Sarah Ivory April 29, 2019

Apple cider vinegar is rumoured to be a cure-all that aids weight loss, but where does it come from and does it have any health benefits? 

Is apple cider vinegar good for you?

Few kitchen staples boast the versatility of apple cider vinegar – people cook with it, soothe colds with it and even clean their hair with it. In fact, the golden elixir has been used medicinally for centuries, as an antibiotic and a treatment for scurvy. More recently, apple cider vinegar has made headlines for its ability to boost weight loss, balance blood sugar and promote a healthy microbiome.

“Apple cider vinegar contains vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium, which are powerful antioxidants that can strengthen the immune system and support digestive health,” explains Barbara Cox, celebrity nutritionist and author. A bank of research backs vinegar’s role as a health tonic – one study in the journal Diabetes Care shows it improves insulin sensitivity when consumed after a high-carb meal; another reports that three months of regular consumption can lead to modest weight loss (two to four pounds).

“Apple cider vinegar also contains citric, formic, lactic and succinic acids, as well as the antioxidants caffeic acid, catechin, chlorogenic acid, epicatechin and gallic acid,” adds Barbara. “These are well known for reducing inflammation.”

How is apple cider vinegar made?

Field of apples that have fallen off the trees

1. Crushed apples and sugar are left to ferment

Part of apple cider vinegar’s multitasking prowess lies in how it’s created – it’s made from health-giving apples, plus sugar and yeast. The sugar is dissolved in water and then poured over crushed apples. This mixture is left to set for two weeks until the sugar ferments into alcohol. “As the sugars are digested through the fermentation process, the vinegar contains very little sugar and carbohydrate,” reveals Barbara.

Glass bowl of apple cider vinegar

2. The apple cider vinegar 'mother' is formed

The apples are strained out and the liquid is left for another four weeks. This process converts the alcohol into vinegar through the action of acetic acid – a compound that gives apple cider vinegar its sour tang. “As the acid does its job, sediment appears on the bottom of the container and the ‘mother culture’ settles on top,” explains Barbara. “The ‘mother’ is a colony of beneficial bacteria, so be mindful of buying over-processed products that don’t contain it.”

Bottle of apple cider vinegar surrounded by apples

3. Filtering creates the finished product 

Some vinegar producers filter out the good bacteria to make their products visually appealing. These options will be bright in colour and non-cloudy – they also won’t boast the health-enhancing properties of apple cider vinegar with mother. Look for cloudy, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar to harness all of its health benefits. What sets it apart from cider vinegar? Actually, they’re largely the same thing but cidered vinegars often come in flavours such as raspberry.

How much apple cider vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar can be enjoyed in many forms – as part of a salad vinaigrette, in a soup, as a marinade – but the one with the most scientific credibility is to have a couple of tablespoons, diluted in water, before a meal.

The acetic acid in the wonder elixir is believed to suppress the breakdown of starches, meaning that less sugar from a carb-rich meal will be absorbed. If you’re not a fan of the acidic taste of apple cider vinegar, try it in supplement form. Or “Experiment with the quantity of the vinegar, and enjoy with additions such as lemon, ginger, cinnamon or manuka honey,” suggests Barbara. “It can take time to work, so stick with it for a month to notice changes to your digestive system, skin and metabolism.”

Can I make my own?

Yes, you can produce apple cider vinegar by using the recipe below. You’ll need jars, a warm storage area, apples, sugar and water. The main benefit of a homemade variety is that you’ll produce the vinegar in its purest form. However, it can be time consuming. Want the convenience of shopping? Apple cider vinegar supplements are readily available.

Make apple cider vinegar at home

Bottle of apple cider vinegar on brown cloth surrounded by apples 

1. Chop three apples into one-inch pieces and place in a clean jar.

2. Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar with 200ml of water and pour over the apples. Add more water until the apples are covered by about an inch of liquid.

3. Cover the jar and place in a warm spot for two weeks.

4. After two weeks, strain out the liquid and discard the apple pieces.

5. Cover once again and leave for four weeks, stirring every few days. After four weeks, taste the vinegar to test it’s to your liking.

Want to know more about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar? This article splits fact from fiction.

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