"Apple cider vinegar diet" doesn't sound like much of a diet, does it? The prospect is about as appetizing as the Master Cleanse (which, for those who don't know, largely involves drinking a mixture of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, water, and maple syrup), but know that the concept is not to solely drink ACV (how painful would that be?), but rather infiltrate the liquid into your everyday diet. A common belief is that doing so will help you boost your metabolism and, consequently, shed pounds.
Explains board-certified gastroenterologist Roshini Raj, creator of Tula skincare, "The apple cider diet is said to help accelerate the body's ability to break down and derive nutrients from fats and protein more efficiently and quickly from the digestive system.
Adding a few teaspoons of ACV to your meals to melt away fat sounds a little too good to be true, though, so we chatted some more with Raj and Eat This Not That! creator David Zinczenko for their thoughts. Spoiler: Their views are quite different.
When asked what he thinks of the diet as a whole, Zinczenko says it largely targets belly fat: "Apple cider vinegar helps to quiet your hunger hormones, lowers cholesterol, and can aid in weight loss, especially around your midsection."
Sounds enticing. But how should you be taking it? With water? With meals? Zinczenko explains, "Most recommend you consume it with your highest-carbohydrate meal of the day. Studies suggest that doing so will help to counteract the insulin and blood sugar spikes associated with those meals. Keep in mind, while it might be worth trying to see if it works for you, vinegar cannot reverse a poor diet or sedentary lifestyle. If you're Netflix-and-chilling every night instead of eating right and exercising, ACV won't be the cure." Fair and noted.
The best part, according to Zinczenko, is that you only need a small amount to reap the benefits. "Just add a tablespoon to a glass of water or top a salad with it, and you can accelerate weight loss and other health benefits such as lowering cholesterol. "In The Super Metabolism Diet, I recommend drizzling apple cider vinegar on cucumbers—that's a terrific and delicious food pairing for weight loss. Or sip your way slim by combining one glass of water, two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons of lemon, a dash of cinnamon, and stevia."
But what about the side effects? Since ACV is quite acidic, we wondered what, if any, repercussions there were for consuming it every day. "When used excessively, the acid in apple cider vinegar can potentially pose problems for your throat and teeth, while other components can affect your blood sugar and potassium levels—so don't overdo it," explains Zinczenko. "As long as you don't have intolerance to acidic foods, the vinegar shouldn't harm your esophagus or stomach lining, unless you are consuming it excessively. Again, a tablespoon will do it. This isn't a meal replacement—it's vinegar!"
Raj's assessment of ACV as a fat-burning measure was a bit less hopeful. She explains, "I have not come across any compelling research on the effectiveness of this diet and the weight-loss benefits of ACV. While consuming ACV isn't necessarily harmful, I cannot confirm that it will lead to weight loss." Putting it bluntly, she says, "If you eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise, that should help you achieve your health and fitness goals."
Raj isn't denouncing consuming ACV by any means; she just isn't seeing the scientific evidence to support its fat-melting benefits. However, if you want to try the ACV diet despite sound evidence, she recommends mixing the vinegar with water or incorporating it into your meals as a salad dressing. "I would say more than three tablespoons a day is too much," she says.
Similar to Zinczenko, Raj warns against its acidity. "Drinking a lot of it, consistently, can damage your tooth enamel, irritate your throat, and upset your stomach. I would avoid drinking any apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach. Acid can have negative effects on the mucous membrane in the mouth and throat. High acid content can burn the mucous membranes and irritate your esophagus and stomach, leading to heartburn and nausea as possible side effects."
While Zinczenko is a published author and well-respected individual in the health space, he isn't medically trained, which may explain his less cautious than Raj about ACV's usefulness. However, both conclude that in small doses, ACV is completely fine to consume so long as it's diluted.
The jury is still out on whether or not ACV is a fat-burner, but should you feel compelled to try it, just make sure you do so with a meal and a glass of water, and speak with your doctor first to ensure the acidity isn't too much for your system.