The practice of drinking apple cider vinegar and water to help lose weight or for other promised health benefits has been around pretty much since people learned how to ferment things. Apple cider vinegar and water is also believed to be more hydrating than plain water.
As well as adding a bit of tart flavor to plain water, apple cider vinegar is believed to have beneficial properties, especially in the sediment that forms at bottom, which is known as the "mother." But this has not actually been proven through scientific testing.
As with any home health remedy, adding apple cider vinegar to your daily routine should be approached with caution. There is no such thing as a magic elixir, but used sparingly as part of an overall plan of healthy eating and consistent exercise, apple cider vinegar can help boost your intake of vitamin C.
Apple Cider Vinegar Myths
As with other so-called miracle foods and drinks, the benefits of apple cider vinegar are claimed to be many and varied. Some of these have no basis in reality; others range from possibly true, given anecdotal evidence, to possibly true based on peer-reviewed scientific studies.
Among the claims made for apple cider vinegar are that drinking it every day will:
- Reverse or slow aging
- Ease the symptoms of arthritis
- Clear up eczema
- Prevent leg cramps
- Fix sinus problems
- Repair split ends
- Promote weight loss
According to assistant professor Melissa Wdowik, Ph.D., RDN, FAND, at Colorado State University, there is no science behind any of these claims. There is anecdotal evidence that taking 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before eating can help decrease your intake of food, but only because it can cause nausea. Cooking with apple cider vinegar actually can help you lose weight, notes Dr. Wdowik, because it adds flavor but not a lot of calories.
Apple Cider Vinegar Facts
Apple cider vinegar has been used for health and medicinal purposes since ancient times, according to the experts at Texas A&M University, who go on to explain that it has been used internally as a health drink and also externally as an antibacterial and antifungal agent. Roman soldiers enjoyed an apple cider vinegar drink, and so do many modern athletes, Texas A&M says.
As for any medicinal properties apple cider vinegar may contain, the jury is still out. According to Texas A&M, one study showed that taking about a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar lowered participants' blood sugar levels within about 30 to 60 minutes after a meal. Unfortunately, Texas A&M points out, this study only included 11 people, so it cannot be counted as meaningful.
Other possible health benefits that have been studied include the effect of apple cider vinegar on weight and on cholesterol levels. Texas A&M concludes that while there are some promising results, many more studies are needed before a final decision as to any health benefits. One thing that has been proven is that ACV is high in vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and a source of support for your immune system.
Benefits of Drinking Water
Drinking water is essential to life, notes the U.S. National Library of Medicine's website MedlinePlus. The old adage about drinking at least 64 ounces of water per day has been replaced by the more modern notion that calculating how much water you need to drink depends on your age, weight, gender, activity level and where you live.
According to the American College of Healthcare Sciences, the best way to ensure that you are fully hydrated is to pay attention to your body. If your urine is dark yellow and you are constipated, headache-y and mentally fuzzy, you are probably dehydrated. Simply drink more water, ACoHS says, and eat foods that contain a lot of water such as fruits and vegetables.
Read more: How Can I Tell When My Body Is Hydrated?
Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar
The best way to control the quality of your apple cider vinegar drink is to make your own ACV from scratch. This is not difficult, according to the experts at Pennsylvania State University. The two main keys are to keep the mixture oxygenated and to strictly control its temperature. The three steps that must be followed are yeast fermentation, acetic acid fermentation and clarification, explains Penn State.
Start by washing ripe, red winter apples, Penn State says. Press them and strain all of the juice through cheesecloth. Add one cake of cultivated wine-making yeast into every 1 gallon of cider to hasten fermentation. Fill open containers approximately three-quarters full and keep them out of sunlight at temperatures between 60 and 80 F. Stir them every day to keep them oxygenated. It will take three to four weeks for your ACV to fully ferment, Penn State says.
Strain your mixture through a double layer of cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter to remove the mother. This will keep your apple cider vinegar from continuing to ferment, explains PennState. Pasteurize your ACV by heating it to 140 F and putting it into sterilized bottles.
Place the sealed bottles in a hot water bath, but do not let the vinegar exceed 160 F, Penn State cautions. Let the bottles cool and store them in a dark place so you have them handy for your daily apple cider vinegar and water drink.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Water
Drinking apple cider vinegar and water for your health won't work if you cannot stand the taste. One way to fix this problem is to make a drink called switchel, advises the University of Wisconsin Madison. This drink was most likely brought from the Caribbean, and is a combination of apple cider vinegar, water and sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup or molasses, in addition to ginger and fruit juice.
North Carolina State University concurs, further explaining that switchel is also called Haymaker's Punch because it was traditionally served to farmers during hay harvesting. Switchel is known to be extremely refreshing, and it is healthier than water because it will not put your electrolytes out of whack.
Tips and Warnings
Apple cider vinegar can be used in other ways, rather than just mixed into water as an apple cider vinegar and water drink. Use it instead of white or balsamic vinegar in salad dressings and as the acid in marinades. Add a scant teaspoon to sweet agua frescas such as those made with watermelon, peaches, plums or berries to add a refreshing tartness.
Never drink apple cider vinegar undiluted, cautions Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD, at the Mayo Clinic. Apple cider vinegar is high enough in acid to damage your throat. Even more important, ACV can interfere with certain medications, Zeratsky warns. These include diuretics and insulin.
According to the experts at Harvard Health Publishing, undiluted apple cider vinegar can damage your tooth enamel, and taking in too much ACV can lower your potassium levels. If you are taking diuretics to lower your blood pressure, you should avoid apple cider vinegar, because diuretics also lower your levels of potassium.
- Colorado State University Extension: "Beware Apple Cider Vinegar Claims"
- Texas A & M University: "Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good For You? A Doctor Weighs In"
- MedlinePlus: "Drinking Water"
- Pennsylvania State University: "Making Cider Vinegar at Home"
- University of Wisconsin Madison: "Five Things Everyone Should Know About ... Switchel"
- North Carolina State University: "Switchel (Haymakers Punch) - Nature’s Healthy Gatorade
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Apple Cider Vinegar Diet: Does It Really Work?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Apple Cider Vinegar for Weight Loss"
- American College of Healthcare Sciences: "The Low-Down on How to Stay Hydrated This Summer"