Should You Be Drinking Vinegar?

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If you do a Google search for “apple cider vinegar,” you will undoubtedly come away with hundreds of articles touting its myriad magical powers. Depending on whom you believe, downing regular shots of vinegar will do everything from helping you drop pounds to improving your digestion and even preventing diabetes.

“Vinegar has been used medicinally for thousands of years, but evidence supporting its use for health outcomes is limited and quite recent,” says Carol Johnston, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of nutrition at Arizona State University who studies the impact of vinegar on diabetes.

According to Johnston, the best science that exists actually backs up one of vinegar’s loftiest claims to fame. “Many randomized, controlled trials have demonstrated that when vinegar is consumed at mealtime, the acetic acid in it attenuates the glycemic response to the meal,” she says. In other words, your blood sugar doesn’t spike after you eat. For diabetics, having lower blood-glucose levels reduces diabetes-related inflammation. And even for nondiabetics, not having that post-meal glucose surge may minimize risk for heart disease.

Downing just one to two tablespoons (diluted in a tall glass of water) before meals is the recommendation — at least as far as studies on glucose have found. But if the thought of tossing back plain old vinegar is unappealing, you might want to seek out one of the tasty flavored vinegars that are actually designed for drinking.

In Colonial times, vinegars were used as drink mixes, and one company — McClary Bros. — aims to revive that tradition. They start with organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, then mix in fresh, seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs to create flavors such as Pineapple & Fennel Seed, Lemon & Ginger and Beet & Carrot.

And a German winery, Lang Weinessig, has recently started producing nonalcoholic drinking vinegars and distributing them in the U.S. The vinegars in this line — which includes flavors like quince, blackberry and tart cherry — are also intended to be added to sparkling waters or other beverages, or drizzled on top of fruit or ice cream.

However you decide to take your vinegar, know that you don’t need to limit yourself to the much-touted apple cider variety. “We have used red raspberry vinegar in our trials with success, as well as apple cider vinegar,” says Johnston. “Other investigators have even used distilled white vinegar with success.”

Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.