It may seem as though every wellness guru, Youtuber, and health-inclined friend is now being sponsored by Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar; I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that if you drink a shot full of ACV every morning, you’re guaranteed to lose weight and flush your system of toxins. But don’t be fooled by the current hype into thinking that it’s just a “superfood of the moment” fad that will be replaced just as quickly with the next berry, plant extract or ancient grain. On the contrary, apple cider vinegar has been used as a healthy elixir for centuries. In fact, it was used in the ancient cultures of Egypt, Greece and Babylonia, among others, as an antibiotic and to clean and heal wounds. While modern day use has evolved, it has been proved to have antimicrobial and antiglycemic effects, and has anecdotally been found to help with digestion, acne, hair luster, and much more. Take a look at all the amazing properties of ACV and how you can incorporate it into your every-day life:
A 2018 study found that ACV has multiple antimicrobial and antifungal effects, specifically on E-coli, S. aureus and C. albicans. This is especially exciting news given that, with all the antibiotics pumped into milk, meat, and a whole host of other food products, bacteria are becoming resistant to our standard antibiotics. The authors of the study hypothesize that adding ACV to a healthy diet could lessen certain acute infections, autoimmune disregulation or antibiotic redundancy.
A British study found that when apple cider vinegar was added to the diets of both normal and diabetic rats for 4 weeks, it decreased their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and increased HDL (the good cholesterol) levels. The Journal of Diabetes Research also found that vinegar has a glucose-lowering and insulin sensitivity-improving effect on people with glucose abnormalities–e.g. diabetics. The same article goes on to state that studies suggest that vinegar may decrease glucose levels in patients with Type-2 Diabetes, decrease circulating lipid levels, protecting from a build-up of lipids in the liver and skeletal muscle. With diabetes marked as the seventh leading cause of death in America by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are exciting and important findings.
It’s important to note that these studies used regular vinegar when conducting these tests–not necessarily apple cider vinegar. Acetic acid, the main component of all vinegar, and the thing that gives it its distinct smell and taste–that sour, astringent, tang–is the cause of many of these health benefits. Whether it’s white or red wine vinegar, sherry or pomegranate, the acetic acid in all vinegar actually blocks or slows the absorption of starch.
This one is controversial and hotly contested. Can apple cider vinegar really cause weight loss? First of all, you should be skeptical of anyone that tells you that a certain product is guaranteed to make you drop pounds. If there were a magic weight loss pill or food, don’t you think we’d all be taking it? Everyone’s body is different and nothing will have the same effect on everyone. However, there is evidence that consuming ACV regularly does result in modest weight loss, especially when combined with a healthy diet and exercise regimen. CNN questions whether the weight loss is because of the ACV itself or because it is part of an overhaul of unhealthy eating habits. They cite dietitian Carol Johnston as saying that it’s unclear what the actual cause is. Still, there are results, and that’s positive!
So, if all vinegars have antiglycemic/lipid-lowering properties, what is so special about ACV?
One big difference between ACV and other vinegars is fermentation. If you’ve ever taken a close look at a bottle of Bragg ACV, you’ll notice a bunch of sediment at the bottom: that stringy, dusty matter that looks very much like what you’ll find at the bottom of a bottle of kombucha. And it is! With kombucha, it’s called the SCOBY; for ACV, it’s the “mother of vinegar“: connected strand-like chains of beneficial amino acids and bacteria that cause a secondary fermentation process and ultimately give rise to the vinegar (the first fermentation process is what turns the juice from the apples into alcohol). This mother is full of “friendly” bacteria that form during the fermentation process, when bacteria or yeast feed on the natural sugars of the apples, actually predigesting certain food components, and therefore making them easier for you and your gut to digest and to absorb nutrients from. The Tufts University Health & Nutrition Newsletter explains that “People who are lactose-intolerant usually tolerate yogurt or kefir, because the lactose sugar in these products has been partly broken down by the bacteria in them. Even vegetables can benefit from fermentation: Making cabbage into sauerkraut or kimchi increases glucosinolate compounds believed to fight cancer.” You’d be hard-pressed to find an unfiltered non-apple cider vinegar, and you can, of course, buy filtered, pasteurized apple cider vinegar; but to get the full effects, all those good enzymes and probiotics, you want a bottle with the mother included, which means raw, unfiltered, and unpasteurized.
How Do I Use ACV?
So you’re on board for all the wonderful benefits that ACV can bring to your life. But how do you use it? I personally take 1-2 teaspoons every now and then in a glass of water or I’ll add some to my detox bath. Check out all the diverse ways that you can get that gut-strengthening, lipid-lowering, antimicrobial tonic into your daily routine!
As a morning tonic
Put one teaspoon of ACV into an 8-oz. glass of warm water and drink first thing in the morning. Lemon juice is a great addition and highly recommended. If you really can’t stand the taste of the vinegar, try adding a tiny dash of maple syrup to sweeten it up and mask that astringency. You’ll be starting your day with a dose of good bacteria and vitamin C and hydrating at the same time.
As an ingredient
Some people really do not like the idea of drinking vinegar–no matter what else is in the drink. For those pickier health nuts–but really, for everyone!–I am a big fan of using apple cider vinegar in dressings. Instead of lemon juice or balsamic, use 1-2 teaspoons of ACV, mix with olive oil and drizzle over fresh greens and vegetables. You’ll get that nice tang, but not a mouthful of the mother.
As a moisturizer
It may seem counter-intuitive, but apple cider vinegar is a wonderful natural moisturizer. Women’s Health recommends mixing 2 tablespoons of ACV with one cup water and pouring on your hair after washing. The acetic acid removes residue in your hair that is causing it to be dull and damaged. Your scalp can also benefit, as the vinegar balances your scalp’s pH levels. For a scalp restorer and dandruff treatment, mix together equal parts ACV and water and massage into your scalp before shampooing.
In a detox bath
You’ll know from my article on Detox Baths how important it is to let your body rest and steam out all the toxins that build up over the course of a day and even a week. Giving your skin–your body’s largest organ!–a little flush on a regular basis is so important to maintaining balance. Now you can combine the purifying steam of the bath with the balancing, antimicrobial benefits of apple cider vinegar: The Healthy Home Economist recommends an apple cider vinegar detox bath. This bath is great for everyone, but especially for those with candida issues, as the ACV resets your body’s pH to a slightly acidic level, or for those with issues naturally eliminating uric acid (those with arthritis, tendonitis, other joint issues, gout, e.g.).