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This Basic Kitchen Staple Could Provide Surprising Health Benefits

You've probably got this cooking ingredient in your kitchen. Learn how it could possibly help your health.

Mandy Sleight Contributor
Mandy Sleight is a freelance writer and has been an insurance agent since 2005. She creates informative, engaging, and easy-to-understand content on the topics of insurance, personal finance, sustainability, and health and wellness. Her work has been featured in Kiplinger, MoneyGeek and other major publications.
Mandy Sleight
Medically Reviewed
headshot-troy-mensen
Reviewed by: Troy Mensen, DO Medical Reviewer
Dr. Troy Mensen is a family medicine doctor based in the Chicago area. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Northern Iowa and his doctorate at Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Expertise Family medicine Credentials
  • American Board of Family Medicine, Family Medicine
  • State of Illinois, Medical Examining Board License
Education
  • University of Northern Iowa, BA
  • Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine, DO
5 min read
A bottle of apple cider vinegar with nine apples

Apple cider vinegar is created by putting apple juice through two stages of fermentation.

Getty Images/jayk7/Moment

As a cooking ingredient, apple cider vinegar is a multidimensional powerhouse. You can put it in stews and salads, or use it as a marinade, among many other possibilities. But this common kitchen staple also shows promising health benefits for those who take it regularly.

Read more: 12 Best Probiotic Foods to Eat for Gut Health

Vinegar has a long history on our planet, dating back to at least 5,000 B.C. Its many purposes include preservation, flavoring, pickling and medicinal use. It has a rich history in ancient Africa, China and Greece as a health aid. Apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial and antioxidant abilities, and some research is available to back up some wellness claims of its benefits.

Read on to learn about some of the potential health benefits of apple cider vinegar and the best doses and methods for taking it. For more, learn whether your non-stick cookware is safe to use and discover 11 foods that should not be staples of your diet

What is apple cider vinegar? 

When you combine apples, sugar and yeast and allow it to ferment, it creates apple cider vinegar. Over several weeks, the yeast will digest the sugar to make alcohol. Once this happens, natural bacteria will turn the alcohol into acetic acid, which is where the pungent odor and taste of apple cider vinegar comes from.

You have two options when you buy apple cider vinegar: filtered and pasteurized, or raw and unfiltered. The cloudy sediment that collects in the bottom of the bottle is "the mother," which is a combination of bacteria and yeast. Some speculate the mother is what provides the health benefits, as it contains trace amounts of healthy bacteria and probiotics.

Apple cider vinegar can be used in the kitchen, around the home and for your health as a:

  • Deodorizer
  • Preservative
  • Dressing or vinaigrette
  • Cleaner
  • Facial toner
  • Marinade 
  • Fruit and vegetable wash
  • Denture cleaner
  • Hair rinse
  • Dandruff treatment
  • Weed killer
  • Mouthwash 

4 benefits of apple cider vinegar

A bottle of apple cider vinegar pouring over a spoon
Getty Images/jayk7/Moment

Although more research is needed, several small and medium-sized studies show the benefits of apple cider vinegar for some health issues and as a potential weight loss aid.

May help control blood sugar and diabetes

Up to 95% of diabetics have type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 2 diabetes occurs from insulin resistance, or the body's inability to produce insulin.

Even if you don't have diabetes, it is beneficial to keep blood sugar levels in the normal range. Studies have shown that apple cider vinegar can improve insulin response and lower blood sugar levels after meals. 

Consuming apple cider vinegar before going to sleep has also shown to reduce fasting blood sugar after waking. Make sure to talk with your doctor before consuming ACV if you have diabetes, especially if you're on medication.

Kills harmful bacteria

Those looking to preserve food naturally may want to consider using apple cider vinegar. It is a known pathogen killer, which includes microbes like staph and candida. 

Vinegar is a popular preservative in Korea, since it can prevent E. coli and the norovirus from growing in food. E. coli can cause food poisoning when consumed, but the bactericidal effects of the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar can prevent it from occurring.

Could lead to weight loss

Another benefit of apple cider vinegar that may be useful is its ability to help with weight loss. When taken before or during a meal, ACV has shown to help with satiety, or the feeling of fullness. 

In one study, participants ate approximately 200 to 275 fewer calories when apple cider vinegar was combined with a meal. Over a three-month period, participants taking one to two tablespoons of ACV per day saw up to 3.7 pounds in weight loss and a reduction in body fat.

Might improve cholesterol levels

High cholesterol and triglyceride levels can increase your risk of heart disease. 

Incorporating up to an ounce of apple cider vinegar into your day, along with a lower calorie diet, may reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides while also increasing HDL "good" cholesterol. 

Those with type 2 diabetes may also see positive results on their total cholesterol and triglyceride levels when adding a half ounce of ACV to their diet.

Potential side effects 

Although there are benefits of apple cider vinegar usage, there are also potential side effects to consider. The high acidity can strip tooth enamel, which won't come back once it's gone. And it may cause damage to your esophagus or throat if you drink it undiluted.

Here are some other potential side effects of apple cider vinegar:

  • Can cause hypokalemia (low potassium levels)
  • Can interact with diuretic, insulin and other medications
  • Can cause nausea or vomiting

Watering it down with water or juice not only makes ACV more palatable, it can also reduce the risk of damaging your throat and teeth. Combining one or two tablespoons with either may also cure an upset stomach.

Apple cider vinegar dosage 

Apple cider vinegar dosage depends on the reason you're using it. Two teaspoons to two tablespoons is the general dosage recommendation.

If you want to drink it, dilute it with water or your favorite juice or tea. You can also eat it by incorporating it in your favorite foods, especially dressings, vinaigrettes and even when making your own mayonnaise.

You can also add a cup or two to a bath for skin issues. Mixing a tablespoon of ACV with a cup of water, then soaking gauze or cotton in the solution can make a wet wrap.

To use apple cider vinegar as a hair rinse, combine up to two tablespoons with a cup of water, then pour over hair after shampooing. Wait 5 minutes, then rinse. It can be drying, so use it sparingly. ACV can also irritate the scalp, so a weaker dilution may be better.

Bottom line

Hand holding a small cup of apple cider vinegar
Getty Images/annick vanderschelden photography/Moment

While some studies have found benefits of apple cider vinegar, we need more research to definitely prove how beneficial ACV is. It may help with weight loss, controlling type 2 diabetes, blood sugar and cholesterol and it can also prevent harmful bacteria growth on foods. However, drinking undiluted apple cider vinegar can cause tooth enamel erosion or throat damage. Mixing ACV with water or juice before consuming it can prevent damage to the teeth and throat. As with any natural remedy, speak with your doctor before trying apple cider vinegar and do a skin test before using it on your skin.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.