Apple cider vinegar has gotten some serious hype lately for its supposed health benefits — some claim it reverses everything from diabetes to weight gain. Sadly, it’s not that simple. While the ingredient provides plenty of pros, we’ll be honest: There’s no need to swallow spoonfuls every morning.
These are the 10 apple cider vinegar health benefit rumors you can stop believing in once and for all:
1. It boosts your immune system.
Using apple cider vinegar regularly may improve your health overall, but it’s not for the reason you think. Made by adding bacterial cultures and yeast to apple juice, the liquid is typically used as a dressing on vegetables. It’s the antioxidant compounds in the produce that actually help reduce the risk of chronic disease, including cardiovascular illness, diabetes, cancer and cognitive decline.
With that in mind, it’s hard for scientists to determine the amount of beneficial antioxidants in apple cider vinegar itself. Some may be diminished during processing, not to mention unused by our bodies once ingested. Since produce, pulses, nuts and seeds provide a slew of well-established benefits, you’re 100% better off getting your immune-boosting nutrients from nature’s best foods, and using vinegar for dressing and dipping.
2. It helps digest carbs.
Sorry, but apple cider vinegar doesn’t give you a free pass when it comes to bagels. One small 2006 study linked the liquid to limiting the negative effects of high-carb, high-glycemic-index meals but you should be avoiding those processed carbs anyway! You can fill up on veggies, fruit, whole grains, pulses and low-fat dairy with or without vinegar to get the same health benefits.
3. It zaps fat.
Studies suggest the acetic acid in vinegar may help reduce fat production in the liver and improve blood cholesterol levels overall. The caveat: You can’t exactly dunk chicken fingers in apple cider vinegar and expect magic to happen. While research on vinegar may appear promising, skipping fried, fatty foods is a well-established way to help reduce total cholesterol and improve overall health.
4. It lowers blood sugar.
It could help, but don’t bet on it. Some research linked acetic acid with a mild reduction in blood sugar spikes after meals, slowing food’s movement through the GI tract. Another proposed mechanism: Acetic acid reduces the activity of carbohydrate-digesting enzymes. However, current research relies on hyper-specific populations, small sample sizes or rats, not humans.
Diabetics should proceed with caution when using vinegar, since it may affect how much insulin is needed for a meal or snack. For the rest of us, stable blood sugar levels are linked to diets high in plant-based foods and regular exercise. A drop of vinegar won’t cause significant changes.
5. It helps you lose weight.
While I wish it were true, just one tablespoon, shot glass or ramekin of vinegar cannot help with weight loss! The only research linking vinegar to weight loss used a tiny sample size and poor controls. Plus, the subjects in the study were on a weight-loss diet to begin with!
The only way to shed excess pounds in a sustainable way is to fill up on veggies and fruit, cut back on saturated fat and added sugar and get movin’!
6. It kills bacteria.
Simply because “acid” is a byproduct of vinegar production doesn’t mean vinegar is a germ-killer, nor does it “detox” any vital organs. The antimicrobial claims made about apple cider vinegar stem from the fermentation process. Science can point to a reduced risk of foodborne illness, not the colds, infections and stomach bugs caused by bacteria and viruses. Staying hydrated, sleeping well and filling up on veggies will stave off sickness much more effectively.
7. It wards off heart disease.
Due to acetic acid’s possible link to reduced cholesterol levels, fruit-based vinegar may help prevent cardiovascular disease, especially clot formation. However, the science isn’t substantial enough to make a definitive statement. Researchers don’t fully understand role of polyphenols, the antioxidants found in plant-based foods that protect cells from damage.
Your best bet is adding apple cider vinegar to veggie-rich foods, which can help to bring out flavor while avoiding creamy, sugary dressings. Vinegar itself may be beneficial, but there’s no solid evidence to recommend chugging the stuff just yet!
8. It’s packed with probiotics.
Probiotic properties of apple cider vinegar are minimal at best. That’s because they’re found in the “mother” of vinegars, the substrate leftover after fermentation. Since most commercially-available vinegars are highly-processed, good bacteria is hard to come by. Foods like Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso and tempeh are all better sources with the added benefit of filling you up.
9. Drinking it in the morning helps you eat less during the day.
Sorry, but nope! Delayed gastric emptying seen in the (limited) existing research on vinegar is likely caused by slower digestive enzyme activity in the GI tract. However, drinking apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach can be tough on your digestive system and cause heartburn. Steer clear of supplements, tonics and elixirs that make this hunger-killing claim, and fill up on breakfasts that combine fiber and protein instead.
10. It cures everything!
If you love apple cider vinegar so much that you’re using it as a salad dressing or produce topping, by all means, go for it! Vinegar contains zero calories, enhances flavor and poses a low health risk, except for GERD-sufferers. But if you’re solely sipping the stuff for its purported health “benefits,” science says you’re out of luck — at least for now. Your best bet is to fill up on plant-based foods, which will provide everything you need to stay healthy.
Bottom line: Vinegar is for salads, not supplements.