Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good For You?

Whether it's tossed through a salad, mixed with water or simply enjoyed tolerated on its own, apple cider vinegar is popular in the natural health and food world.

And with the claimed benefits including weight loss and improving diabetes, it's no wonder people are including apple cider vinegar into their daily routine.

For those who are sitting on the fence about apple cider vinegar, or who just don't know much about the sour stuff, here's an explainer on what apple cider vinegar is, its benefits (and whether they're actually backed up by science) and ways to consume it.

What is apple cider vinegar? How is it different from normal vinegar?

There's quite a difference between apple cider vinegar (also known as ACV) and regular white vinegar you use to drizzle on your hot chips or clean the house with.

"Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apple cider in a two-step process. First, apple juice is fermented into alcohol and then the alcohol is fermented into vinegar," Jessica Spendlove, accredited practising dietitian and athletic performance dietitian, told HuffPost Australia.

"Apple cider vinegar is basically fermented apples or apple cider which then become acetic acid (the main ingredient in vinegar) by adding bacteria.

"It differs from regular vinegars because it's made from apple must or apple cider, whereas many common varieties are made from grape must, wine or grains."

What does apple cider vinegar contain nutrition-wise?

Looking at apple cider vinegar from a nutrition point of view, ACV contains probiotics and some antioxidant properties.

"It is really low in energy at approximately 12 kilojoules (three calories) per tablespoon, which is mostly carbohydrate. Certain types will have small amounts of antioxidants and amino acids, and most contain trace amounts of potassium," Spendlove said.

"Organic unfiltered varieties contain 'mother', which is basically protein, enzymes and good bacteria (probiotics)."

What are the benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is said to help with weight loss, blood sugar levels, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but are these claims backed up by science?

"Some are, some aren't," Spendlove explained.

"The improvements in blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity, and subsequent benefits in diabetes management, are the health benefits most strongly supported by scientific evidence."

This reduction in blood sugar and insulin levels post-eating may contribute to feeling full and thus eating less.

ACV with "mother" is cloudier than plain vinegar.

"There is some evidence to suggest apple cider vinegar may be beneficial in weight loss due to increasing the feeling of fullness and therefore eating less calories overall," Spendlove said. "Only modest weight loss was shown over a period of 12 weeks.

"There is limited research to support the role of apple cider vinegar in the prevention of cardiovascular disease in humans. Some studies show this benefit in animals; however, this on its own cannot be applied to humans."

Essentially, apple cider vinegar is "by no means a magic ingredient for weight loss on its own", but it may help some people lose weight in combination with good diet and regular exercise.

Does apple cider vinegar have negative effects?

In modest amounts of up to 1-2 (diluted) tablespoons per day there are no known harmful effects, Spendlove explained.

"In large doses, however, there are possible negative effects of ACV. It may cause gastrointestinal issues such as nausea and worsening of symptoms in those with gastroparesis due to delayed stomach emptying.

"Due to the high acid content, excess apple cider vinegar consumption may contribute to erosion of tooth enamel and may cause oesophageal irritation or burns in large doses."

Try adding a couple of teaspoons of ACV to fruit-infused water.

What are the best ways to consume apple cider vinegar?

For those wanting to include apple cider vinegar in their day, it's best to start slowly (say, one teaspoon) and definitely don't drink it straight (see above for tooth enamel erosion). For the most benefits, choose unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the "mother".

"Like any vinegar, you definitely wouldn't drink it straight," Spendlove said.

"It can be used as a salad dressing. A nice way to consume it is mixed 50/50 with extra virgin olive oil. You can dilute with water for a beverage and you can also consume it in tablet form."