If you love apple cider vinegar (or ACV), you’ve probably noticed the many claims about its health benefits – and not just because it’s a salad topper! Here’s an ACV 101 with a look at the science behind these health claims, and the new (and unusual) ways it’s being added to people’s diets this year.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been in and out of the health and wellness spotlight for the last decade. So while it’s not new news, there continues to be a heath halo around it, with ongoing endorsements from celebrities, new and unique ways to incorporate it into our diets, and attention from popular podcasts and food blogs alike.
WHY IS IT SO POPULAR?
First, what is ACV?
ACV can be made using a few different methods, but a 2-step fermentation process must occur. First, yeast (either added or naturally occurring) converts the sugars in apple juice to alcohol. Then it undergoes a second fermentation to convert the alcohol into acetic acid.
The resulting mixture appears cloudy due to the plant material and bacteria that is often referred to as the “Mother.” Some manufactures filter out the mother, while other companies keep it in and label their products as unpasteurized, unfiltered, or raw.
Some say the unfiltered type tastes a bit more apple-y but either way it’s moderately tart compared with other types of vinegars and is nuanced flavor is perfect in this Roasted Root Veggie Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette.
How did drinking ACV become a health trend?
It’s not unusual for one food, food group, or nutrient to be elevated over others. All it takes is a study or two (even if small and relatively innocuous) to catch the eye of a popular figure or news agency. Add some anecdotal endorsements from influencers over the years, and a health trend is born.
That’s what happened here. There are many health claims about ACV, including its ability to jump start weight loss, manage hypertension, improve fasting glucose, lower cholesterol, and improve gut health. But do they add up?
There are no strong studies that indicate ACV should be used as a health intervention.
But, it’s a probiotic, right?
This is a common misconception.
The definition of a probiotic is a microorganism that benefits health when taken in certain amounts. To be defined as a probiotic food, there needs to be evidence that it bestows certain health benefits. Unlike other fermented products such as yogurt, kefir, or even unpasteurized or homemade kimchi and sauerkraut (made without sugar and vinegar), ACV hasn’t earned that honor, at least yet.
How has the ACV trend morphed over the past few years?
A few years ago, taking shots of ACV was the tried-and-true method for this health trend. But as noted above, it was pretty sour and often, people weren’t feeling great afterwards (though some people do enjoy it!).
What about supplements?
Vinegar supplements, or ACV gummies, continue to gain popularity. Forbes just published an article on this year’s “Best ACV Gummies.” Though this may sound more appealing than a shot, there’s no way to know how much vinegar is actually in each gummy, and the side effects remain (noted below).
How about shrubs?
Because many people deem them more palatable, “shrubs” are becoming more popular. A shrub is a non-alcoholic syrup made with vinegar, fruit, sugar, and various aromatics, which is then added to soda water or cocktails for flavor.
This is somewhat similar to the “healthy Coke” craze that went viral on TikTok, in which people were making their own colas using sparkling water and balsamic vinegar. (While it may look like Coke, it doesn’t taste like it!)
Are there any downsides to trying shots of ACV?
Yes. Esophageal irritation and eventual erosion of tooth enamel are the big ones. For those with GERD, this will not feel good.
More resources to check out:
Maintenance Phase recently made a podcast on the history of ACV and Paul Bragg (who founded the ACV company, Bragg) and how the trend got started…back in the 1800s. This podcast is humor-forward and sarcastic, and the story may not lead where you think it will. Spoiler alert: the Bragg family company was sold to Katie Perry and Orlando Bloom!
ACV continues to forge a path in the health food world, but it’s not backed by reliable scientific research. Nor is it an effective way to lose weight, lower cholesterol, or manage blood sugar. It is delicious, however, in salad dressings and marinades!
💛 As always, we love to hear from readers. Tell me, what are your experiences with ACV?