You’ve probably heard apple cider vinegar touted as a home remedy for everything from teeth whitening to weight loss. “There are many claims about apple cider vinegar, but evidence just doesn’t support these at the moment,” says Morgyn Clair, MS, RD.
Little research has been done to verify the health claims associated with apple cider vinegar, and some of it has been inconclusive. One study found obese people on restrictive diets who used apple cider vinegar lost more weight than those who didn’t supplement with the vinegar, but it was a small study, which took place over a 3-month period.
Another study that reviewed previously published research found apple cider vinegar often had positive effects on blood-sugar levels, but this was not true across the board. Differences might be attributed to details which varied between individual studies, such as the amount of vinegar consumed, the acidity of the product, the timing of ingestion and more, according to the authors.
Some people drink the liquid straight, but the high acid content can destroy your tooth enamel over time. Before ingesting, be sure to mix the vinegar with liquid, such as water. “If you drink too much without diluting it, the acid can potentially be harmful to your teeth or esophagus,” says Ben Tanner, a physician’s assistant.
When you walk the supermarket aisles, you may notice more products containing apple cider vinegar than ever before. Here, nutrition pros weigh in on different types of apple cider vinegar products:
Goli Nutrition’s Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies are vegan, gluten-free and gelatin-free. They contain beets and pomegranates (for added vitamin B and antioxidants), in addition to apple cider vinegar. Although there’s some cane sugar in the product, there’s only 1 gram of sugar per 2-gummy serving, which the company says is equivalent to one shot of apple cider vinegar.
“Using special products to take apple cider vinegar is mostly unnecessary, but it’s fine to do as long as there’s not a lot of added sugar,” says Tanner. Moreover, if you eat a well-balanced diet that prioritizes whole foods, you likely don’t need to supplement, experts say.
Ethan’s Apple Cider Vinegar Shots combine apple cider vinegar with apple juice, water turmeric and black pepper (a combo shown to help fight inflammation) and natural sweetener agave. The product contains all-organic ingredients and zero artificial flavors or preservatives.
“If you find apple cider vinegar products that don’t have added sugar, those are probably a healthy alternative,” Tanner says. “One caveat: If you’re striving for optimal health, it’s best to avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose because they tend to promote weight gain and other health problems in the long run.” Moreover, mixing apple cider vinegar with juice adds extra calories without the benefits of the whole fruit itself, such as fiber.
Vina’s sparkling line of fruit-flavored beverages mixes about an ounce of organic apple cider vinegar with carbonated water, a mixture of fruit juices depending on the product (cherry, orange and lime are possibilities). Some flavors contain honey or maple syrup as a sweetener. The Tart Cherry Rooibos variety doesn’t contain these added sugars but is still mixed with several fruit juices.
“If they do have added sugar, that negates the health benefits of apple cider vinegar,” Tanner says. “You could still use these products if you enjoy them, just don’t expect them to be a net-positive for your health.”
KeVita’s Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic products contain about an ounce of apple cider vinegar, as well as live probiotics to support gut health. The drink’s base is a water-based kefir product, which is fermented without dairy (the more common variety of kefir). Apple juice and other fruit juices are combined with sparkling water and apple cider vinegar, with some stevia for sweetness. The Turmeric Ginger variety also contains turmeric.
“I don’t believe there’s any actual evidence that turmeric enhances the health benefits of apple cider vinegar,” Tanner says, “but turmeric does have some anti-inflammatory properties on its own, so you may get benefits from each of those.” Again, it’s important to note that fruit juice adds extra sugar and artificial sweeteners like stevia can actually harm gut health.
While apple cider vinegar remains trendy, more research is needed on its health benefits. But if you’re intrigued by the allure of this long-time home remedy, there’s no harm in adding apple cider vinegar to your diet, says Clair.
When it comes to trendy apple cider vinegar products, however, just make sure to keep in mind they’re not magic bullets. Depending on your budget and taste preferences, you can still include them in your diet, says Tanner, but be mindful of added sugar content.
Instead of these trendy products, you can always “add apple cider vinegar to recipes when you cook, substituting it for other types of vinegar,” says Clair. “It provides added flavor without extra additives and calories,” she says.