It's definitely overhyped, but no, it's not all hype... There are two very good reasons raw apple cider vinegar has gained its superstar status for promoting digestive health. Here they are, and how to best add to or sub this put-on-a-pedestal vinegar in your daily regimen.
What Is Raw Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar that is made from fermenting apples. The fermentation process in raw apple cider vinegar creates beneficial bacteria and enzymes that are said to reduce inflammation in the body. (There's that word bacteria again! Find out more in this piece about probiotic supplements.)
The Digestive Benefits of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar:
1. It has an alkalizing effect on your body.
Why is alkalinity important? The optimal blood pH for humans is 7.4, which leans—on a scale of 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline)—slightly alkaline. If your body’s pH varies too much from this ideal, it becomes difficult for various enzymes to function properly, and this can lead to disease. With the overabundance of acid-forming foods we consume, including bread, coffee, alcohol, cheese, meat, cookies, pasta and more, maintaining this slightly alkaline state is a constant challenge.
You may be thinking: "Isn't apple cider vinegar highly acidic?" Yes, it is. HOWEVER, and this is a big however, whether a food is alkalizing or acid-forming in the body is all about the way your body metabolizes it. Just like many fruits and vegetables, ACV is considered a very acidic substance. But once it is inside your body and you digest it, ACV promotes alkalinity.
Taking a daily dose of ACV isn't going to be a cure-all to maintain your alkaline balance (you're going to need to amp up your intake of fruits and vegetables and reduce meat and refined sugar for that), but it is a step in the right direction.
2. It is a prebiotic.
Not to be confused with a probiotic, a prebiotic, such as the pectin found in ACV, acts as a fertilizer for the good bacteria (probiotics) that are already in your gut. In the colon and large intestine, probiotics feed on the pectin, helping to maintain a healthy digestive system. Pectin can also be found in fruits, such as apples and berries.
It may also be your blood sugar's bestie (when eating a bowl of pasta).
There is scientific evidence that consuming vinegar helps keep blood sugar under control. Several studies, including this one, have documented that vinegar ingestion reduces your blood's glucose response to a carbohydrate load in healthy adults and in individuals with diabetes, meaning if you eat/drink it before or during a carb-y meal, it'll reduce that blood-sugar spike afterwards. Another study found that vinegar's main component, acetic acid, helps suppress body-fat accumulation and therefore may help in reducing or preventing obesity. These studies don't single out apple cider vinegar from other vinegars, though.
How to Take Your ACV
Right before a meal, drink an 8-ounce glass of water with 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Can't handle the sour taste? Make that a warm mug of water and add a dollop of honey to it. Warning: Do NOT take it straight without diluting it with water. The acid can erode tooth enamel.
Another way to get it in: Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons with olive oil and add it to your salad.
Personally, I love Bragg Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, and use it almost every day.
There are a lot of claims out there about apple cider vinegar's health benefits. Some, like its digestive benefits, are backed by science; other claims don't have scientific proof necessarily, but are backed by first-hand experience (like reducing the inflammation from a bee sting); and others, such as helping cure cancer, are extreme and misleading. While incorporating ACV into your diet or daily routine has benefits, it would never be the only thing you'd need to do to maintain a healthy digestive system.