What could possibly be sweet about something so sour? Well, recently I stumbled across a news article proclaiming the many health benefits of apple cider vinegar. Apparently, a few years back it was considered an “elixir of health.” Drinking a tablespoon was said to promote healthy blood sugar, weight loss, nutrient absorption, and cholesterol levels. That’s pretty sweet. But is there any truth to these claims? Is it really worth plugging your nose and taking a tablespoon-sized shot of this pungent liquid?
According to numerous health studies, the answer is yes. Although cholesterol levels and heart disease aren’t exactly on the radar of an average college-age person, they pose a large problem in today’s society. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which contribute to heart disease. In addition, apple cider vinegar also contains the antioxidant chlorogenic acid, which prevents cholesterol particles from becoming oxidized in the heart disease process. So based on these results, there is a high correlation between apple cider vinegar and heart health.
The nutrition program at Arizona State University has also done a lot of work with apple cider vinegar. For the past ten years, they have collected research on the effects of vinegar on the body. One of their main discoveries is that vinegar does in fact limit blood sugar spikes after eating a high-carbohydrate meal. The main component of vinegar—acetic acid—partially inhibits the digestion of carbohydrates. There is a 20-40% smaller blood sugar spike when vinegar is consumed prior to eating carbs. And all these undigested carbs play another important role in your body: feeding your good gut bacteria. When your gut bacteria are happy, your overall digestive system is happy. This is true not only for apple cider vinegar, but for all vinegars—red wine vinegar, white distilled vinegar, balsamic vinegar—because they all contain acetic acid. Although the apple cider vinegar companies do a fantastic job at promoting their product, any vinegar will provide the same carbohydrate-reducing benefits.
So now that we know what a miracle drink this is, how in the world do we drink it? Vinegar is pretty sour and generally does not smell very appetizing. What’s more, it’s highly acidic and may cause its own health problems with excessive consumption. Most vinegars contain only 5% acetic acid, but even this tiny amount of acid can still cause esophageal burns and the breakdown of your tooth enamel if you drink too much in one sitting. And by “too much,” I mean downing half a bottle of apple cider vinegar in one go, which I highly doubt anyone would voluntarily attempt to do. A safe amount is 1-2 tablespoons once or twice daily. Personally, I like to mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a mug of hot water with a spoonful of cinnamon to make an apple cider-esque drink in the morning. If you can’t handle the strong flavor of vinegar, try adding your vinegar to salads instead. That’s a surefire way to get both your greens and your daily vinegar fix. And if you eat a high-carb meal after that salad, you can enjoy your food more knowing that the vinegar will make that meal a little healthier.
For more information about the Arizona State University study, please visit https://asuonline.asu.edu/online-degree-programs/graduate/master-science-nutrition-dietetics.