Most of the time, healthy foods are nutritional powerhouses full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other substances our bodies need. Apple cider vinegar is not quite the typical natural supplement. It’s actually a strange one but it comes with certain feats and benefits that you should be aware of.
- ? Apple cider vinegar (ACV) contains mostly acetic acid and has negligible amounts of vitamins or minerals, according to USDA data.
- ? Consuming acetic acid can increase the absorption of minerals like calcium and iron from food, benefiting nutritional intake from foods like leafy greens.
- ? ACV regulates blood sugar by deactivating certain digestive enzymes. A study from 2004 found that it improved insulin sensitivity and reduced insulin levels post-meal for various subjects, including those with type 2 diabetes.
- ? Acetic acid in ACV aids protein digestion, helping stimulate metabolism and speeding up the digestive process, potentially assisting in weight loss.
- ? It’s recommended to dilute ACV in water before consumption to avoid damaging soft tissues and consult a doctor before including it in a daily regimen, especially if on medication.
Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
As it’s produced using apples, you’d expect ACV to contain the same vitamins, minerals, enzymes, dietary fiber (pectin, in this case), and amino acids contained by apples. Looking at ACV’s nutritional information as published by the USDA, you can see that all vitamins are listed at 0%, meaning if ACV contains some of them, it’s only in negligible amounts. The situation is similar with minerals as only manganese is listed at 30% of daily requirements. However, that’s the dose you can get from one serving (239 grams), which is quite a lot of vinegar to take in a day and may carry its risks.
So what’s apple cider vinegar good for then? Besides cleaning windows and countertops of course. The most important substance contained by ACV is acetic acid. Consuming low amounts of acetic acid can support your metabolism and digestive system in multiple ways.
Increases absorption of minerals
Our bodies can absorb more minerals from our foods if we consume acetic acid (and other acids) before or during our meals. Acids, including acetic acid, increase the absorption of minerals like calcium and iron from foods. For example, leafy greens are great sources of calcium, but they also contain some compounds that suppress calcium absorption. In this case, eating your greens with added vinegar (such as vinaigrette and other vinegar-based salad dressings) can help you make the most out of them, nutritionally speaking.
Regulates blood sugar
Vinegar deactivates some of the digestive enzymes that decompose carbohydrates into sugar during digestion. This way, the absorption of sugar from any food you eat is significantly slowed down. This is particularly important for insulin-resistant people, as it gives their bodies more time to use the sugar from the bloodstream, preventing spikes in blood sugar levels. Also, because blood sugar spikes are prevented, the body needs less insulin to remove sugar from the blood.
There is strong evidence ACV can help people with diabetes and insulin resistance keep blood sugar levels in check. A study published in 2004 in Diabetes Care, a publication of the American Diabetes Association, tested the effects of apple cider vinegar intake before a meal on blood sugar levels. They used three groups of people: group 1 had 8 non-diabetic, insulin-sensitive subjects (control group), group 2 had 11 non-diabetic insulin-resistant subjects, and Group 3 was composed of 10 people with type 2 diabetes. In a fasted state, the subjects were given a solution of 20 g apple cider vinegar, 40 g water, and 1 tsp saccharine or a placebo drink. The researchers measured insulin and blood sugar levels before the meal and 30 minutes and 60 minutes after the meal.
One hour after the meal, insulin sensitivity was increased by 34% in insulin-resistant subjects and by 19% in subjects with type 2 diabetes. Even the healthy subjects from the control group showed reduced insulin levels in the blood.
If you have a prediabetes condition or already suffer from diabetes, you might consider asking your doctor’s advice on including more vinegar in your diet. As a healthy person, consuming low amounts of vinegar or other acidic foods (such as lemons and vinegar-based pickles) every day carries little to no risks and it can be good for you.
Supports protein digestion
Acids like the acetic acid contained by ACV and any other vinegar for that matter, help digest proteins. Increasing the acidity in your stomach before meals supports digestion and allows your body to use more of the protein you ingest during the meal. Using more protein supports the formation of growth hormone, which stimulates our metabolism while we’re at rest.
Speeds up digestion
You might ask yourself why it’s good to benefit from a faster digestion process. As the acetic acid and other acids naturally occurring in foods help speed up digestion, food goes faster through the digestive tract, including fats. When fats stay too long in the intestines, they absorb more.
So by consuming a small amount of ACV before or during a meal, you can shorten the time the fats from the foods you eat stay in your digestive tract and absorb less than otherwise. This might be the main reason why vinegar is praised as a weight-loss aid by many people, and there’s also some research backing this up.
How should you take apple cider vinegar?
First of all, keep in mind ACV is a highly acidic solution. It is recommended you always take it in a diluted form. Otherwise, you can damage the soft tissues in your mouth, throat, and tooth enamel. Taking it in high amounts over a long period can dangerously lower your potassium levels, but also your bone density, leading to osteoporosis.
The safest way to take apple cider vinegar is to dilute 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and drink it before or during each meal. Also, if you take any medication, talk to your doctor first to ensure apple cider vinegar doesn’t interfere with your treatment(s).