7 expert-approved benefits & uses of apple cider vinegar
When thinking of vinegar, most of us are familiar with the brown malt vinegar we sprinkle on chips and white wine vinegar used in vinaigrettes, pickles, chutneys, and even cleaning.
But move over malt and white wine vinegar because there’s a new vinegar on the block – apple cider vinegar.
You’ve probably heard about some of the wonderful things about apple cider vinegar already, including how it has the potential to lower blood sugar, aid weight loss, soothe blemish-prone skin, help digestion, and even boost your immune system.1
In this article, we take a closer look at this hugely popular vinegar; lifting the lid on what it is, what the ‘mother’ reference is all about, and, more importantly, the apple cider vinegar benefits of adding it to your diet.
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What is apple cider vinegar?
As we’ve just mentioned, apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar. It’s produced during the apple cider fermentation process.
The process involves fermenting the sugar that’s naturally present in apples by adding yeast and/or bacteria to the cider.
Over time, the cider turns into alcohol and then vinegar.
You can drink this apple cider vinegar as it comes (but be mindful of your teeth enamel and your tastebuds because it’s extremely tangy!) or you can eat apple cider vinegar capsules or gummies to get your ACV goodness.2
What is the ‘Mother’ in Apple Cider Vinegar?
On the shelf, you’ll find two different types of apple cider vinegar: often a clear vinegar and a cloudy vinegar.
The apple cider vinegar that has been filtered looks a little lighter and doesn’t tend to contain any bits – these are the bottles of clear apple cider vinegar you’ll see on your shop.
Then there’s the unfiltered apple cider vinegar that looks a lot darker and happens to have bits floating it in. This is apple cider vinegar with ‘mother’.
To make apple cider vinegar, there is a two-step process.
The first step is to add yeast to break down the sugars and turn them into alcohol.
After this, bacteria are added to the mix, which turns the alcohol into acetic acid. This bacterium is known as the ‘mother’ and is often referred to as the healthiest part of apple cider vinegar.
In regular apple cider vinegar, the mother is removed, and the vinegar is filtered, giving it a clearer consistency.
But why is the mother left in sometimes and what makes it so beneficial to our health?
Well, the mother is made up of strains of friendly bacteria, which help to keep your digestive and immune systems working well. This, in turn, helps your body to make the most of the food you eat and works to balance any bad bacteria to help stop you from getting unwell.
Whilst apple cider vinegar without the mother has excellent benefits, if you’re looking to reap all the best health benefits, choose apple cider vinegar with the mother.
Whilst it might not look as appealing, the health benefits of it certainly are!
We’ve listed some of the health-enhancing properties of apple cider vinegar down below, or watch our video:
7 health benefits of apple cider vinegar
It’s said that the ‘Father of Modern Medicine’, Hippocrates, used apple cider vinegar for coughs and cleaning wounds.
So why has this folk remedy remained popular since Ancient Greece?
There are so many benefits of apple cider vinegar, both with and without the mother.
- Helps improve digestion
Like other fermented foods, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar contains healthy, gut-friendly bacteria that help to keep your digestive system working correctly, letting you make the most of the food you consume and keeping harmful bacteria at bay.
Apple cider vinegar helps neutralise stomach acid whilst the acetic acid fights harmful bacteria.
Apple cider vinegar has also been shown to have antiviral, anti-yeast, and antifungal benefits, which are all helpful in supporting the microbiome and overall immune balance.5
In addition, apple cider vinegar can help to support your liver. Whilst there is little research on the link between apple cider vinegar and the liver, it is thought to help the liver flush out harmful toxins from the body, fortifying the overall health of the liver.
- Supports your immune system
Prevention is better than cure, so protecting your immune system can help to ward off diseases and infections.
And here’s where the healthy bacteria in raw cider vinegar come into play.
Studies have found that healthy bacteria can help you recover quicker if you get sick. ACV’s antibacterial properties can reportedly fight off pathogens in our body, such as E-coli, staphylococcus aureus and Candida Albicans.6
So, you could try apple cider vinegar to help support your immune system.
- Condition of your hair
If you have dry, brittle hair or an itchy scalp, adding apple cider vinegar to your usual hair care routine could give you more manageable tresses.
The pH level of our scalp and hair is acidic at around 4.5 to 5.5. Research has found that high-alkaline shampoos can raise the pH level of your scalp and hair, leading to hair breakage and dryness.
The acetic acid in the mother is thought to help lower our hair’s pH to combat that dry, frizzy feel.
Water can have the same impact too because it’s pH neutral. But because apple cider vinegar is acidic, it can help restore hair’s pH balance if you pour it on your hair after shampooing.
So, adding apple cider vinegar into your hair care routine as a hair mask or rinse (more on this later!) is an excellent way of adding shine and strength to your locks.
- Improve your skin and nail health
Thanks to its cleansing, hydratingand cleansing properties, apple cider vinegar is used as a natural solutionfor healthier skin and nails.
For the skin, you can use apple cider vinegar in various ways. Applied as a toner, it may help to balance skin pH and has an exfoliating effect that smooths and softens. You can even help ease shaving bumps by using a cotton pad to wipe apple cider vinegar over the area.
And, for rough, cracked heels,apple cider vinegar is commonly used as a foot soak.
- Lowers blood sugar levels
Keeping your blood sugar levels in check is essential, and studies have shown that the acetic acid found in cider vinegar could be beneficial.
It’s believed that acetic acid blocks the enzymes that help digest starch.
As a result, blood sugar levels don’t fluctuate as much after eating starchy food, such as pasta or bread.
- Aiding weight loss
Those apple cider vinegar weight loss rumours may have some truth to them!
Research has found that apple cider vinegar may be effective at helping people lose weight. It’s believed ACV slows down the absorption of starches in food, which makes you feel fuller for longer and reduces appetite.11
A 2018 study of people actively trying to lose weight, published in the Journal of Functional Foods, found that dieters having 1.5 tablespoons a day of apple cider vinegar lost more weight than those who only followed the diet.12
- Improving heart health
Apple cider vinegar lowers triglycerides, which cause fatty plaque along your arteries to build up.
In a small-scale study, scientists found apple cider vinegar modestly lowered cholesterol in people whose levels were not unhealthily high.
Interestingly, malt vinegar didn’t have the same effect – researchers believe this means acetic acid isn’t causing the outcome but rather a compound in apple cider vinegar called pectin, a type of fibre.13
Pectin is present in apples and vinegar and can help neutralise bad cholesterol.14
One study found a significantly lower risk for heart disease among people who consumed oil-and-vinegar salad dressings frequently (5-6 times or more per week) compared with those who rarely consumed them.15
Whilst there is no clear link between apple cider vinegar and blood pressure, supporting lower cholesterol levels and potentially helping with weight loss can all help with your blood pressure levels.
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8 top uses of apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is just as delicious drizzled on your Friday night fish and chips. But beyond the usual, here are some wonderful ways to get the most out of it:
How to use apple cider vinegar
- As a daily drink
Before bedtime, stir two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into a large glass of water.
Remember to always dilute ACV before drinking. On its own, vinegar’s acidic nature can be harsh on your throat and damage your teeth.
Making it into an apple cider drink is usually the best way.
Generally, it’s safe to drink apple cider vinegar every day, with studies showing the results of drinking apple cider vinegar every day as beneficial. But it is vital to make sure you dilute the apple cider vinegar.
You should also make a note of when you drink apple cider vinegar during the day. If you experience heartburn or acid reflux, it’s best to avoid drinking apple cider vinegar at night.16 (Ref: https://www.verywellhealth.com/apple-cider-vinegar-88768
Find out more about drinking apple cider vinegar in our guide on how to drink apple cider vinegar and when.
- As an alternative to salt
Are you trying to cut down on your sodium intake?
Swap salt for a dash of apple cider vinegar to enhance the flavour of your usual meals.
- As a salad dressing
Whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar and honey with lemon juice to trickle over crisp salad leaves.
Or try mixing apple cider vinegar with rapeseed oil, garlic and seasoning for a light salad dressing. A great salad dressing recipe that is full of flavour!
- As a steam facial treatmen
Facial steaming opens your pores and helps to clear impurities.
To take the treatment to the next level, add two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a bowl of hot, boiled water.
Cover your head with a towel and sit over the steam for up to 15 minutes. When you’re done, splash your face with cool water and gently pat your skin dry.
- As a skin cleanser and toner
Why not switch your usual skin care products for an all-natural alternative?
For example, after rinsing your face with water, finish by wiping with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar.
Before attempting this, do a patch test to prevent any skin sensitivity.
- As a cleansing hair rinse
As discussed earlier, apple cider vinegar can be great for your hair and scalp.
For a boost of moisture and shine that soothes an itchy scalp, apple cider vinegar is just the thing.
First, mix equal quantities of apple cider vinegar and water in a bottle.
After washing your hair, pour on the mix, then rinse with water for softer, cleansed hair.
- As a foot soak
There’s nothing like an at-home spa treatment after a long day. And if you’re dealing with cracked heels or foot odour, soaking your feet in unfiltered vinegar could help.
Add one part vinegar and two parts warm water to your foot bath. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes for smooth, silky skin.
- As apple cider vinegar gummies or other supplements
If you want to enjoy all the apple cider vinegar benefits for your body but don’t want to eat or drink it, don’t worry.
The use of apple cider vinegar is varied. There are plenty of supplements, including apple cider vinegar gummies and apple cider vinegar tablets, you can try.
Side effects of apple cider vinegar
When drinking apple cider vinegar, side effects might be the last thing on your mind. After all, it’s just vinegar!
However, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of.
You can drink or use apple cider vinegar with minimal side effects.
More often than not, the most common side effects are linked to how strong it is due to its acetic acid content, highlighting how important it is to dilute it!
For instance, apple cider vinegar may:
- Cause chemical burns – it has been known to burn the skin when used to remove warts.19
- Lead to tooth damage – due to its ability to erode tooth enamel, which can then lead to cavities, over time.
- Lead to throat irritation and allergic reactions – as well as reduced potassium levels, hypoglycemia.
- Nausea and indigestion – when drank undiluted, it could make you feel sick or cause acid reflux.20
- Low potassium levels – when taken for a long time in large quantities21
- Injure the digestive tract (throat, oesophagus and stomach) – if consumed undiluted and in large quantities.22
- May interfere with some diabetic medications. - due to apple cider vinegar’s potential blood sugar-lowering properties, it’s advisable to check with your GP if you’re thinking of taking it as a diabetic.
- May be unsuitable for people with chronic kidney disease - your kidneys may have trouble processing the excess acid, so speak to your doctor first.
While it’s ok to consume apple cider vinegar every day, it’s important to drink it diluted to protect your teeth and skin from enamel corrosion and, in some instances, chemical burning, as well as digestive injuries and allergic reactions.
A final few words about apple cider vinegar
The benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar, eating apple cider tablets or gummies or sprinkling it on your salads and other food are widespread.
And, when you consume ACV with the mother, the health benefits are believed to be even more profound.
From helping with digestion and keeping breath fresh to giving hair a glossy shine and boosting your immune system, apple cider vinegar packs a mighty punch in more ways than one.
The Happy Pear Twins: Easy healthy habits for life
In this friendly and open chat, the Happy Pear Twins, Stephen and David Flynn, talk to Gemmaabout their journey running a plant-based business and what they’ve learnt along the way. Plus they share:
- Achievable healthy habits
- How to choose healthy ingredients
- The lowdown on 'swimrise'- sunrise swims
The Happy Pear Twins: Easy healthy habits for life
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The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 9 November 2022
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Author: Michelle Kemp, Regulatory Affairs Associate
Joined Holland & Barrett: Aug 2005
Michelle joined Holland and Barrett in 2005 as a Customer Services Advisor where she worked for a total of 6 years.
She left H&B to pursue a career within the public sector and later returned in 2013 where she continued to support the Customer Services department and further developed by qualifying as an advanced product advisor working alongside a team of nutritionists.
She then moved to buying as a FNSS Raw Materials Coordinator before joining the Regulatory Affairs Department in 2017 as a Regulatory Affairs Associate. After 3 years in this role, she then moved to the Beauty team where she expanded her knowledge to focus on the beauty industry.
Michelle is now working on both own-label and branded beauty lines, ensuring that these products and all relating marketing material comply to the EU, UK and International Cosmetics Regulations.
Michelle has 3 children who take up a lot of her time, but when she has a few spare minutes she enjoys walking, fitness and cooking.
Read more from Michelle