What Apple Cider Vinegar Can (and Can't) Do For You

Apple cider vinegar does have a few things going for it but its powers have been vastly over-estimated in the popular imagination.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
3-minute read
Episode #412

ACV can help modulate blood sugar.

Acetic acid—which is found in all types of vinegar—can partially block the digestion of starches, meaning that less sugar is absorbed into the blood stream.

Consuming a small amount of vinegar (1-2 tablespoons in a cup of water) before eating a carbohydrate-rich meal can somewhat blunt the glycemic impact (or blood sugar spike) caused by eating carbohydrates. That doesn’t mean that carbohydrates will have no calories or have no effect on your blood sugar—just that the impact will be somewhat less. If you take antidiabetic medications, be sure to check with your doctor before experimenting.

ACV could relieve heartburn

Apple cider vinegar is an old folk remedy for heartburn and there’s a logical underpinning. 

Apple cider vinegar is an old folk remedy for heartburn and there’s a logical underpinning. Most people think that acidic foods cause heartburn. But as I explained in a previous episode on reflux, heartburn is not necessarily caused by acidic foods or even by excessive stomach acid. Heartburn happens when stomach acid escapes out of the stomach into the esophagus.

Drinking a bit of vinegar diluted in water lowers the pH in the upper stomach. This may cause the lower esophageal sphincter (or LES) to close more tightly, which can help prevent heartburn by reducing the amount of acid leaking into the esophagus. Popping antacids, on the other hand, has the opposite effect, raising the pH in the stomach which can allow the sphincter to relax and allow more stomach acid to leak out.

For an occasional bout of heartburn, this folk remedy is worth a try—especially if you’re someone who does not get good results with antacids. However, if you have severe or chronic reflux or any other disorder of the stomach or esophagus, or you are taking acid-blocking medications, you should run this one past your doctor first.

ACV may contain beneficial bacteria.

All vinegars are created through fermentation and that means that they contain live micro-organisms—providing that they have not been pasteurized, of course. As we’ve all been talking about pretty much nonstop for the last couple of years, including probiotic foods like vinegar in your diet can help you maintain a healthy microbiome. 

See also: Benefits of Probiotic Foods

How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar

Drinking straight vinegar can erode tooth enamel and even damage the esophagus, so always dilute vinegar in water before drinking it. A tablespoon or two in 8 ounces (or 240 mL) of water is a good strength. I also suggest consuming no more than 2 or 3 of these cocktails per day, as drinking too much vinegar may cause low potassium levels.

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Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.