9 expert-approved benefits & uses of apple cider vinegar
Most of us are familiar with the brown malt vinegar that’s sprinkled on chips and white wine vinegar that’s used in vinaigrettes, pickles and chutneys, and even, cleaning.
But move over malt and white wine vinegar, because there’s a new vinegar on the block – apple cider vinegar.
You’ve probably heard some of the wonderful things about apple cider vinegar already, including how it has the potential to lower blood sugar, aid weight loss, soothe acne, help digestion, and even boost your immune system.
In this article, we take a closer look at this hugely popular vinegar; lifting the lid on what it is, what the ‘mother’ reference is all about and, more importantly, some of the health benefits linked to adding it to your diet.
What is apple cider vinegar?
As we’ve just mentioned, apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar. It’s produced during the apple cider fermentation process.
The process involves fermenting the sugar that’s naturally present in apples by adding yeast and/or bacteria to the cider.
Over time, the cider turns into alcohol and then vinegar.
You can drink this apple cider vinegar as it comes (but be mindful of your teeth enamel and your tastebuds because it’s extremely tangy!) or you can eat apple cider vinegar capsules or gummies to get your ACV goodness.
What is apple cider vinegar with mother?
There are two different types of apple cider vinegar.
The types that’s been filtered – looks a little lighter and doesn’t tend to contain any bits.
Then there’s the unfiltered type that looks a lot darker and happens to have bits floating it in.
Now don’t be put off by those stringy, wispy floating bits because they’re the ‘mother’, which is said to be full of gut-friendly probiotics or, more specifically, acetic acid bacteria.
Some people prefer ACV with mother and some prefer it without, it’s entirely up to you.
But what you may find is, the mother variety tends to cost a bit more than the motherless versions.
Apple cider vinegar is essentially a vinegar that’s made from apples during the cider fermenting process. It’s available with or without the ‘mother’, which is believed to be packed full of goodness.
9 health benefits of apple cider vinegar
It’s said that the ‘Father of Modern Medicine’, Hippocrates, used apple cider vinegar for cleaning wounds and relieving coughs. So why has this folk remedy remained popular since Ancient Greece?
1. Helps improve digestion
Like other fermented foods, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar contains healthy bacteria – the gut-friendly bacteria that helps keep your digestive system working properly.
Cider vinegar could provide relief for those with stomach problems like indigestion or heartburn.
This is because it neutralises stomach acid whilst acetic acid fights harmful bacteria.
Apple cider vinegar has also been shown to have antiviral and anti-yeast and antifungal benefits, which are all helpful in supporting microbiome and overall immune balance.
2. Supports your immune system
Prevention is better than cure, so protecting your immune system means you’re more likely to ward off diseases and infections.
And here’s where the healthy bacteria in raw cider vinegar come into play.
Studies have found that healthy bacteria can help you recover sooner if you do get sick. Meanwhile, ACV’s antibacterial properties can reportedly fight off pathogens in our body, such as E-coli, staphylococcus aureus and candida albicans.
3. Condition of your hair
If you have dry, brittle hair or an itchy scalp, replacing your usual shampoo with a bottle of unfiltered cider vinegar could give you more manageable tresses.
Research found that using high alkaline shampoos leads to hair breakage and dryness, so apple cider vinegar for hair could be a good idea.
The acetic acid in the mother is thought to help lower our hair’s pH to combat that dry, frizzy feel.
The pH level of our scalp and hair is acidic at around 4.5 to 5.5.
Normal hair products are alkaline, which can contribute to our hair becoming brittle and dry.
Water can have the same impact too because it’s pH neutral.
But because apple cider vinegar is acidic, it can help restore hair’s pH balance if you pour it on your hair after shampooing.
4. Improve your skin and nail health
Thanks to its cleansing, hydrating and antifungal properties, apple cider vinegar is used as a natural solution for healthier skin and nails.
Applied as a toner, it may help to balance skin pH and has an exfoliating effect that smooths and softens.
And, for rough, cracked heels, apple cider vinegar is commonly used as a foot soak.
5. Lowers blood sugar levels
Keeping your blood sugar levels in check is important and studies have shown that the acetic acid found in cider vinegar could be beneficial.
It’s believed that acetic acid blocks the enzymes that help digest starch.
As a result of this, blood sugar levels don’t fluctuate as much after eating starchy food, such as pasta or bread.
6. Fighting dandruff
Thanks to apple cider vinegar’s hydrating properties, it can tackle oil build-up or excessive amounts of the yeasty fungus, malassezia; two of the main culprits of dandruff.9
7. Boosting nutrient levels
Apple cider vinegar contains magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, amino acids, antioxidants and only three calories per tablespoon.
8. Aiding weight loss
Those apple cider vinegar weight loss rumours may have some truth to them!
Research has found that apple cider vinegar may be effective at helping people lose weight.
In terms of how it works, it’s believed ACV slows down the absorption of starches in food, which makes you feel fuller for longer and reduces appetite.
A 2018 study of people who were actively trying to lose weight, published in Journal of Functional Foods, found that dieters having 1.5 tablespoons a day of apple cider vinegar lost more weight than those who only followed the diet.
9. Improving heart health
Your risk of cardiovascular diseases (such as heart disease and stroke) could be reduced over time if you regularly consume apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar lowers triglycerides, which cause fatty plaque along your arteries to build up.
In a small-scale study, scientists found apple cider vinegar modestly lowered cholesterol in people whose levels were not unhealthily high.
Interestingly, malt vinegar didn’t have the same effect – researchers believe this means acetic acid isn’t causing the effect but rather a compound in apple cider vinegar called pectin, a type of fibre.
Pectin is present in apples and vinegar and can help neutralise bad cholesterol, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
One study found a significantly lower risk for heart disease among people who consumed oil-and-vinegar salad dressings frequently (5-6 times or more per week) compared with those who rarely consumed them.
Another study from the Journal of Functional Foods found that apples reduced total blood cholesterol while raising levels of good (HDL) cholesterol in overweight or obese people.
8 top uses of apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is delicious, here are some wonderful ways to get the most out of it:
How to use apple cider vinegar
1. As a daily drink
Stir two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into a large glass of water before bedtime.
But remember, always dilute it before drinking. On its own, vinegar’s acidic nature means it can be harsh on your throat and damage your teeth.
Making it into an apple cider drink is usually the best way.
2. As an alternative to salt
Trying to cut down on your sodium intake? Swap salt for a dash of apple cider vinegar to enhance the flavour of your usual meals.
3. As a salad dressing
Whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar and honey with lemon juice to trickle over crisp salad leaves.
4. As a steam facial treatment
Facial steaming opens your pores and helps to clear impurities.
To take the treatment to the next level, simply add two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a bowl of hot, boiled water.
Cover your head with a towel and sit over the steam for up to 15 minutes. When you’re done splash your face with cool water and gently pat your skin dry.
5. As a skin cleanser and toner
Why not switch your usual skin care products for an all-natural alternative? After rinsing your face with water, finish by wiping with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar.
Before attempting this, do a patch test to prevent any skin sensitivity.
6. As a cleansing hair rinse
For a boost of moisture and shine that soothes an itchy scalp, apple cider vinegar is just the thing for thirsty hair. First, mix equal quantities of apple cider vinegar and water in a bottle.
After washing your hair as usual, pour on the mix then rinse with water for softer, cleansed hair.
7. As a foot soak
There’s nothing like an at-home spa treatment after a long day. And if you’re dealing with cracked heels or foot odour, soaking your feet in unfiltered vinegar could help.
To try, add one-part vinegar and two parts warm water to your foot bath. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes for smooth, silky skin.
8. As apple cider vinegar gummies or other supplements
If you want to enjoy all the benefits of apple cider vinegar for your body but don’t want to eat or drink it, don’t worry, there are plenty of supplements around including apple cider vinegar gummies and apple cider vinegar tablets you can try.
Is it safe to have apple cider vinegar every day?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, many of the clinical studies which have been conducted into the efficacy of apple cider vinegar involved the study participants taking it every day.
However, there are some considerations to be aware of, such as the time of day you drink it.
For example, drinking apple cider vinegar last thing at night is not advisable if you experience heartburn, acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Drinking it neat may also damage your tooth enamel over time and large amounts of it may cause cavities. This is because the acetic acid that’s present in the vinegar is pretty potent stuff and may weaken dental enamel and lead to loss of minerals and tooth decay.
To prevent this from happening, always drink one part vinegar to ten parts water and sip it with a straw.
How much apple cider vinegar should you drink a day?
Most studies are based on a small dose of up to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per day. For this reason, adults should not exceed 2 tablespoons per day as the effects haven’t been properly studied.
If you find that starting on 2 daily tablespoons makes you nauseous, you can start small with ½ tablespoon per day, then work your way up to 2 tablespoons.
Should I drink apple cider vinegar straight?
No. You shouldn’t drink apple cider vinegar straight.
This is one of the most important things to consider when taking apple cider vinegar for health. Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic substance containing around 5% - 6% acetic acid.
Drinking it neat (undiluted) can cause damage to the enamel of your teeth. That’s the hard, protective coating our teeth have which, once worn away, doesn’t grow back.
It can also burn the oesophagus if regularly consumed undiluted, as the delicate skin here is not designed for strongly acidic substances (unlike the tougher stomach lining).
This is why, when we vomit, the strong stomach acids leave a burning sensation on our throat tissues.
Always dilute your apple cider vinegar in water, around 250ml for two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. You can also add it to herbal teas and smoothies to further disguise the taste.
Remember, you can add apple cider vinegar to salad dressings, sauces, vinaigrettes, and marinades.
Some people drink drinks containing apple cider vinegar through a straw to minimise the liquid’s contact with teeth.
Always rinse your mouth with water after drinking apple cider vinegar to ensure there isn’t any residue lingering in your mouth, which could pose a threat to your tooth enamel.
Side effects of apple cider vinegar
When drinking apple cider vinegar, side effects might be the last thing on your mind. After all, it’s just vinegar! However, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of.
On the whole, people can drink or use apple cider vinegar with minimal side effects and the most common side effects are linked to how strong it is due to its acetic acid content. It may:
1. Cause chemical burns – it has been known to burn the skin when used to remove warts.
2. Lead to tooth damage – due to its ability to erode tooth enamel, which can then lead to cavities, over time.
3. Lead to throat irritation and allergic reactions – as well as reduced potassium levels, hypoglycemia.
4. Nausea and indigestion – when drank undiluted, it could make you feel sick or cause acid reflux.
5. Low potassium levels – when taken for a long time in large quantities
6. Injure the digestive tract (throat, oesophagus and stomach) – if consumed undiluted and in large quantities.
7. May interfere with some diabetic medications. - due to apple cider vinegar’s potential blood sugar-lowering properties, it’s advisable to check with your GP if you’re thinking of taking it as a diabetic.
8. May be unsuitable for people with chronic kidney disease - your kidneys may have trouble processing the excess acid, so speak to your doctor first.
While it’s ok to consume apple cider vinegar every day, it’s important to drink it diluted to protect your teeth and skin from enamel corrosion and, in some instances, chemical burning, as well as digestive injuries and allergic reactions.
A final few words about apple cider vinegar
The benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar, eating apple cider tablets or gummies or sprinkling it on your salads and other food are widespread.
And, when you consume ACV with the mother, the health benefits are believed to be even more profound.
From helping with digestion and keeping breath fresh, to giving hair a glossy shine and boosting your immune system, apple cider vinegar packs a mighty punch in more ways than one.
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your doctor or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.