Apple cider vinegar has gotten some serious hype lately for its supposed health benefits — and if you love apple cider vinegar so much that you’re using it as a salad dressing or produce topping, by all means, go for it! Vinegar contains zero calories, enhances flavor, and poses a low health risk, except for acid reflux-sufferers and diabetics.
But if you’re solely sipping the stuff for its purported effects, science says you’re out of luck. Those claims that ACV will reverse everything from diabetes to weight gain simply don’t have the research behind them — at least for now — so there’s no need to swallow spoonfulsor waste money on apple cider vinegar pills. You’re probably better off just eating an actual apple instead, which will provide fiber and high levels of antioxidants.
Here’s what apple cider vinegar actually can and can’t do for your health.
The Best Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
Using it as a dressing may reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Using apple cider vinegar regularly may improve your health overall, but it’s not for the reason you think. When splashed on vegetables, it’s the antioxidant compounds in the produce that actually help reduce the risk of chronic disease, including cardiovascular illness, diabetes, cancer, and cognitive decline.
With that in mind, it’s difficult for scientists to determine the amount of beneficial antioxidants in the vinegar itself, which is made by adding bacterial cultures and yeast to apple juice. Since produce, pulses, nuts, and seeds provide a slew of well-established benefits, you’re 100% better off getting your immune-boosting nutrients from nature’s best foods.
It could lower cholesterol.
Due to acetic acid’s possible link to reduced cholesterol levels, fruit-based vinegar may help prevent cardiovascular disease, especially clot formation. However, the science isn’t substantial enough to make a definitive statement. Researchers don’t fully understand role of polyphenols, the antioxidants found in plant-based foods that protect cells from damage. Your best bet is swapping creamy, sugary dressings for apple cider vinegar instead.
What Apple Cider Vinegar Won’t Do
It doesn’t give you a free pass on carbs or fat.
Sorry, but drinking apple cider vinegar doesn’t mean you can go all in on bagels and chicken fingers. Some small studies linked the liquid to limiting the negative effects of high-carb, high-glycemic-index meals and reducing fat production in the liver, but you should avoid those processed carbs and fried foods anyway!
It won’t significantly lower your blood sugar.
It could help, but don’t bet on it. Some studies linked acetic acid with a mild reduction in blood sugar spikes after meals. However, current research relies on hyper-specific populations, small sample sizes, or rats, not humans. Diabetics should proceed with caution when using vinegar since it may affect how much insulin is needed for a meal or snack.
Drinking apple cider vinegar won’t make you lose weight.
While I wish it were true, just one tablespoon or shot glass of apple cider vinegar cannot help with weight loss. The only research linking vinegar to weight loss used a tiny sample size and poor controls. Plus, the subjects in the study were on a weight-loss diet to begin with.
And it won’t make you eat less.
Sorry, but nope! In fact, drinking apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach can be tough on your digestive system and cause heartburn or nausea. Steer clear of supplements, tonics, and elixirs that make this hunger-killing claim, and fill up on breakfasts that combine fiber and protein instead.
Apple cider vinegar is not a recommended cure for constipation.
Some people recommend apple cider vinegar as a home remedy for, um, getting a little backed up, but no research supports this usage. Take caution before using any food to treat a medical condition, and speak to your healthcare provider if you have concerns.
It won’t keep you from getting sick.
Simply because “acid” is a byproduct of vinegar production doesn’t mean vinegar is a germ-killer, nor does it “detox” any vital organs. The antimicrobial claims made about apple cider vinegar stem from the fermentation process. Science can point to a reduced risk of foodborne illness, not the colds, infections, and stomach bugs caused by bacteria and viruses. Staying hydrated, sleeping well, and filling up on veggies will stave off sickness much more effectively.
It doesn’t contain a lot of probiotics.
Probiotic properties of apple cider vinegar are minimal at best. Since most commercially available vinegars are highly processed, good bacteria is hard to come by. Foods like Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, and tempeh are all better sources with the added benefit of filling you up.