You may have heard about the apple cider vinegar diet, a diet that involves drinking apple cider vinegar before every meal. Proponents of the diet claim that it can help you lose weight and regulate your blood sugar.
According to recent research, apple cider vinegar may suppress appetite and could actually help with weight loss. It may have a couple other benefits too — although it can be dangerous if you take it the wrong way.
Here’s a closer look at apple cider vinegar, how it may help you lose weight, and the safe way to take it before meals.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is made by chopping up fresh apples, covering them in water, and leaving them to ferment.
During fermentation, the sugars in the apples convert to ethanol (alcohol), and bacteria then convert the ethanol into acetic acid, which is the main acid in all vinegars.
The apple cider vinegar you buy at the grocery store is usually diluted to 5% acidity, which makes it useful for cooking and taking internally (although if you’re drinking apple cider vinegar directly, you’ll want to dilute it more; you can read about that below).
You can find both raw and pasteurized ACV, and some brands leave in the “mother” — the collection of bacteria that fermented the vinegar. Raw, unfiltered ACV with the mother still in the bottle may have additional probiotic benefits, but overall, all kinds of apple cider vinegar are equally healthy.
Science-Backed Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar for Weight Loss
Several studies have found that drinking apple cider vinegar may help with weight loss.
In a 2009 paper, obese Japanese subjects drank either apple cider vinegar or placebo every day for 12 weeks. The groups that drank ACV lost significantly more belly fat and overall body fat than the placebo group[*].
Another study found that when people had apple cider vinegar before their meals, they ate less and felt full faster, which is a sign that ACV promotes satiety[*].
A 2016 study in rats fed a fattening diet found a similar result. Rats given ACV with their meals ate less and gained less weight[*].
Drinking a teaspoon or two of vinegar before your meals may curb your appetite and help you lose weight (just make sure you dilute it — see “How to Take ACV” below).
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Other Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar may be useful for more than just weight loss.
- Antioxidants. ACV is rich in gallic acid and catechins, types of antioxidants that decrease oxidative stress[*].
- Blood sugar control. A 2004 study found that ACV helps stabilize insulin levels. People with type 2 diabetes maintained more stable blood sugar levels when they drank ACV after a high-carb meal[*].
- Probiotics. Animal studies have found that raw apple cider vinegar acts as a probiotic, increasing healthy gut bacteria and improving immune system function[*].
How to Take ACV
Never drink straight apple cider vinegar. It’s far too acidic to consume directly.
Drinking undiluted ACV can dissolve your tooth enamel and cause acid burns on your esophagus. You always want to dilute your ACV.
If you’re drinking a teaspoon or two of ACV before a meal, mix it with 8 oz of water. You’ll reduce the acidity to safe levels.
Can You Cook With ACV?
While there haven’t been specific studies, you should still get the benefits of apple cider vinegar when you cook with it. Most of the components of vinegar are heat-tolerant.
The only exception is the probiotics in ACV. they’ll be destroyed by heat, so you may not get their beneficial effect on your gut biome.
Here are a few ways to use apple cider vinegar in your cooking:
- Instant Pot Ribs
- Keto Sourdough Bread
- Keto Cashew Chicken
- Keto Salad Dressing with Vinegar and Lemon Juice
What About Apple Cider Vinegar Pills?
If you don’t like cooking with or drinking vinegar but you still want its weight loss benefits, apple cider vinegar pills are a good option. They offer all the benefits of ACV without the flavor. There’s no need to dilute them and they’ll protect your tooth enamel and esophagus.
Side Effects of ACV
The one downside to drinking apple cider vinegar is that it may decrease your potassium levels over time. Vinegar stimulates potassium excretion in your kidneys[*], so if you’re using ACV for weight loss long-term, make sure you take electrolytes to replenish potassium.
Some people also report nausea after drinking ACV. If that’s the case, consider taking ACV pills or using other weight loss methods.
It’s also worth noting that, despite common claims, there’s no evidence that ACV decreases blood pressure or cures cancer. Many sites make those claims, but there’s no research to back either one up. If you have high blood pressure or cancer, speak to your physician; don’t rely on vinegar to solve major health issues.
Apple cider vinegar is a good way to supplement your weight loss efforts. Taking a teaspoon or two before each meal may curb your appetite, improve digestion, and help you slim down.
In addition, ACV may have probiotic benefits and can help stabilize your blood sugar.
If you’re trying to lose weight, consider pairing apple cider vinegar with a good weight loss diet to help you reach your goals.