Some of you might have heard or read that drinking a glass of warm water with lemon is a great way to kickstart our metabolisms first thing in the morning. Or maybe you’ve heard that apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a bit of a miracle worker. The fitness and lifestyle blog that I follow advocates drinking ACV everyday and even tells their nutrition plan members to drink a juice and vinegar concoction every morning.
But what does science say? Can it actually be helpful? Since a new Tone It Up fitness challenge started today and hundreds of members are going to start drinking their vinegar each morning, I thought it would be the perfect time to do a little digging and find out if it’s actually beneficial.
What I found is that vinegar has the potential to be really good for us! But a lot of the studies have been done with a small study population, done on rats, or even in vitro – in a test tube. So as good as their results look, they might not be quite as beneficial as they appear.
What is vinegar?
Vinegar is made from fruit juice that is fermented with yeast to make alcohol. That alcohol is then oxidized by bacteria to make vinegar. Traditional methods of making vinegar take over 2 months. Thanks to modern technology though, we have methods that can make a batch of vinegar in about a day. It seems that most of the benefits associated with consuming vinegar are strongest when we use traditionally produced vinegars.
Benefits of vinegar
Blood sugar control
Vinegar appears to limits starch digestion, possibly by moving things through our stomach faster, meaning the starches just don’t have as much time to digest. Vinegar consumption also may help our body tissues to take in glucose from our blood, reducing our total blood glucose levels. Because of this, studies have found increased insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetics and prediabetes.
A caveat: Don’t cut out your diabetes medications in favor of drinking lots of vinegar. The effect of modern medicine is going to be much stronger than that of vinegar.
In mice and in vitro, vinegar seems to affect genes that limit the accumulation of body fat. Plus, because it affects how we digest carbohydrates it may increase satiety so we stop eating earlier in our meal and consume less calories overall.
Because more traditional vinegars contain the bacteria used to make them, they can have a really healthy influence on the population of bacteria already living in our intestines. And the more beneficial bacteria we have living down there the better our digestion and immune health are.
Vinegar contains polyphenols that act as antioxidants in our bodies – they help to protect against oxidative stress which makes them good for our heart and helps protect against cancer.
Those polyphenols inhibit oxidation of LDL particles, helping prevent the plaque formation in our arteries that contributes to atherosclerosis and increases our risk of heart disease. Other studies in rats found that vinegar consumption reduced blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and that vinegar consumption might help to mitigate the effects of a high cholesterol diet.
Kurosu, a traditional Japanese rice vinegar, inhibited proliferation of all cell lines of cancer tested.
Properties of the acids in vinegar make them lethal to bacteria such as E. coli and species of Salmonella. This is why so many natural cleaning solutions rely on vinegar as an ingredient and why it’s used in food preservation.
Vinegar has been used for centuries to treat injuries because of the antibacterial properties that I just mentioned, but there’s also a study that found that it can be helpful in tissue repair inside of our bodies too. A structure created by some of the bacteria used in the formation of vinegar appears to assist in tissue repair (in rats), could help moderate muscle soreness after exercise
Vinegar may stimulate the growth of neurons, improving cognitive function. It may actually be helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients.
You don’t have to drink your vinegar straight (and really you shouldn’t, it’ll damage your tooth enamel) or mix it into drinks to hide it. You can just incorporate it into your cooking! A splash of vinegar can bring out a certain brightness in dishes. It also helps to tenderize meats, so cooking tougher cuts in a vinegar sauce or broth (maybe something tomato-based) can result in a lovely, tender finished product.
So how do I use vinegar in my day-to-day life?
- I love fresh lemon in my water
- Simple apple cider vinegar and olive oil salad dressings are my favorite when I’m at home
- A drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top of my avocado toast and sliced strawberries is absolutely delightful
- Rice wine vinegar is essential (in my opinion) to any good Asian-flavored dish
- I’ll squeeze some lemon or sprinkle some vinegar on top of my cooked veggies to bring out that extra layer of freshness
- Sometimes I’ll just toss my salad greens in balsamic before adding all of my salad toppings
- I adore drinking switchel when the weather gets warm – or using it as a mixer with whisky
- And sometimes I’ll even drink those juice+vinegar concoctions or a glass of warm water with lemon
So what do you think? Do you use vinegar in your daily life?
Hey, we’re all unique. The information on this blog isn’t a substitute for individualized advice from a healthcare professional. Check with your doctor before making any major changes to your lifestyle.