Alas, as rational as this conclusion may seem, it’s not quite right. Vinegar, in fact, contains a number of compounds that are great for the human body; highly acidic, lip-puckering concoctions have plenty of delicious-tasting potential, too. And so, in honor of the surge in popularity that sipping vinegars have seen in the several years, I conducted a drinking vinegar trial for two weeks to see if I could feel any notable differences in my own body.
Before we jump into the details of my experiment, let's quickly sum up what exactly a drinking vinegar (aka sipping vinegar) is, and what it is not. Specifically, I am not meddling with the mid-2010s craze of downing straight apple vinegar shots in hopes of boosting my metabolism or some other form of toxic diet culture nonsense. Drinking vinegars cover an entirely new category of fermented beverages that are not too dissimilar from kombucha; they offer promising digestive and skincare benefits thanks to prebiotics, probiotics, and other functional components. And instead of simply mixing vinegar with water as most people do—which, let's be honest, is not so tasty—drinking vinegar brands are blending the fermented stuff with ingredients that make it way more palatable, then bottling it for grab-and-go accessibility. Many are made by muddling fruit and sugar (or alternative sweetener) together, allowing them to mix, and then adding vinegar, which ferments.
To make my drinking vinegar trial as palatable as possible, I relied on vinegars from two top-notch brands, Acid League and Ethan’s. Both offer variations on apple cider vinegar specifically meant for sipping. Whereas Ethan’s products come in a shot form, Acid League offers its living tonics in a slightly larger format so you can choose how much vinegar you imbibe at a time; you can also choose from an array of delicious options like apple cider maple (my favorite), mango jalapeño, and meyer lemon honey. Both brands have interesting flavors and, given that their base is the same apple cider vinegar, ostensibly offer the same health benefits.
Key takeaways from my drinking vinegar trial
1. I felt surprisingly energized.
During my two week experiment, I skipped my morning cup of coffee or tea to avoid consuming too much acid before 9 a.m. for the sake of my stomach. I expected that this would have something of a negative effect on my energy levels throughout the day—after all, vinegar does not contain caffeine—but I was surprised to find that I did not experience any particular drops in my energy levels without my normal morning latte. In fact, I felt less bleary and more focused during the start of my workday.
Of course, this may have been a result of the fact that to supplement my little dose of vinegar, I washed it down with plenty of water (hydration is key to helping you stay energized and mentally). But if drinking vinegars inspire me to stay hydrated, I'll consider that a win. And if you are still looking for a coffee stand-in with a little less zing than ACV, you could try Acid League’s Coffee Chaga Maple tonic, which contains dark roast coffee beans to give the vinegar a slightly coffee-esque taste that's ideal for mellow mornings.
2. My digestive system was very regular.
During my weeks of vinegar drinking, I found that my digestive tract felt noticeably settled (thanks, fermented bevvie). I assumed this was largely due to the fact that my poop schedule stayed very regular during my drinking vinegar trial—more so, even, than usual—but Lisa Moskovitz, RD, author of The Core 3 Healthy Eating Plan, says that it could also have something to do with vinegar's antimicrobial properties.
"This comes as no surprise," Moskovitz says. "Vinegars are already linked to gut health, but if added to fresh veggies, they can help destroy potential bacterial pathogens,” she says. "And by fighting pathogens, vinegar can actually make your tummy feel more at ease. Plus, Acid League vinegars are prebiotic, which means that they feed the good bacteria in your tummy, aiding in digestion."
Gastroenterologist and Touro College of Medicine faculty member Niket Sonpal, MD agrees with Moskovitz's take on vinegar's digestive benefits. "Although there has not been conclusive scientific data to affirm its use [in keeping you regular], many doctors and patients alike feel it is an effective holistic option," Dr. Sonpal previously told Well+Good. If you're experiencing stomach pain or gas on a regular basis and want to see if drinking vinegar can help, Dr. Sonpal says to go ahead and give it a try.
That said, folks who have acid reflux or gastritis should probably avoid vinegar given its high acid content, Moskovitz adds. “Vinegar can exacerbate an already volatile gastric environment,” she says. So be sure to proceed with caution and consult with a physician or dietitian before trying any new holistic forms of treatment.
Watch the video below to see what a registered dietitian thinks of apple cider vinegar:
3. My skin seemed a bit clearer.
While a couple of weeks is by no means long enough to make an assessment on whether or not drinking vinegar had a pronounced dermatological effect on my face, I did notice that a couple of stubborn pimples began to fade around my third day of vinegar drinking. While this may have happened with or without the addition of vinegar to my daily habits, it is worth noting that clearer skin tends to be one of the more highly-touted benefits of vinegar drinking. While most applications of apple cider vinegar for clearer skin involve direct application of an ACV mixture to your face, there is limited research that suggests that the pectin found in apple cider vinegar may help to improve the skin’s barrier. This, in turn, might have some positive dermatological effects, though more research is needed in this arena.
All in all, I found my vinegar-drinking week to be quite pleasant. Sipping vinegars surprisingly delicious, and I certainly did not experience any negative side effects. Of course, my two weeks of lightweight experimentation are no match for scientific evidence, but if you’re curious about the benefits of sipping vinegar, there’s nothing quite like first-hand experience to help you come to your own conclusions.
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