The Apple Cider Vinegar Diet Sure Sounds Weird, But It May Help You Lose Weight
Could a daily spoonful of apple cider vinegar really cure what ails you? This long-standing folk remedy made from crushed, fermented apples is having a major moment in the natural health community, with people using raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to help with everything from weight loss to constipation to warding off colds. In fact, there's even a so-called apple cider vinegar diet, that proponents claim helps you lose weight, battle bloat, and more.
Sure, it sounds kind of strange, but before you brush off the apple cider vinegar diet as some wonky new fad, it's important to understand that apple cider vinegar has been used medicinally for centuries, including as a way to lower blood sugar in people with diabetes before the development of hypoglycemic medications—and if you know anything about elevated or unstable blood sugar, you know it can cause cravings that lead to overeating.
Here, learn why apple cider vinegar is so promising in the first place, plus everything you need to know about the health benefits and potential side effects of the apple cider vinegar diet.
What is the apple cider vinegar diet?
First, let's talk a bit about what exactly apple cider vinegar is and why it's healthy in the first place. Apple cider vinegar (ACV for short) is made by fermenting fresh, crushed apples in tanks—similar to the production of alcohol. But, after the apples' sugars are converted into alcohol, a bacteria is added to the mix to ferment the alcohol into acetic acid—one of the main science-backed, health-promoting compounds in ACV, which has been found to help lower blood sugar, reduce fat storage, and suppress appetite, among other good stuff.
Now, onto the apple cider vinegar diet: When most people talk about the apple cider vinegar diet, they’re simply referring to the practice of taking small but regular doses (1 to 2 tablespoons) of ACV before or with meals, often diluted in water, to aid in weight loss.
Much less complicated or weird than you were imagining, isn't it?
Potential health benefits of the apple cider vinegar diet.
More surprising than the fact that this diet even exists, though, is that some evidence seems to support the idea that regular consumption of ACV could help you lose a little weight—albeit probably not much.
"Research on vinegar for weight loss is pretty thin, but anecdotally, some people may find that the acidic quality curbs their appetite," says Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., registered dietitian and author of “The Little Book of Game Changers.” Here's what some of the science says on ACV, weight loss, and overall health.
1. It may balance blood sugar and curb cravings.
One of the biggest perks of consuming apple cider vinegar is its beneficial impact on blood sugar levels. In one study, ACV was found to improve insulin sensitivity during a high-carb meal by anywhere from 19 to 34 percent, and in another, it was shown to reduce blood sugar by as much as 34 percent after participants ate white bread.
These impressive results suggest that ACV may be a helpful aid in the management of type 2 diabetes (a condition characterized by chronically elevated blood sugar) or a simple way for the average person to curb cravings for sweets and carbs that would otherwise be the result of unbalanced blood sugar.
2. It may reduce belly fat and help you lose weight.
Research on vinegar (in general, not specifically ACV) points to minor weight loss. In a three-month study of 175 people with obesity, participants who ingested 1 tablespoon of vinegar per day lost an average of 2.6 pounds, while those who took 2 tablespoons per day lost an average of 3.7 pounds. Both groups also experienced a reduction in visceral fat (aka, the dangerous type of belly fat linked to a number of chronic diseases). Since the study was small, more research needs to be done to prove a clear correlation, but the findings are promising.
3. It may improve digestion and ease constipation.
If you're prone to digestive woes, there's a chance that taking ACV will make you at least feel a little slimmer, happier, and healthier. While these specific claims may not be officially backed by research, there is ample anecdotal evidence that ACV is a cure for constipation, speeding up otherwise sluggish transit time. Apple cider vinegar is a natural mild diuretic (along with other foods like citrus, celery, and beets), says Cording—and this may be why it has the ability to banish bloat and constipation for so many. There's also some data showing that ACV was able to reduce symptoms of acid reflux in a small number of patients.
Side effects of the apple cider vinegar diet.
While the research is promising, there are certainly some potential downsides to adding vinegar to your diet—especially if you consume it with every meal.
For one, vinegar is highly acidic and may damage tooth enamel within just a few hours, as well as lead to throat burns if consumed straight, or undiluted. "If you’re going to drink apple cider vinegar, dilute it in water—about 1 teaspoon in 8 ounces water is a good jumping-off point—to avoid burning your esophagus or experiencing discomfort," say Cording. You can also consume it safely via foods like homemade salad dressings.
Another potential downside of the apple cider vinegar diet relates to ACV's role in promoting feelings of fullness. While this may be a welcome side effect for some people since it helps them eat less food, it may lead to indigestion in others.
Because ACV can alter insulin levels, as mentioned above, it should be consumed with caution among people with diabetes since it may alter the amount of insulin (or other diabetes medications) that they need. If you have diabetes, always consult with your doctor about how much vinegar of any kind is safe to consume.
In a case study, ACV consumption of 8 ounces (or 16 tablespoons) per day was also associated with low potassium and osteoporosis. This was just one person, but it still demonstrates that more ACV is certainly not better.
How to try the apple cider vinegar diet.
If you've weighed the benefits and potential risks of the apple cider vinegar diet and decided it's right for you, know that the best way to go about ingesting more ACV is to incorporate it into the foods and beverages you consume. Some easy ways to add apple cider vinegar to your diet include:
- Consuming it as a digestive drink: Dilute 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 1 cup of warm or room temperature water and drink the mixture 10 to 20 minutes before meals (if this doesn't feel good, scale back).
- Adding it to salad dressings
- Adding it to sauces, mustards, and dips
- Using it to make sauerkraut
- Using it to tenderize beef, lamb, chicken, and other meats
- Using it as an ingredient in bone broths
- Adding it to rice or quinoa for a little extra bite
- Making any of these recipes featuring apple cider vinegar
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