Apple cider vinegar is a remedy that has been used traditionally for more than 2000 years to help fight infections, aid digestion and support weight loss. It is extremely rich in antioxidant polyphenols such as quercetin, resveratrol and catechins, which makes it a brilliant tool in my clinical toolbox for increasing anti-inflammatory compounds in a clients diet.
Apple cider vinegar is made by crushing apples, before going through two separate fermentation processes which allows for the alcohol produced in the first ferment to be converted to acetic acid. Apple cider vinegar has been in the limelight recently for its blood sugar regulation action, and it is the acetic acid specifically that has been linked with the beneficial action. The acetic acid reduces the digestion of starchy foods (1) (such as potatoes, rich, pasta, bread), as well as delaying how quickly the stomach empties during digestion (2). Both of these mechanisms help to stabilise blood glucose levels and prevent big peaks in blood glucose which overtime can have a negative impact on health.
I love to use apple cider vinegar diluted in water before meals, especially carbohydrate rich meals, with clients who struggle with blood sugar regulation. Optimal blood sugar regulation is one of the key foundations I work on with my clients to improve their overall health as it is so important for energy regulation, hormonal health, optimal sleep, stable moods and optimal brain function.
There has also been research done into apple cider vinegar use in individuals with type 2 diabetes which suggested that use of apple cider vinegar with an evening meal favourably impacted blood glucose levels by up to 20% the next morning (3).
Apple cider vinegar is also great to include for digestive health. To get the full digestive benefits, it is important to consume raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar as this will still contain something called the ‘mother’. The ‘mother’ is incredibly rich in nutrients including enzymes supporting the breakdown of food, as well as friendly bacteria which helps to support a healthy gut environment.
Apple cider vinegar is also a really nice aid to use to support stomach acid production due to the presence of acetic, lactic, malic and citric acids. Adequate stomach acid is really important for optimal protein digestion as well as serving as the first line defence in the gut against any pathogens that may have been ingested. Stomach acid is also important for the absorption of many vitamins and minerals, so low stomach acid levels can open us up to potential nutrient deficiencies, in particular vitamin B12. Stomach acid production reduces as we age and other factors such as stress or some medications can affect production as well.
For clients with a high stress burden, aged over 60 or are symptomatic of low stomach acid, I would typically recommend including apple cider vinegar diluted in water before each meal to help stimulate stomach acid production and aid digestion. I also love creating a little salad to include before meals to optimise digestion which would include bitter leaves such as rocket, romaine or watercress, diced pineapple or papaya and a drizzle of apple cider vinegar over the top. This helps to support the breakdown of all three macronutrients helping to optimise the absorption of nutrients.
Apple cider vinegar is a firm staple in my kitchen, not only for its health benefits, but also for its diverse use in cooking. It is perfect to use in salad dressings to give that acidic balance, or mixed together with a little lemon juice, honey, ginger and hot water for the most warming tea. I also use it routinely in the winter months together with other immune supportive foods such as lemon, ginger, garlic and turmeric for an immune tonic to help starve colds and flu.