Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has earned its place on the superfood totem pole, cozying right up next to kale, quinoa, and coconut oil. We think it got its start as a healthier option for salad dressing, but ACV didn’t remain a spinach mix-in for long.

No, it’s far more than that: ACV contains tons of beneficial bacteria and nutrients, and it’s said to support all sorts of health markers:

  • ACV supports healthy cholesterol levels
  • ACV keeps your blood sugar in check
  • ACV can help your body absorb more nutrients
  • ACV can aid in weight loss
  • ACV promotes smooth digestion

Not convinced?

Maybe you’ll trust the wise word of natural medicine practitioners and microbiome experts. For years, healers have used apple cider vinegar to promote general health.

Dr. G himself uses at least one tablespoon of ACV every day.

“I like to include apple cider because it’s a biofilm-dissolving food,” Dr. G says, which is a critical part of maintaining a healthy microbiome. Biofilms form in our digestive system like plaque forms on our teeth overnight.

Wondering how this biofilm-busting superfood works? In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about using apple cider vinegar to improve your gut health.

What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?

You’d think a substance touted as a cure-all elixir would be complex and hard to come across — you know, like in movies where the characters try to find the fountain of youth.

Luckily, that’s not the case with apple cider vinegar. This tonic is actually relatively simple and widespread. ACV is made through two rounds of fermentation: First, apple juice ferments into a hard cider; then, that cider ferments into a vinegar.

Voila — now you have apple cider vinegar. You can find ACV in most supermarkets, grocery stores, and health food stores, or you can order it online.

Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for Gut Health?

There are two big reasons why ACV nurtures good gut bugs: It’s made from apples (hello, prebiotics) and it’s fermented (oh hey, probiotics too!). You may think of foods like sauerkraut or miso when you think of fermented foods, and beer probably comes to mind, too.

Read more: What’s the Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics?

During fermentation, microorganisms like yeast or bacteria convert the carbs or alcohol in a substance into acids. The double-fermentation used to make apple cider vinegar breaks down almost all of the sugar from the apples and transforms it into a compound called acetic acid.

Acetic acid is also found in other vinegars and in coffee, and research has shown that this acid contains performance-boosting properties, as well as antibacterial and antifungal properties to ward off unwanted microorganisms.

In terms of what apple cider vinegar actually does for your digestive tract, the benefits are numerous, and mostly attributed to that acetic acid:

How to Choose an Apple Cider Vinegar

In a perfect world, choosing the best of the best superfoods would be an easy task. But when you walk into your local health food store, you’re sure to see at least a handful of different ACVs. Before you buy, heed these tips about choosing an apple cider vinegar:

  1. Look for unpasteurized ACV. Pasteurization uses heat to kill harmful bacteria in a substance, which is why it’s a good thing for milk and cheese. However, pasteurization can also kill the good bacteria that you want in ACV, so pasteurized ACV is essentially useless.
  2. Get the ugly kind. Seriously — you want an ACV that looks cloudy or murky. The shiny, sparkly ACVs you see at the store are likely more filtered and processed, meaning they don’t offer the same benefits.
  3. Find one with the “mother.” We know that sounds weird, but the mother is simply the culture of beneficial bacteria that transforms apple cider into vinegar. Think of it as the SCOBY in kombucha.

What About Other Kinds of Vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is made similarly to other kinds of vinegars, but the difference is in what it’s made out of. Apple cider vinegar is derived from a nutritious fruit while most other vinegars are made from diluted alcohol.

This means that apple cider vinegar contains many more nutrients and beneficial properties than other vinegars. Other vinegars, such as white vinegar and balsamic vinegar, can be great tasty additions to salads and other foods, but you’ll reap the most benefits from apple cider vinegar.

How Much Apple Cider Vinegar Should You Drink?

There’s no tried-and-true recommended dosage that’s supported by research, but the safest way to consume apple cider vinegar is in small amounts in foods and dressings. If you want to consume it on its own, dilute it with water. A good rule of thumb is to mix 1 teaspoon of ACV with at least 8 ounces of water.

You can use raw ACV on food, like Dr. G does. He adds ACV to a big salad with vegetables and protein (such as salmon, shrimp, chicken, beans, tofu) and one serving of any whole grains, legumes, or starchy vegetables and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

“If you choose to drink it instead of adding it to your food, mix the table spoon in water and use a straw,” Dr. G says. “This way, it will enter your digestive system without touching your teeth.”

Avoid Side Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar

Though it offers numerous health benefits, apple cider vinegar is still an acidic substance and can cause side effects in some people. Consuming vinegar undiluted can damage the enamel on your teeth, irritate your throat, and cause digestive upset. Consuming large amounts (more than 8 ounces in a day) can also result in nausea or acid reflux (heartburn), so keep your portions small. As long as you follow these guidelines for apple cider vinegar, a healthier gut could be in your very near future.


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