Over the years, I’ve been routinely asked about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar (ACV) for weight loss and blood sugar control. Exploring how ACV is made and any evidence behind the claims can help you discern whether to take it as a supplement or enjoy adding it more to weekly recipes.
On a basic level, ACV is made from apples or apple scraps, water and a little sugar or yeast. Over time, this mixture ferments and the sugar in the fruit changes to alcohol and then acetic acid. By this point ACV is calorie free, and the raw version contains probiotics as well as vitamins and minerals.
This type of ACV is cloudy looking as it contains several strains of probiotics or good bacteria known as “the mother” and is labeled raw, organic and unpasteurized ACV. This is typically the type of ACV used for health purposes and is more expensive than the filtered kind. There are also numerous recipes for making your own ACV. They taste similar, but many people feel the raw ACV has a fuller and more complex flavor.
Food companies may strain or filter the ACV to give it a clear appearance, meaning the mother along with the majority of nutrients are removed. ACV may also be heated or pasteurized to kill any remaining bacteria to keep it from continuing to process and help maintain a consistent flavor over time.
Since ACV is a strong acid, it is not recommended for people to take medicinally if they have stomach ulcers, GERD (gastrointestinal, esophageal reflux disease) or kidney issues. It can also cause weakened tooth enamel and tooth decay, low potassium levels, bone loss, indigestion and nausea. If applied topically, it can cause skin burns. And taking any ACV product straight or undiluted can damage the esophagus over time.
Also make sure to be careful with raw ACV products that are “homemade,” such as those found at farmer’s markets and roadside stands, as the risk of harmful strains of bacteria such as E. coli are higher. These type of ACV products are not recommended during pregnancy, for young children, older adults or anyone with a compromised immune system.
While there is not a huge body of evidence, research suggests ACV may help with:
Weight loss – The fiber found in raw ACV can slow digestion, decrease appetite and keep people feeling full longer. Caution for anyone with gastroparesis or slow digestion time.
Blood sugar control – Some studies suggest taking ACV can help control blood sugars for people with diabetes.
Cholesterol – There is not enough evidence to show that ACV lowers cholesterol levels.
Detox – Insufficient evidence to show any detox affect. Remember the kidney and liver constantly work to detox in the body. Eating healthy helps the body’s detox abilities more than a detox diet.
Make sure to talk to your provider before starting ACV, as it can also interfere with certain conditions and also medications such as diuretics, diabetes drugs and digoxin. If taken medicinally, the recommended general dose is 1 tablespoon or 15 milliliters per day. Start slowly and assess any side effects. The upper daily limit is 2 Tablespoons per day.
Other ways to incorporate ACV into meal plans:
Add 1 teaspoon to 8 ounces of water and build to 1 tablespoon to 16 to 20 ounces of water. Spice it up with other flavors, such as a few squeezes of lime, lemon or orange, shaved ginger slices, honey, stevia, or cinnamon with a little apple juice.
Add to marinades and salad dressings.
Mix into soups and stews.
Add to a daily smoothie.
As with all supplements, do the research, talk to your provider and, if you decide to try it, start slow and build over time and be aware of how your body responds.
Mustard and herb marinade
This is a simple, delicious marinade for chicken, pork, seitan or tofu. Marinate for 6 to 8 hours or overnight for meats or 1 hour for tofu or seitan.
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon dried sage
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup olive oil
1. Mix mustard, vinegar, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl and slowly whisk in olive oil.
2. Use immediately or place in jar with lid and store in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
3. Shake well before using.
4. Discard after marinating. Only use fresh marinade for basting during cooking.
For more information on adopting healthier lifestyle changes, contact Kitty Finklea, lifestyle coach, registered dietitian and personal trainer at McLeod Health and Fitness Center, 843-777-3000.