Apple Cider Vinegar
Food fad or daily essential?
My ever-inspiring Dad drank a spoonful of apple cider vinegar (ACV) in a glass of warm water every morning for much of his life. He would be 96 this year if cancer hadn't taken him from us many years ago. He claimed it worked wonders! Foodies and healthy-living folk will be well aware that this hard-to-swallow vinegar is having its cult moment. I swallow a dessertspoon of the stuff every morning and although I haven't read much evidence-based medicine supporting its health attributes, my stomach in particular can attest to its benefits!
So in the interests of us Middle Years folk (and indeed most others too!) I did some research and here's a taste of what I found....
As far back as 5,000BC the Babylonians used vinegar as a tonic and pickling agent, while the Chinese have extolled its virtues for centuries as the go-to remedy for everything from flu to stomach upsets and warts, not to forget its use as a household cleaning agent.
What's in it
All vinegar, regardless of brand, contains an active ingredient called acetic acid and it is this natural acidity of apple cider vinegar that offers its benefits on stomach health most especially. ACV is made from freshly crushed apples fermented in wooden barrels lending a natural brown colour and some floating particles. These particle bits are the 'mother' - strands of protein, enzymes and gut friendly bacteria that give the vinegar a slightly dense, murky appearance. As the vinegar ages, more of this mother accumulates. High quality ACV is especially potent if the fermentation process is left untouched, (filtering and pasteurisation can lead to poorer nutrient content).
Although the mainstream medical community remains skeptical about its overall health benefits, pharmacist Shabir Daya founder of my trusted health resource Victoria Health, says that ACV can help alleviate acid reflux and heartburn, amongst other complaints, by restoring normal acid levels in the digestive system. While this may sound illogical (because ACV is acidic in nature anyway) Daya says that although a full scientific study is yet to be carried out, it appears that taking a mildly acidic ACV diluted down helps to stop the acid producing cells from over producing acid. The award-winning and utterly superb Gwinganna Health retreat in Australia swears by its benefits as well and for this very reason. See my review here.
Other reported benefits of ACV include its role in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels in the body (its pectin content is believed to significantly reduce high cholesterol levels), a more evenly controlled blood sugar level in diabetics, reduced blood sugar levels after eating and more efficient cleansing of harmful bacteria from the gut leading to a happier and healthier gut (more on this here).
ACV is also thought to help relieve stomach cramps and gassy discomfort (I can personally vouch for that!), while some studies have found it can help reduce night time leg cramps believed to be due (in part anyway) to a lack of potassium. If you suffer from this or indeed acid reflux during the night, then try 1-2 tablespoons ACV mixed in warm water an hour or so before bed.
How to drink it
Make sure to buy the organic unfiltered variety of ACV. Mix 1-2 tablespoons (depending on tolerance) into a glass of warm(ish) water. Add a tablespoon of honey or lemon if desired. If drinking it isn’t your thing, just add to salads or other dishes to ensure you are getting it. And lest I forget, ACV used as a hair rinse washes away residues of many styling products used on our hair leaving it really shiny and squeaky clean. And if you don't believe me - just try it!