Dietitian Explains Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar (and How to Drink It)

The long list of health benefits of apple cider vinegar are touted by many, but how many are backed by science? Read our guide to the proven benefits and how to drink ACV, written by a Registered Dietician.

Beautiful red apples harvested for apple cider vinegar. The health benefits of apple cider vinegar are touted by many. Read a Registered Dietician's take on the real benefits.
Credit: Image by Sydney Rae via Unsplash

If you’ve used apple cider vinegar in the kitchen, you know its tart flavor can bring pizazz to a recipe. But its delicious taste is only one aspect of its purported benefits. For thousands of years, apple cider vinegar has been a key player in many home remedies. You may be wondering which of those are backed by scientific evidence, and which are simply hogwash. If so, you’re in the right place—In this article, we’ll explore apple cider vinegar’s health claims and its positive potential, so you can confidently decide if including it in your wellness routine is right for you.

What are the health benefits of apple cider vinegar?

Apple with dew.
Credit: Photo by Jeremy Bezanger

Apple cider vinegar is an age-old home remedy (think Hippocrates in 400 B.C.) that remains relevant, even getting endorsements from beloved celebrities like Jennifer Aniston. It is made by fermenting the liquid of crushed apples with bacteria and yeast until the sugars turn to alcohol, and then eventually to vinegar. Its acetic and malic acids give it a sour taste, which is why it is commonly used as an ingredient in salads, sauces, marinades, chutneys, and preservatives.

Even more noteworthy than its delicious flavor is its list of purported health benefits. Apple cider vinegar has presented antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, leading researchers to believe that it can help treat ailments that stem from bacteria, viruses, and even fungi. Health claims suggest that apple cider vinegar’s benefits may also include:

  • Weight loss support
  • Improved blood sugar management
  • Reduced cholesterol levels
  • Enhanced skin health

As a daily supplement, apple cider vinegar can help prevent and even treat a host of body woes, all with a single swig. You may notice several positive health effects after adding apple cider vinegar to your daily menu, but what does the research show?

Does apple cider vinegar help you lose weight? 

Image of woman on a hike looks out at ocean. Apple cider vinegar may impact hunger by reducing the mealtime glycemic load.
Credit: Photo by Mike Von Nslohzhrnwa Unsplash

A recent study, although small-scale, showed a positive connection between apple cider vinegar intake and weight loss. Participants who consumed apple cider vinegar and a reduced calorie diet saw a more significant weight loss than those who consumed the reduced calorie diet alone. Furthermore, those who consumed apple cider vinegar saw a greater reduction in their body mass index, hip circumference, and visceral adiposity. The same study showed a reduced plasma triglyceride concentration and increased HDL cholesterol in participants who consumed apple cider vinegar. 1

Researchers believe that apple cider vinegar helps reduce appetite, leading to decreased calorie intake overall. In addition, it is believed that vinegar may impact hunger by reducing the mealtime glycemic load. This means that your blood glucose doesn’t surge and then plummet again, which is often connected to overeating.

Does organic apple cider vinegar help with blood sugar management?

Hands pick up lettuce
Credit: Photo by Phuc Long

According to a recent meta-analysis, yes, consuming apple cider vinegar can have a positive effect on blood sugar levels. A review of six studies, including 317 participants with type II diabetes, found that apple cider vinegar helped improve fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c levels. There is certainly more room for continued research, but studies completed thus far are encouraging.2

Of course, it is important to discuss any new healthcare measures with your doctor as they may affect lab values or medication requirements.

Does organic apple cider vinegar support skin health?

image of Woman in water smile. Apple cider vinegar may support skin health.
Credit: Image by Jerenj Graj

ACV fans believe it holds many potential benefits for skin health. While there is room for additional research, current studies support their claims. A recent study found that the antimicrobial properties of dietary apple cider vinegar could reduce the impact of harmful bacteria, such as Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, both of which can have a negative effect on the skin.3

With its noted influence on the skin’s bacteria, it can be assumed that apple cider vinegar may help treat skin concerns such as acne, acne scars, eczema, and sunburns, among others. Diluted apple cider vinegar can be used externally as a daily toner, leaving your skin soft and bright while locking in moisture. Don’t forget to add water, though—to avoid irritation, it is extremely important to dilute apple cider vinegar before applying it to the skin. Its ascetic nature can cause flaking and redness if it’s too strong.

Does apple cider vinegar help treat sickness?

Cat on bed with houseplants and sun
Credit: Photo by Huy Phan

Its antibacterial nature means it’s a cold and flu remedy that may be promising. Adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water helps to alkalize the body. Alkaline environments are less hospitable to bacteria and viruses. You might try drinking diluted apple cider vinegar at the first sign of illness and continue until the symptoms subside. And if you’re already sick, it’s probably worth drinking anyway because it still may help your body fend off germs.

As always, consult with your medical provider when dealing with an illness, especially if symptoms worsen or do not subside after several days.

How much apple cider vinegar should I drink daily?

Woman wine glass water
Credit: Try diluting ACV in water. Photo by Milada Vigerova

While research is limited regarding the best practices for drinking apple cider vinegar, most people can safely consume moderate amounts. In general, it’s best to start with a small amount and work your way up to a maximum of two tablespoons daily, diluted in water.

Talk with your medical provider to determine the right amount for your individual needs. And, of course, it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your intake based on your tolerance level. 

How To Drink Apple Cider Vinegar

Woman wet hair swimming. Rinsing with apple cider vinegar can leave hair soft and shiny. It has so many uses!
Credit: Photo by Erick Larregui

There are several ways to consume apple cider vinegar. Finding the best method for your routine might take some trial and error.

Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic, with a distinct, robust taste. Many people mix one to two tablespoons with eight ounces of water to dilute both the flavor and the acidity. You can enjoy it mixed with a glass of lukewarm water before bed, in the morning, or during a meal.

You can also get creative and add it to recipes—Try this “fiery” brew for added anti-inflammatory support, or use it as a tangy base in a salad dressing or vinaigrette.

If consuming apple cider vinegar in your diet isn’t your jam, you can still reap the benefits by incorporating it into your self-care routine. ACV can be used to make homemade skin-care and haircare products to enhance your natural beauty.

For example, apple cider vinegar has been known to remove residue and built-up gunk leftover from various beauty products. It’s also a natural detangler that revitalizes your mane, leaving your hair soft and silky. Enthusiasts love how an after-shower ACV rinse leaves hair gleaming and shiny.

To use for your hair, mix one part apple cider vinegar with one part water and spritz onto the scalp after shampooing. Then, massage it into the scalp, towel dry, and do it again next week!

To use apple cider vinegar as part of your skincare routine, mix one part apple cider vinegar with two parts water and lightly dab it on your skin with a cotton ball after cleansing. Let it dry, and you’re ready to go!

Potential Side Effects of Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar

Holding glass of water
Credit: Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic in nature. Photo by Manki Kim

Apple cider vinegar is generally considered safe for most adults to include in a well-balanced diet or wellness routine. However, apple cider vinegar is highly acidic in nature, so drinking large amounts can potentially cause damage to your teeth, soreness in your throat, or discomfort in your stomach. For this reason, it is recommended that you dilute the solution by mixing it with water or tea.

ACV has been shown to cause or worsen low potassium levels. Potassium plays an important role in your body’s muscle and nerve function. Therefore, if you are taking a medication that already lowers your potassium (such as common diuretics), it’s important to discuss any potential contraindications with your doctor before starting an apple cider vinegar regimen.

You should also avoid apple cider vinegar if you have been diagnosed with gastroparesis. A recent study found that apple cider vinegar may slow the rate at which food and liquids move out of your stomach and small intestine. Not exactly what you want when you’re working through gastroparesis.4

This article does not take the place of medical advice. If you have questions or concerns about including apple cider vinegar in your daily routine, it’s best to speak with your medical provider, primary doctor, or registered dietitian to discuss its potential role in your individualized needs.

 Choosing the Best Apple Cider Vinegar

Image of little apple treats apple cider vinegar next to a plate with sliced mieat, mac and cheese a small bowl of mustard with ACV
Credit: Image via Little Apple Treats

Before you zip over to the store for a bottle of apple cider vinegar, it’s important to know what you’re looking for in a product. The key is to purchase the most unadulterated vinegar you can find. Raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized, organic apple cider vinegar will have the strongest live enzymatic action and the most potent healthy bacteria.

Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar products contain the “mother,” a natural sediment floating at the bottom of the bottle. It may look off to you, but don’t be alarmed—get excited! That cloudy sediment is just a natural product of the fermentation that turns juice into vinegar.

Little Apple Treats Original Apple cider Vinegar made with organic apples.
Credit: Little Apple Treats

If you’ve visited our shop, you know we’re partial to products made with quality, organic ingredients that come from trusted sources. We’ve tried a ton of different ACVs, and the Organic Apple Cider Vinegar from Little Apple Treats is hands-down the ACV we’ve been the most impressed with.

This apple cider vinegar is a live product (AKA, it’s full of probiotics!) and it’s made with organic apples from a family farm in Sonoma County, CA. Each small batch is aged in oak barrels for two years before it’s packaged in beautiful glass bottles—looks great in your pantry, makes a gorgeous gift, and you’ll feel extra fancy pouring yourself a daily shot of it.

Should I start drinking apple cider vinegar?

Incorporating apple cider vinegar into your daily routine is a small addition that can significantly impact your overall health. From skin health to improved glucose control, the benefits of apple cider vinegar are promising—not BS at all.

Whether you’re drinking a daily glass of diluted ACV or dousing your lettuce with it, you’re bound to benefit.

Sources:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464618300483
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31667860/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788933/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25168916/

Chelsea Rae Bourgeois is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and freelance writer living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She has... More about Chelsea Rae Bourgeois, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

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