Q:Will apple cider vinegar help me lose weight? I've heard it has many health benefits. Is that true?
-Esther J., Boise, Idaho
The main ingredient in apple cider vinegar (ACV) is acetic acid, which is similar to stomach acid. And this may be why it can help you lose weight-by improving the breakdown of nutrients, which greatly improves their absorption, thus promoting satiety. Many overweight people tend to be undernourished. Sadly, a lot of our processed "food" (or as author Michael Pollan, who wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma and other books, likes to call it, "food-like substances") has plenty of calories, but not much nutritional value.
Put simply, if you absorb nutrients more effectively, you'll require less food to feel satisfied. That makes sense, right? WebMD cites a 2007 study in which a group of people lowered their morning glucose numbers by 4-6 percent by taking 2 Tbs. of ACV at bedtime. If your glucose doesn't spike as high, it won't crash as low. Wild ups and downs in blood glucose cause untold grief in regular folks of all ages. Avoiding refined food, which almost instantly passes into the bloodstream and raises glucose, is your best bet for preventing these extremes. And if something as simple and inexpensive as ACV at bedtime can help you maintain this balance, there's certainly no harm in it.
Always buy vinegar that you plan to consume in a glass bottle, not plastic.
The American Diabetes Foundation published a study a few years ago that followed 29 people who took ACV before meals. Participants fell into three groups: normal fasting glucose, pre-diabetic (fasting glucose in the 120-150 range), and diabetic. All of he participants reduced their post-meal glucose spikes after taking ACV, compared to when they didn't take it.
For internal use, I recommend using fermented, not distilled, vinegars. Look for a vinegar that has "gunk" in the bottom of the bottle. Always buy vinegar that you plan to consume in a glass bottle, not plastic.
Safe (and Inexpensive!) Household Cleaner
Vinegar makes an extremely useful, nontoxic household disinfectant. I pour some down all of my sinks and drains along with a heaping spoonful of baking soda weekly. Vinegar is especially great for wiping down counters and cleaning glassware, including mirrors. For these and other cleaning purposes, use distilled white vinegar, which is inexpensive and can be bought in gallon jugs (plastic is fine in this case) with a nearly indefinite shelf life.