Can we just take a sec to talk about the fact that a bunch of celebrities are obsessed with apple cider vinegar? Hilary Duff says she takes a shot of it in the a.m., Kourtney Kardashian drinks it twice a day, and model Miranda Kerr swears by it in the morning to help her digest.
Still, just because a celebrity raves about it doesn’t mean it’s worth a damn. Apple cider vinegar benefits aren’t exactly clear cut, but here’s what you should know before you chug the stuff:
Apple cider vinegar nutrition is pretty minimal
People consume apple cider vinegar many different ways—from mixing it into salad dressing, to throwing a tablespoon or ounce into a drink, to chugging it straight up. Here’s what you’re getting per tablespoon serving:
Clearly, there’s not a ton to it, nutrition-wise—mostly a bunch of zeroes.
People claim that apple cider vinegar can do everything from help you lose weight to control diabetes
But the evidence on a lot of these outsized claims is pretty vague or even non-existent.
First, let’s talk about weight loss. Despite all the claims that ACV is a magical elixir for dropping pounds, there is actually zero good evidence to back that up. And apple cider vinegar pills are no better for weight loss (and are kind of shady, tbh).
Some people also claim that apple cider vinegar can help lower your cholesterol—and there may be something to that, says registered dietitian Sonya Angelone, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Although, again, the evidence is kind of scant.
One animal study published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that rats who had acetic acid, the main component of vinegar, in their diets lowered their LDL (i.e. bad) cholesterol and raised their HDL (i.e. good) cholesterol. But yeah, this was a rat study, so it’s tough to say if the same applies to people—and Angelone says it requires further study.
Apple cider vinegar may also help people with lower stomach acid levels digest their food, Angelone says. “Someone with low stomach acid will feel like the food stays in their stomachs longer or they feel bloated after eating a meal,” she says, since the acid helps break down your food. “For many people, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water with the meal helps provide the much-needed acid and helps improve digestion.”
Some research also shows that vinegars (not just ACV) may help lower blood sugar in people with diabetes—although again, this was a super-small study, so the findings should be taken with a grain of salt.
In the beauty realm, its antibacterial properties also can make apple cider vinegar helpful at fighting acne—although definitely dilute it before applying it to your skin. ACV can also be used as a hair rinse to boost shine, since it clears away built up product and flattens the hair cuticle.
Any benefits might not be unique to apple cider vinegar
Here’s the thing: ACV’s potential benefits are more likely do the fact that it’s fermented and less about the actual product, says Julie Upton, R.D., co-founder of nutrition website Appetite for Health. “You could expect similar health benefits from any type of fermented fruit,” she says.
It’s also hard to say that ACV is actually all that different from other types of vinegar, Angelone says. “The benefit of ACV is from the acetic acid, the primary acid which is found in a variety of vinegars and kombucha,” she says. She says that several studies (like the above-mentioned cholesterol study) focus on acetic acid, not specifically ACV.
So theoretically, you could get a lot of those benefits from other vinegars.
How to actually use apple cider vinegar
If you can stand the taste of it, you can just down a tablespoonful or shot of it and go about your day. Or, stir it into eight ounces of water and drink it that way.
You can also use ACV to make healthy salad dressings, Upton points out. Here’s a dressing recipe to try:
So…is apple cider vinegar healthy?
Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with having apple cider vinegar in your diet. Just be aware that claims that it can help you lose weight are grossly overstated.
Upton also says that ACV is acidic, meaning it could potentially wear away your tooth enamel if you drink a lot of it. And check with your doctor first before hopping on the ACV train if you’re taking drugs to control blood sugar or help with any heart problems—Upton says the acids in apple cider vinegar can interact with some medications.
But, if you like the taste of ACV and it doesn’t bother your stomach, then go for it—in moderation (like, a tablespoon or two a day).
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