Apple cider vinegar has been getting a lot of press for its purported health-boosting qualities. But before you add it to your diabetes diet, here’s the low-down on its benefits and risks.
What are the health benefits of apple cider vinegar?
Essentially fermented apple juice, apple cider vinegar (ACV) has long been used as a remedy to treat everything from sore throats to varicose veins. Some attribute the proposed health-boosting properties to the cloud of yeast and bacteria seen as sediment in the bottom of a bottle of ACV (called the “mother”), which acts as a probiotic.
In fact, this acetic acid bacteria has been suggested to improve heart health, and skin tone —and even help to lower blood sugar levels and manage diabetes. Still, there are no large studies to back up these health claims and more research is needed. In recent years, some people have tried using apple cider vinegar (usually 1-2 tablespoons diluted in a glass of water) before meals to help promote weight loss. Again, there is not enough evidence to support this as a means to lower the numbers on the scale.
Are there any health benefits for people with diabetes?
When it comes to diabetes, several studies have looked at the benefit of apple cider vinegar with varying results. Some small studies have shown that consuming ACV may lower blood sugar after meals and help moderate it upon waking up. One meta-analysis which reviewed six studies showed that apple cider vinegar does have beneficial effects on fasting blood sugar and A1C in people with type 2 diabetes. However, more research is still needed.
Are there any risks to using apple cider vinegar?
The good news is that apple cider vinegar is relatively safe to use when you have diabetes. That said, never substitute it for your regular medication.
Like everything, moderation is key. Consuming large amounts of apple cider vinegar can reduce your potassium levels (an important electrolyte for nerve and muscle cell functioning) and it may also erode tooth enamel.
The acid in the vinegar can irritate your stomach and should be avoided if you have digestive issues or ulcers. You should also steer clear of ACV if you have kidney disease since your kidneys may not be able to process the excess acid.
How can apple cider vinegar be used as part of a diabetes meal plan?
If you do decide to use apple cider vinegar on its own, it’s best to dilute it in a large glass of water before drinking, so you don’t irritate your stomach or damage your teeth.
ACV is a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. You can use it for sauces, soups, salad dressings and marinades—and even in baking. Apple cider vinegar pairs well with many types of meat and fish. You can also add a few drops to boiling water when poaching eggs.
What’s the bottom line?
The best way to manage your diabetes is always to eat a balanced, healthy diet and take your medication as needed. If you want to add a little apple cider vinegar boost to your day, it won’t hurt you. Just don’t expect it to be a miracle cure for diabetes, or any other ailment.