Thursday, 21 Sep 2023

Are You Using Apple Cider Vinegar Wrong?

We all have that relative who tends to oversell the benefits of apple cider vinegar. Yes, it has some health perks, including stabilizing blood sugar, probiotics for a healthy gut, increasing the good kind of cholesterol for a healthier heart, and giving your immune system a little boost.

“Most of the research for apple cider vinegar revolves around its ability to normalize blood sugar levels, even after a high-carb meal,” says Maria Zamarripa, MS, RD. “Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is key to preventing chronic disease.”

But what you might not know is that there are some side effects of apple cider vinegar if you don’t use it the exact right way. If you’re thinking about adding apple cider vinegar to your regular routine, be sure to read these expert-debunked myths to make sure you’re being as healthy as possible before you throw back a shot of ACV. 

Myth #1: Drinking apple cider vinegar can control your blood sugar. 

There is some evidence from small studies that a shot of apple cider vinegar after a meal can help stabilize your glucose levels. This part is actually true, and could be beneficial if you’re in the prediabetes stage, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, apple cider vinegar isn’t a substitute for managing diabetes or blood sugar in general on a long-term basis; it’s better to focus on eating balanced meals that are not too high in sugar and carbohydrates then to depend on apple cider vinegar to undo the level of sugar that you did consume.

Myth #2: It’s a heartburn cure. 

There are some claims out there that drinking apple cider vinegar can help calm heartburn and acid reflux, but there is not enough research to back that up. University of Chicago Medicine suggests that apple cider vinegar could actually make acid reflux worse because of its acidity. If you have frequent heartburn or acid reflux, check with a gastroenterologist for the best remedies.

Myth #3: You don’t need to dilute it. 

Many people have started drinking apple cider vinegar and even use it as a health-boosting wellness shot first thing in the morning. But you should never drink it on its own.

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“Apple cider vinegar is very acidic, so avoid drinking it by itself or in large quantities,” explains Zamarripa.

Instead, always dilute it. She recommends up to one tablespoon in a large glass of water that you drink with meals. If the flavor with just water alone is too strong for you, try mixing it with other healthy ingredients like lime or lemon juice, honey, cayenne and ginger.

Myth #4: You can take it on an empty stomach.

“Because of its benefits on blood sugar, it’s best to enjoy apple cider vinegar with your meals,” says Zamarripa. You can definitely get creative with this. She recommends using it in everything from homemade salad dressings to marinades to mayonnaise. “This can add flavor and improve digestion of the meal as well.”

Myth #5: You don’t have to worry about your teeth.

Acidic foods and drinks can cause serious damage to your teeth. This is another big reason why diluting apple cider vinegar is so important, especially if you are consuming it frequently. Undiluted, it can weaken the enamel in your teeth, which can lead to sensitivity, cavities and tooth decay. As an extra precaution, “drink it through a straw so the vinegar doesn’t make contact with your teeth,” says Caroline Barsoum, DMD. And while it may seem counterintuitive, don’t brush immediately after drinking it. “The tooth structure is weak and you could cause erosion. Instead, rinse your mouth out with water to remove residual acids,” advises Barsoum.

Mistake #6: There’s no need to consult your doctor before taking apple cider vinegar.

Sure, it might sound extreme to check with your doctor before adding something you can easily buy at the grocery store to your diet, but it never hurts to make sure it won’t affect you negatively in ways you might not have even thought about. For example, women with osteoporosis have been advised to exercise caution with it as high acid levels can be detrimental to the formation of new bones.

“If you’re taking any blood-sugar lowering medications, make sure to check with your doctor before increasing your intake of any type of vinegar,” warns Zamarripa.

Mistake #7: Apple cider vinegar is a magic health supplement.

If you believe everything you read on the internet about apple cider vinegar, it can start to seem like a legendary cure-all for everything from the common cold to cancer.

“While apple cider vinegar does provide some benefits, it isn’t a miracle,” Zamarripa concludes. “Enjoy adding apple cider vinegar to recipes at home, but remember to first focus on eating a colorful diet of nutrient-rich foods.”

A version of this story was published April 2019.

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