Most of us are familiar with the brown malt vinegar that’s sprinkled on chips and white wine vinegar that’s used in vinaigrettes, pickles and chutneys, and even, cleaning. But move over malt and white wine vinegar, because there’s a new vinegar on the block – apple cider vinegar.
In this article, we take a closer look at this hugely popular vinegar; lifting the lid on what it is, what the ‘mother’ reference is all about and, more importantly, some of the health benefits linked to adding it to your diet.
What is apple cider vinegar?
As we’ve just mentioned, apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar. It’s produced during the apple cider fermentation process.
The process involves fermenting the sugar that’s naturally present in apples by adding yeast and/or bacteria to the cider. Over time, the cider turns into alcohol and then vinegar. You can drink this apple cider vinegar as it comes (but be mindful of your teeth enamel and your tastebuds because it’s extremely tangy!) or you can eat apple cider vinegar capsules or gummies to get your ACV goodness.1
What is apple cider vinegar with mother?
There are two different types of apple cider vinegar. The types that’s been filtered – this looks a little lighter and doesn’t tend to contain any bits. Then there’s the unfiltered type that looks a lot darker and happens to have bits floating it in.
Now don’t be put off by those stringy, wispy floating bits because they’re the ‘mother’, which is said to be full of gut-friendly probiotics or, more specifically, acetic acid bacteria.
Some people prefer ACV with mother and some prefer it without, it’s entirely up to you. But what you may find is, the mother variety tends to cost a bit more than the motherless versions.2,3
Apple cider vinegar is essentially a vinegar that’s made from apples during the cider fermenting process. It’s available with or without the ‘mother’, which is believed to be packed full of goodness.
9 health benefits of apple cider vinegar
It’s said that the ‘Father of Modern Medicine’, Hippocrates, used apple cider vinegar for cleaning wounds and relieving coughs. So why has this folk remedy remained popular since Ancient Greece?
We’ve listed some of the health-enhancing properties of apple cider vinegar down below, or watch our video:
1. Helps improve digestion
Like other fermented foods, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar contains healthy bacteria – the gut-friendly bacteria that helps keep your digestive system working properly. Cider vinegar could provide relief for those with stomach problems like indigestion or heartburn. This is because it neutralises stomach acid whilst acetic acid fights harmful bacteria.
Apple cider vinegar has also been shown to have antiviral and anti-yeast and antifungal benefits, which are all helpful in supporting microbiome and overall immune balance.4
2. Supports your immune system
Prevention is better than cure, so protecting your immune system means you’re more likely to ward off diseases and infections. And here’s where the healthy bacteria in raw cider vinegar come into play.
Studies have found that healthy bacteria can help you recover sooner if you do get sick. Meanwhile, ACV’s antibacterial properties can reportedly fight off pathogens in our body, such as E-coli, staphylococcus aureus and candida albicans.5
3. Condition of your hair
If you have dry, brittle hair or an itchy scalp, replacing your usual shampoo with a bottle of unfiltered cider vinegar could give you more manageable tresses. Research found that using high alkaline shampoos leads to hair breakage and dryness.
The acetic acid in the mother is thought to help lower our hair’s pH to combat that dry, frizzy feel. The pH level of our scalp and hair is acidic at around 5.5. Normal hair products are alkaline, which can contribute to our hair becoming brittle and dry. Water can have the same impact too because it’s pH neutral. But because apple cider vinegar is acidic, it can help restore hair’s pH balance if you pour it on your hair after shampooing.
4. Improve your skin and nail health
Thanks to its natural antibacterial and antifungal properties, apple cider vinegar is used as a natural treatment for healthier skin and nails. Applied as a toner, it may help to balance skin pH and has an exfoliating effect that smooths and softens. And, for rough, cracked heels or mild fungal nail infections, apple cider vinegar is commonly used as a foot soak.
5. Lowers blood sugar levels
Keeping your blood sugar levels in check is important and studies have shown that the acetic acid found in cider vinegar could be beneficial. It’s believed the acetic acid blocks the enzymes that help digest starch. As a result of this, blood sugar levels don’t fluctuate as much after eating starchy food, such as pasta or bread. In fact, drinking 4 teaspoons of vinegar before a high-carb meal may help prevent blood sugar spikes.
A 2017 review of studies published in Diabetes Research & Clinical Practice suggested just that having more vinegar with meals can decrease fluctuations in insulin and blood sugar after you eat.6
6. Fighting dandruff
Thanks to apple cider vinegar’s antifungal properties, it can tackle oil build-up or excessive amounts of the yeasty fungus, malassezia; two of the main culprits of dandruff.7
7. Boosting nutrient levels
Apple cider vinegar contains magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, amino acids, antioxidants and only three calories per tablespoon.8
8. Aiding weight loss
Research has found that apple cider vinegar may be effective at helping people lose weight. In terms of how it works, it’s believed ACV makes you feel fuller, so it prevents people from overeating.9
9. Improving heart health
Apple cider vinegar lowers triglycerides, which cause fatty plaque along your arteries to build up. It also happens to contain a fibre called pectin, that’s present in apples and vinegar and can help neutralise bad cholesterol.10
Is it safe to have apple cider vinegar every day?
Yes, it’s ok to drink or sprinkle apple cider vinegar on your food every day, but how much you have of it will very much depend on how much you can tolerate it, as it does have an extremely strong taste.
What’s more, drinking it neat may damage your tooth enamel over time. And large amounts of it may cause cavities. The acetic acid that’s present in the vinegar is pretty potent stuff and may weaken dental enamel and lead to loss of minerals and tooth decay. To prevent this from happening, always drink one part vinegar to ten parts water and sip it with a straw.11
Side effects of apple cider vinegar
On the whole, people can drink or use apple cider vinegar with minimal side effects. The most common side effects are linked to how strong it is due to its acetic acid content. It may:
1. Cause chemical burns – it has been known to burn the skin when used to remove warts.
2. Lead to tooth damage – due to its ability to erode tooth enamel, which can then lead to cavities, over time.
3. Lead to throat irritation and allergic reactions – as well as reduced potassium levels, hypoglycemia.
4. Injure the digestive tract (throat, oesophagus and stomach) – if consumed undiluted and in large quantities.12
While it’s ok to consume apple cider vinegar every day, it’s important to drink it diluted to protect your teeth and skin from enamel corrosion and, in some instances, chemical burning, as well as digestive injuries and allergic reactions.
7 top uses of apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is just as delicious drizzled on your Friday night fish and chips. But beyond the usual, here are some wonderful ways to get the most out of it:
1. As a daily drink
Stir two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into a large glass of water before bedtime. But remember, always dilute it before drinking. On its own, vinegar’s acidic nature means it can be harsh on your throat and damage your teeth.
2. As an alternative to salt
Trying to cut down on your sodium intake? Swap salt for a dash of apple cider vinegar to enhance the flavour of your usual meals.
3. As a salad dressing
Whisk it together with olive oil, honey and lemon juice trickled over crisp salad leaves.
4. As a steam facial treatment
Facial steaming opens your pores and helps to clear impurities. To take the treatment to the next level, simply add two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a bowl of hot, boiled water. Cover your head with a towel and sit over the steam for up to 15 minutes. When you’re done splash your face with cool water and gently pat your skin dry.
5. As a skin cleanser and toner
Why not switch your usual skin care products for an all-natural alternative? After rinsing your face with water, finish by wiping with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar. Before attempting this, do a patch test to prevent any skin irritation.
6. As a cleansing hair rinse
For a boost of moisture and shine that soothes an itchy scalp, apple cider vinegar is just the thing for thirsty hair. First, mix equal quantities of apple cider vinegar and water in a bottle. After washing your hair as usual, pour on the mix then rinse with water for softer, cleansed hair.
7. As a foot soak
There’s nothing like an at-home spa treatment after a long day. And if you’re dealing with cracked heels, foot odour or fungal infections, soaking your feet in unfiltered vinegar could help. To try, add one-part vinegar and two parts warm water to your foot bath. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes for smooth, silky skin.
A final few words about apple cider vinegar…
The benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar, eating apple cider tablets or gummies or sprinkling it on your salads and other food are widespread.
And, when you consume ACV with the mother, the health benefits are believed to be even more profound.
From helping with digestion and keeping breath fresh, to giving hair a glossy shine and boosting your immune system, apple cider vinegar packs a mighty punch in more ways than one.
Last updated: 29 July 2021