Is this wellness trend scientifically sweet or snake-oil sour? We asked a Registered Dietitian to clear the air.

By Betty Gold
Updated August 25, 2020
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According to its fanbase, apple cider vinegar (or or ACV for short) isn't just sitting in your pantry waiting to perk up a salad dressing. Several years ago, it started to become wildly popular to use apple cider vinegar as a superfood "wellness tonic," in which health-minded individuals swore that taking apple cider vinegar by the spoonful (or shotful), adding it to water, or sloshing it into morning smoothies improved their gut health, immunity, and satiation. At first, this seemed crazy—who wouldn't think taking shots of straight vinegar was a bit odd—but intriguing no less. That's why we tapped Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, for the legitimate lowdown on the nutritional uses of apple cider vinegar.

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

"Some small studies indicate that adding apple cider vinegar to the diet may improve blood glucose levels and help to reduce appetite which may promote weight loss," explains Palinski-Wade. Its antimicrobial properties is also something to note. "And although the research on ACV is promising, the majority of it has been done on very small sample sizes, so more research is needed to see if these findings will impact the population as a whole."

What Is the Best Way to Consume Apple Cider Vinegar?

ACV is very acidic and should not be ingested undiluted. "Doing so can erode the enamel on teeth and damage the lining of the esophagus," affirms Palinski-Wide. She says we should only consume ACV when it is diluted as 1 tablespoon into at least 8 ounces of liquid. Look for raw, unfiltered, and unpasteurized ACV, such as Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar. You can find raw ACV on the shelf you'd find other vinegars. (Heads up: ACV is made from fermented apple juice, and raw renditions often contain the 'mother.' This is what's believed to have the bulk of the good-for-you bacteria, but it may look murky. If you see sediment at the bottom of your bottle, don't worry—it's normal.)

The easiest way to consume is to simply incorporate apple cider vinegar into what you might already be eating every day. We like drizzling it into smoothies, using it as a base for Dill Pickles, adding it to strawberry jam, or drizzling it over vegetables or chicken, like in this Cider-Mustard Glaze. Of course, if its pungency makes you hesitant to drink it on its own, you can buy one of many drinking vinegar products now on the market, like those from Trader Joe's.

Bottom Line: Don't Think It's a Dream Elixir

"Claims that consuming apple cider vinegar will have pounds magically fall off or that it will cure diabetes are way overhyped," Palinski-Wade says. "In my opinion, the small studies on ACV indicate it may offer some health benefits when it comes to insulin resistance and weight management and there is little risk in incorporating it into the diet." For these reasons, she recommends that if you are interested in trying ACV, you should do so (only diluted) for one month and track your progress.

"If you feel adding ACV to your diet reduces your appetite, aids in digestion, or helps improve blood glucose, then there is little harm in continuing to incorporate it into their meal plan. However, if you are on a blood glucose-lowering medication, be sure to discuss adding ACV with your medical team first and track blood sugar often to prevent the risk of hypoglycemia."