If you've spent any time recently in health circles, you've probably seen any number of supplements proclaiming that they have dozens of benefits. Many of them fail to live up to the hype. Some, though, seem to bear fruit even under scientific scrutiny. Whether it's a powder; like turmeric, a green; like ashwagandha, or a tonic; like apple cider vinegar, the health benefits of a substance may be worth investigating beyond what so many people believe.
We believe in the benefits of apple cider vinegar, but we recognize that not everyone can stomach drinking acid every day. That's what this post is for: to give you alternatives.
The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
Before we get into how you can take apple cider vinegar, let's start with why. What are the benefits of this substance made from the humble apple?
Well, you know what they say. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. The adage is meant to encourage you to eat healthy fruits, but it extends beyond just eating fruit as well. Apple cider vinegar is made from apples, which are covered in water and left to ferment. The alcohol that it ferments into is then consumed by bacteria, converting it into vinegar. ACV specifically maintains some of the apple and some of the cider flavors (and nutrients), which is why it has a different set of benefits than plain distilled vinegar or any of the other vinegar on the market.
One interesting aspect of apple cider vinegar is the formation of the "mother of vinegar" in the concoction. The mother of vinegar is the built-up strands of protein, enzymes, and other byproducts of the vinegar creation process, as well as residual bacteria. It's probiotic and is thought to contain some of the sources of the health benefits vinegar provides.
There aren't quite any studies showing that this is true, but neither do they disprove the idea either. Most studies seem to just look at vinegar as a whole, and don't make the distinction.
So, what are the benefits you can get from ACV?
It's packed with nutrients.
Apples are healthy and full of polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, and more. In particular, you get a high level of B vitamins, some amino acids, antioxidants, a bit of potassium, and of course the acetic acid itself. It's not the most nutritious thing you can drink, but it's not empty.
It's both antibiotic and probiotic.
That is, acetic acid is good at killing off some of the harmful bacteria that can build up in your digestive tract. These harmful bacteria thrive on processed sugar, which is why, if you have a sugar-laden diet, you tend to feel pretty bad. Acetic acid can kill off this bacteria directly, while the residual yeast and bacteria in the ACV can eat the sugar and produce more vinegar out of it. Meanwhile, the bacteria in the mother of vinegar is a probiotic similar to something like kefir or sauerkraut, which helps promote the healthy bacteria in your gut to replace the bad bacteria.
It might help with blood sugar.
Diabetes is a disease that afflicts millions of people, and it's potentially deadly in the long term. Regulating your blood sugar is hugely important if you want to stay healthy and live a long life.
Some studies have shown that apple cider vinegar can increase your body's insulin sensitivity, which means you get more energy from sugar and can better absorb that sugar in your diet. The effect is relatively minor – you're not going to cure diabetes with vinegar – but it can help control sugar levels that otherwise go out of control.
It might help you lose weight.
This one is a bit of a wildcard because of the way it works.
If you take apple cider vinegar along with a meal, specifically a high carb meal, the yeasts and bacteria in the vinegar go to work on those carbs, breaking them down and processing them. Studies have shown that this effect helps you feel full sooner and for longer than eating the meal alone. This helps you eat less throughout the day, which in turn helps you lose weight.
The weight loss effect is quite modest. Over three months, participants in studies lost 2-3 pounds with vinegar that they didn't lose on plans without vinegar. It's not a lot, but when coupled with dietary controls and exercise, it can help make a difference.
There are a few other benefits of ACV as well, but they have less study and backing, so they might not be as prominent or reliable.
Does ACV Have Side Effects?
Something like vinegar is strong and acidic. Does drinking some every day come with side effects? Well, yes, but doesn't everything?
Side effects of drinking vinegar daily can include:
- Potential damage to your throat. It IS acidic, after all.
- Potential tooth decay. As an acid, it can erode your tooth enamel.
- Upset stomach. Particularly if you take ACV on an empty stomach, adding acid to an already acidic environment can cause trouble.
- Potential medicine interactions. In particular, ACV might interact with medications for heart disease, diabetes, or diuretics.
Overall, though, the side effects are generally mild. Of all of them, tooth damage is the worst to deal with, since teeth don't heal on their own.
What it mostly comes down to is talking to your doctor. Taking apple cider vinegar each day could benefit you, but if your doctor thinks it will interfere with your medications or other health issues, it's better to stay clear.
The Downsides of Drinking Vinegar
There's one side effect we haven't mentioned yet because it's not quite a side effect. It's just that, well, drinking vinegar is hard! Vinegar is a very strong flavor and a strong acid. It's pretty unpalatable for a lot of people. Sure, you can make a salad dressing or something out of it, but then you're limiting what kind of meals you can eat.
Luckily, there are alternative forms of vinegar you can take. Don't want to drink a shot of vinegar every day? Good news.
Alternative Forms of Taking ACV
There are three primary forms of apple cider vinegar you can find commercially available. We recommend one over the others, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Diluted apple cider vinegar.
Diluted vinegar is just what it sounds like. You can buy it, or you can make it yourself. Simply take your daily dose of apple cider vinegar (which is about two tablespoons for most people) and mix it with a glass or two of water. This reduces the concentration of the acid, which protects your teeth and throat. It's also a good way to encourage you to drink more water.
This dilutes the strength of the acid but doesn't do much to affect the smell or taste of the vinegar. For that, you need a different form.
Apple cider vinegar pills.
Pills are one of the most common alternative forms of supplements. Since the primary component of a liquid, like vinegar, is water, what happens when the water is removed? The "residue" left behind is all of the nutrients, bacteria, yeast, acetic acid, and other compounds from the apple cider vinegar. That powder is then condensed into a capsule, usually a gel cap, which you can easily swallow.
This option avoids the taste and smell of vinegar and makes it easier to take on the go. However, it does have to rehydrate itself in your stomach, and that can cause issues if you don't drink water with the capsule or pill.
Apple cider vinegar gummies.
Gummies are another way to condense down the benefits of apple cider vinegar while providing additional benefits of their own.
Gummies are made by reducing the amount of water in the apple cider vinegar to concentrate it, but not completely dehydrate it. Then, pectin is added to create a thick suspension. They become, basically, apple fruit snacks with a vinegar base.
This doesn't inherently do anything about the flavor of vinegar, which is why vinegar gummies usually have sugar added to help sweeten it. There's not enough sugar to be worth worrying about (our gummies have 12 calories per serving) but it improves the flavor.
For obvious reasons, gummies are our go-to recommendation.
Are Gummies as Good as Liquid ACV?
You might wonder if gummies are the same as liquid vinegar, or if something about the process of making them reduces their health benefits.
We know you wonder that because we wondered too! So, we did some digging.
As it turns out, there are pros and cons to gummies.
- Gummies are a less strong flavor, meaning they're easier to take and enjoy, reducing the risk of you not keeping up with your supplements.
- Gummies are safer than pure vinegar for your teeth, throat, and stomach. They also dramatically reduce the risk of accidentally inhaling (aspirating) vinegar, which can be damaging to lung tissues.
- Gummies are just as readily available as liquid ACV, whereas tablets need to be rehydrated and don't have as strong an effect on the body.
- Gummies can also have additional ingredients added to them for further health benefits. Our gummies do not, but some may have Garcinia Cambogia or other supplements added to their recipes. We just advise you to try other supplements alongside your vinegar gummies.
Are there any downsides to gummies? Well, maybe. The biggest downside that many people cite online is that gummies don't have as much acetic acid in them as pure vinegar. That's true, but it can be counteracted easily by just taking more gummies. If you snack on them throughout the day, you're getting your full dose, while also ensuring that you have vinegar in your system at all times instead of one large concentration once a day.
The other potential downside is the sweetener. Since gummies contain sugar, they do have a few calories, and that sugar can throw off your blood sugar calculations. If you're taking apple cider vinegar in an attempt to control your blood sugar, you might prefer going with diluted vinegar instead. If you're taking it for weight loss purposes, all you need to do is a few extra reps to counteract the presence of a minuscule amount of sugar.
Should You Take ACV Gummies?
The question remains, should you take gummies, or should you stick with pure apple cider vinegar?
Our recommendation, of course, is to try to take gummies. We wouldn't sell them if we didn't think they were effective.
That said, a lot of it depends on what you want to get out of your vinegar.
- If you want to lose weight, vinegar can help, and both forms (whole and gummy) can work. Remember, though, the effect is relatively minor and primarily relies on appetite suppression. If you counteract that by snacking more, you're not going to see any benefits.
- If you want to control your blood sugar, it's better to find a sugar-free gummy or go with whole vinegar instead. Unfortunately, our gummies do contain a bit of sugar, so you have to keep that in mind.
- If you want to benefit your heart, any option will do just fine. Just make sure you're not trying to use gummies to replace actual medications.
Gummies are as good as pure vinegar in almost every case. There's no reason not to take them, especially if you're not a fan of the typical vinegar flavor.
As always, make sure you talk to your doctor before taking a supplement to counteract or prevent a medical issue. If you're using them for weight loss, fine, go wild. If you're using them for heart issues, cholesterol, diabetes, or another disease, please discuss it with your doctor first. It's possible that a medication will work much better for you, and you can leave the gummies as a supplement. It's always better to keep yourself safe.