When it comes to items you can find in your kitchen cabinet that are celebrated for their health benefits, apple cider vinegar is in a league of its own. It’s frequently recommended for offering all sorts of perks, from helping regulate blood sugar levels to increasing the good kind of cholesterol for a healthier heart.
“Most of the research for apple cider vinegar revolves around its ability to normalize blood sugar levels, even after a high-carb meal,” says Maria Zamarripa, MS, RD. “Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is key to reducing cravings, promoting weight loss, and preventing chronic disease.”
But what you might not know is that if it’s not used correctly, apple cider vinegar can also have some serious negative side effects. If you’re thinking about adding it to your regular routine, be sure to read these expert tips to make sure you’re being as healthy as possible. After all, that’s the whole goal, right?
Mistake #1: Not diluting it
Many people have started drinking apple cider vinegar and even use it as a health-boosting wellness shot first thing in the morning. But you should never drink it on its own.
“Apple cider vinegar is very acidic, so avoid drinking it by itself or in large quantities,” explains Zamarripa.
Instead, always dilute it. She recommends up to one tablespoon in a large glass of water that you drink with meals. If the flavor with just water alone is too strong for you, try mixing it with other healthy ingredients like lime or lemon juice, honey, cayenne and ginger.
Mistake #2: Taking it on an empty stomach
“Because of its benefits on blood sugar, it’s best to enjoy apple cider vinegar with your meals,” says Zamarripa. You can definitely get creative with this. She recommends using it in everything from homemade salad dressings to marinades to mayonnaise. “This can add flavor and improve digestion of the meal as well.”
Mistake #3: Ignoring your teeth
Acidic foods and drinks can cause serious damage to your teeth. This is another big reason why diluting apple cider vinegar is so important, especially if you are consuming it frequently. Undiluted, it can weaken the enamel in your teeth, which can lead to sensitivity, cavities and tooth decay. As an extra precaution, “drink it through a straw so the vinegar doesn’t make contact with your teeth,” says Caroline Barsoum, DMD. And while it may seem counterintuitive, don’t brush immediately after drinking it. “The tooth structure is weak and you could cause erosion. Instead, rinse your mouth out with water to remove residual acids,” advises Barsoum.
Mistake #4: Not consulting your doctor
Sure, it might sound extreme to check with your doctor before adding something you can easily buy at the grocery store to your diet, but it never hurts to make sure it won’t affect you negatively in ways you might not have even thought about. For example, women with osteoporosis have been advised to exercise caution with it as high acid levels can be detrimental to the formation of new bones.
“If you’re taking any blood-sugar lowering medications, make sure to check with your doctor before increasing your intake of any type of vinegar,” warns Zamarripa.
Mistake #5: Expecting magic
If you believe everything you read on the internet about apple cider vinegar, it can start to seem like a legendary cure-all for everything from the common cold to cancer.
“While apple cider vinegar does provide some benefits, it isn’t a miracle,” Zamarripa concludes. “Enjoy adding apple cider vinegar to recipes at home, but remember to first focus on eating a colorful diet of nutrient-rich foods.”
A version of this story was published April 2019.