It's versatile, tasty and increasingly popular, but is apple cider vinegar actually as good for you as many people seem to think? Let's take a look at some of the claims being made for it.
First of all, though, what exactly is apple cider vinegar?
As its name suggests, it's a type of vinegar that's made from fermented apple juice. It contains no proteins or fats and is surprisingly easy to make: bacteria and yeast are added to crushed apple mush, triggering a process of alcoholic fermentation that converts the sugars to alcohol. The alcohol is then converted into vinegar in a second fermentation phase by the addition of acetic acid-forming bacteria. This acetic acid – which forms up to 6% of the final product – combines with malic acid to give apple cider vinegar its distinctive sour smell and flavour.
Raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar is cloudy and contains a substance known as a 'mother of vinegar', a brownish sediment made up of proteins, enzymes and acetic acid bacteria which forms naturally while it's fermenting. In filtered apple cider vinegar, the 'mother' is removed, leaving a clear, amber-coloured liquid, but despite its unappetizing appearance, 'mother of vinegar' is actually completely harmless, and some even claim that it possesses health-boosting properties.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Benefits
So is apple cider vinegar good for you? It's long enjoyed a reputation as a folk remedy for a range of health issues, and apple cider vinegar benefits are variously described as ranging from its efficacy as a natural laxative to its lowering blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity in type two diabetes. But is there any truth in it all?
The most common claim is probably that apple cider vinegar burns off fat. Some people say that taking apple cider vinegar with meals helps digest proteins faster, generating higher levels of growth hormone which, it is claimed, breaks down fat cells. Yet, others believe that the pectin in cider vinegar helps weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness, despite the fact that apple cider vinegar does not contain the pectin which is to be found in apples. But while there is some evidence that vinegar may help suppress appetite (likely simply because of its sour flavour), apart from some very small-scale studies, there is as yet no compelling scientific evidence of it having any effect on weight loss.
How much apple cider vinegar should you consume?
Some of those convinced of its beneficial properties recommend consuming it as a beverage, in dosages which usually range from 1–2 teaspoons to 1–2 tablespoons per day in a large glass of water. It should be remembered, though, that the side effects of consuming too much vinegar can include the erosion of tooth enamel, and that it should never be drunk undiluted.
With its pleasant combination of sweet and sour flavours, a mixture of apple cider vinegar and honey is often drunk as a tonic against colds and infections. Again, though, there is no scientific evidence of the mixture's beneficial properties.
As things stand at the moment, despite its reputation, it's clear that more research is needed before any of the beneficial effects attributed to apple cider vinegar can be said to be proven - and that a healthcare professional should always be consulted before using apple cider vinegar to treat any condition.
How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar: Ideas and Recipes
Vinegar has long been used for cleaning and disinfecting, and for preparing and preserving food.
The easiest way to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet is to use it in the preparation of meals. It's a simple addition to things like salad dressings and homemade mayonnaise and makes a great vinaigrette.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Recipe
All you need to do is simply:
Combine a ¼ cup of raw apple cider vinegar
Add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
Mix in ⅓ of a cup of extra-virgin olive oil
Add 1 crushed clove of garlic
Dash a tablespoon of raw honey and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard
Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste
Serve in a mason jar, seal, and shake until the ingredients have amalgamated
Leave for half an hour to marinate
You'll have a delicious dressing for salads or vegetables
Using apple cider vinegar for cleaning
It is common knowledge that vinegar can be used as an excellent natural cleaner: though less effective than bleach, its mild acidity does a great job of killing bacteria. A cup of apple cider vinegar dissolved in a gallon of water is perfect for cleaning most surfaces, though be careful, as it may damage softer stone and dull the finish of wood floors.
What's more, apple cider vinegar makes a great natural descaler for kettles and coffee makers. Simply fill your kettle or coffee maker with two parts water and one part apple cider vinegar, run it as though making coffee or boiling water, leave the boiling mixture inside for a few minutes to give the vinegar time to act, then rinse it out, run it again with clean water and then give it a final rinse.
It's also wonderful at getting rid of unpleasant odours - just leave a bowl of apple cider vinegar near the source of an annoying smell and let it be absorbed.
In summary, then, though further research into apple cider vinegar's alleged benefits for health is necessary, there's no doubt that it's a perfect low-calorie way to add flavour to foods and a handy natural product for cleaning around the house.