just regular vinegar. Regular vinegar, of course, lacks the added benefits of the mother that you get with ACV. But it still contains acetic acid, from which many of ACV’s beneficial properties are derived. (10)
And the end result? Triglyceride levels, cholesterol and blood pressure were all reduced in the human test subjects! If you know someone suffering from heart-related issues, it would be wise to introduce them to apple cider vinegar.
These are just 5 of many benefits that apple cider vinegar has to offer. We will likely do another followup article in the near future, but a few of the other benefits of ACV include:
- It helps kill harmful bacteria like salmonella and e.coli
- Apple cider vinegar contains potassium, a vital mineral and electrolyte
- ACV helps the body better absorb iron, a nutrient in which many around the world are deficient
- It can help soothe a sunburn. Rather than drink it, add a cup or so to a bathtub filled with water
- Vinegar, in general, has been used for healing wounds since the time of Hippocrates
- ACV can even be used as a cleaning solution
- Gargling with apple cider vinegar and warm water can help soothe a sore throat
- Apple cider vinegar can help remove warts, control candida overgrowth and still so much more!
What is the Best Apple Cider Vinegar?
When shopping for apple cider vinegar, you want to look out for a couple of keywords: raw, unfiltered, and mother. If the label doesn’t include these words, and just says something like “organic” or “natural,” avoid it. That generally means you’ll want to stay away from ACV produced by major food brands like Heinz.
Now which brands to look for? The undisputed king of raw and unfiltered ACV, which virtually everyone seems to vouch for, is the vinegar sold by Bragg. You can order it from places like Amazon or the Vitamin Shoppe for just a few dollars a bottle. (The price seems especially high on Amazon for some reason.)
For the record, at the time of writing, Bragg is the only brand that I have any experience with. There are, however, several more products out there that come with the mother:
- Dynamic Health: Apple Cider Vinegar With “mother”
- plnt: Organic Apple Cider Vinegar With Mother
- And there’s even another variety by Bragg which contains honey!
How to Drink Apple Cider Vinegar
After all the talk about health benefits and which brand to buy, you’re probably still wondering exactly how you’re supposed to consume apple cider vinegar. I was pretty confused myself before I first tried it. Luckily, Bragg has some useful information on the back of their label.
For awhile, I drank ACV mixed with honey, which tasted great. But as I got more intermittent fasting, I experimented with no added sweetener at all. And to my surprise, I liked the taste! I personally have no problems drinking apple cider vinegar together with nothing but water, though that may not be to everyone’s liking.
Here are a few more ideas from around the web:
- ACV with honey, lemon and garlic: great for colds and congestion (Everyday Roots)
- ACV with honey, lemon and ginger: Get a vitamin C boost while warming yourself up in the winter! (Gnowfglins)
- ACV berry mix: Combine apple cider vinegar with a powerful combination of antioxidant berries and tasty almond milk (Lisa Douglas)
There are plenty more ways to enjoy apple cider vinegar, so get creative! Or keep it simple like me, and just drink it with water.
Potential Side Effects
As mentioned above, apple cider vinegar is acidic until it reaches the digestive tract. Therefore, it could potentially damage things like tooth enamel or burn the throat. It may also cause indigestion if you drink too much. That’s why you should always be sure to dilute it with an adequate amount of water, and gradually build up your tolerance if you’re still new to it. (11)
How Much Should I Drink?
Generally, you should be fine with up to three teaspoons a day, three times daily. Some people gradually get used to it and end up drinking quite a bit more per day. There doesn’t seem to be a general consensus of just how much would be considered harmful, but always take it slow and stop if you experience any symptoms or side effects.
If you’ve always been curious about apple cider vinegar but haven’t yet given it a try, hopefully you have a better understanding of what it is and how it can help you. And if you’re already familiar with this miracle cure-all, maybe you learned some new ways in which you’ve already been benefiting your body all along. While Bragg is generally considered the best apple cider vinegar out there, don’t be afraid to experiment with other brands, as long as they contain the “mother.” And if you have any suggestions on new ways to enjoy ACV, feel free to leave a comment!