by guest blogger Stephanie Eckelkamp, senior associate editor at Prevention magazine
When it comes to edible remedies, apple cider vinegar (ACV) has a cultlike following. Message boards and questionable “expert” articles abound with claims that this kitchen staple made from fermented apple juice is packed with fiber and nutrients and can help cure just about anything, from sugar cravings to acid reflux to diabetes to cancer and constipation.
Sounds great, right? The bad news: Many of these claims are totally unfounded. Turns out, good old ACV contains little to no fiber, vitamins, or minerals, and evidence hasn’t proved it to be a cure-all for most conditions.
Still, there are several claims for ACV that studies do back up. First, it can help you absorb more nutrients from food, but that’s true whether you slug it straight or add it to raw concoctions like salad dressings. Second, it can reduce blood sugar spikes after you eat, which in turn, can help limit cravings and the likelihood you’ll develop type 2 diabetes. In fact, one study found that consuming ACV before meals reduced the blood glucose levels of patients with prediabetes by nearly half.
Pretty cool, no doubt. But being a skeptic, I wanted to see for myself whether swigging a tablespoon of ACV before meals would really banish my cravings and help me eat less. So I grabbed a bottle of Bragg’s and recorded what I learned:
1. Downing ACV on an empty stomach can make you queasy. Maybe I drank it too fast, but after each glass of ACV-infused water, I felt like I’d just eaten something gone bad. Nothing crazy happened, but I had this uneasy sensation in my stomach, I burped a lot, and I felt like anything else I put down the hatch might end up coming right back up. So, yes, it curbed my desire to eat, but not in a pleasant way.
2. Taking ACV after a meal works much better. The whole pre-meal thing didn’t work for me. After all, what was the point of feeling semi-nauseous and not wanting to eat before a healthy meal that you’d planned on eating? A better option, I found, was drinking it when I’d already eaten a meal but was still feeling hungry for more. Because I already had a base of food in my stomach, I avoided that queasy feeling, but the ACV definitely helped reduce my desire to polish off leftover Christmas cookies. (Follow these suggestions on how to drink apple cider vinegar for weight loss.)
3. ACV can help get things moving. This was unexpected (and I’ll spare you details), but there was a definite correlation between ACV consumption and, well, let’s call it decreased transit time. I could definitely see the appeal of using this as a gentle, natural laxative when things are backed up. Who knew?
4. You’ll burn your esophagus unless you learn to drink ACV the right way. Don’t take this stuff straight—it burns like fire (worse than vodka, and with no pleasant buzz). Your best bet: Mix 1 tablespoon with 8 ounces of water, and then drink it with a straw to minimize contact with your tastebuds. I found this method tolerable, although the taste was still slightly reminiscent of feet after a sweaty summer workout session.
Bottom line: While this experiment was enlightening and it did help curb cravings, I’m not making the ACV-water blend part of my daily routine. Instead, I’ll be more likely to use it periodically to quell a Krispy Kreme craving or if I’m constipated. And I’m definitely all about using it in healthy homemade dressings to get more nutrients out of all my salad veggies.
Stephanie Eckelkamp is a senior associate editor covering food and nutrition at Prevention magazine and is also a certified holistic-health coach. She’s obsessed with her pup, Milo, and loves to get a little crazy in the kitchen. For more from Stephanie, visit StephEckelkamp.com.
Adapted from the Prevention.com article “4 Things That Happen When You Drink Apple Cider Vinegar with Every Meal.”