These Are the Real Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has been touted as a cure-all for decades. I’ve seen claims that it can do everything from halt hiccups to whiten teeth, and even banish dandruff. Whether or not it's capable of all those things, there is some solid research to back up apple cider vinegar as a healthy elixir, as long as you use it correctly.

One promising benefit: It seems to help regulate blood sugar. A study published in Diabetes Care looked at men and women with type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that when the participants downed two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed with a snack (one ounce of cheese), they had lower blood sugar levels the next morning, compared to when they ate the same bedtime snack paired with two tablespoons of water.

Another study published in the same journal compared the effects of apple cider vinegar on healthy adults, people with pre-diabetes, and people with type 2 diabetes. Study participants in all three groups had better blood glucose readings when they consumed less than an ounce of apple cider vinegar with a high-carb meal (a white bagel with butter and orange juice), compared to when they the had the same meal and drank a placebo. People with pre-diabetes improved their blood glucose levels with vinegar by nearly half, while people with diabetes cut their blood glucose concentrations by 25%.

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Some research also suggests that apple cider vinegar may ward off scale creep. In a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, mice fed a high-fat diet along with acetic acid—vinegar’s key component—developed up to 10% less body fat than control rodents. The researchers believe the findings support the notion that acetic acid turns on genes that trigger enzymes to break down fat and prevent weight gain.

To investigate this effect in humans, Japanese scientists conducted a double-blind trial on obese adults with similar body weights and waist measurements in 2009. They divided the participants into three groups. Every day for 12 weeks, one group drank a beverage containing half an ounce of apple cider vinegar. Another group drank a beverage with one ounce of apple cider vinegar. And the third group had a drink containing no vinegar at all. At the end of the study, the people who drank one of the beverages with vinegar had less belly fat, lower triglycerides and waist measurements, and a lower body weight and BMI, compared to the no-vinegar group.

RELATED: 57 Ways to Lose Weight Forever, According to Science

Apple cider vinegar may also be a boon to digestive health, based on the results of a study done on mice with ulcerative colitis. The researchers found that when acetic acid was added to their drinking water, they had higher levels of good bacteria in their guts, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, and reduced symptoms of the gastrointestinal disease.

While the evidence behind apple cider vinegar seems promising, there are a few things to keep in mind before you start downing the stuff. First off, I don’t recommend drinking straight vinegar. Undiluted shots have been known to wear away tooth enamel, and damage the esophagus. Also, too much apple cider vinegar may lower potassium levels in the body. 

If you want to give it a go, swirl two teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of organic honey into a cup of warm water once a day. Or simply use apple cider vinegar as a main ingredient in salad dressing, or chilled veggie side dishes, like vinegar-based slaw.

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My go-to recipe: Whisk together one tablespoon each apple cider vinegar and lemon juice, add a half teaspoon of minced garlic, a dash of ground black pepper, and a few fresh basil leaves, chopped. It's fantastic drizzled over fresh leafy greens, broad beans, or cooked, chilled fingerling potatoes.

Just remember, making vinegar a daily habit won't cancel out the effects of overeating. Think of it as one piece of your wellness puzzle, and not a panacea.

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here. 

Source: Nutrition

Kids Are Eating Healthier, But There's Still Room for Improvement

First, the good news: Kids in the United States are eating better today than they were two decades ago. Now, the not-so-great part: They’ve still got a long way to go before their diet, as a whole, can be considered healthy.

These are the findings of a study published last week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that compared the eating habits of more than 38,000 U.S. children from 1999 to 2012.

To track dietary changes over this time period, researchers surveyed a nationally representative group of several thousand children (ages 2 to 18) each year, asking them or their caregivers to recall what they’d eaten in the past 24 hours. Based on these responses, an average Healthy Eating Index score was determined for each year in the study.

These scores rose steadily from 42.5 in 1999 to 50.9 in 2012. But that’s out of a possible 100—and even the 2012 scores constitute an overall “poor” rating.

"I am encouraged by the gains," said study lead author Xiao Gu, a master's student in epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health, in a press release. “Our paper provides evidence that we are on the correct track.”

Kids today are eating and drinking fewer empty calories (defined as solid fats, added sugars, and alcohol), which accounted for about one-third of the total score improvement. Increased public awareness about junk foods and sugary drinks has likely played a role, say the researchers. State and local policies, like soda taxes and school vending-machine bans, may help, as well.

Higher consumption of fruits, whole grains, seafood and plant proteins, and greens and beans also gave scores a boost in recent years.

Co-author Katherine Tucker, PhD, professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, says she was mildly surprised—and very optimistic—about the improvement in whole-grain consumption.

“A lot of people think kids don’t like whole grains, and they won’t eat them,” Tucker told Real Simple. “But this shows that efforts to introduce them to kids are working.”

RELATED: 10 Whole Grain Breakfasts to Power Your Day

She’s also pleased that kids are eating more fruit and drinking fewer sugary beverages. “While a little bit of fruit juice is fine, we all know that whole fruit is more nutritious and contributes less to weight gain,” she says.

Consumption could still be much higher in these categories, however. Children in 2012 averaged a score of just 2 out of a possible 10 for whole grains, and 2.1 out of 5 for whole fruit. “I think the increasing trend is encouraging, but the current dietary quality level is disappointing," said Gu.

And not all categories showed improvement: No significant change was reported for vegetable intake between 1999 and 2012, despite a consistent emphasis on fruits and veggies in the Dietary Guidelines over this time.

And kids’ sodium intake—which has been linked to heart disease and high blood pressure later in life—actually went up. “Sodium is an acquired taste, so if you get used to eating a lot of salty snacks it makes it difficult to cut back later,” says Tucker. “That’s why it’s so important for kids to learn about the taste of real food, without all the salt and sugar.”

When Gu and Tucker broke down their findings by demographics, they found that nutrition improved across the board and gaps between ethnic groups narrowed. But disparities still remain: Scores for non-Hispanic white children rose from 42.1 to 50.2, and for non-Hispanic black children from 39.6 to 48.4. Mexican-American children had the highest scores overall, ranging from 44.1 to 51.9

Children from high-income families made the largest gains over the course of the study. Scores among the wealthiest third of participants rose 23.8 percent, compared with just 18.2 percent in the lowest third.

The researchers also found that children receiving federal benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) saw less improvement than those on the government’s Women Infants and Children (WIC) program. Both provide financial assistance, but the latter limits purchases to foods adhering to dietary guidelines, says Gu.

Across all demographics, children under 6 tended to have healthier diets than older children. This suggests that unhealthy habits may develop as kids start school and spend more time away from home.

RELATED: What Nutritionists Pack in Their Kids' Lunch Boxes

Overall, the researchers say their findings are encouraging—but they should still be a wake-up call for parents who may not be making nutrition a priority.

“There can be a perception that eating well is expensive, but when you look closely, some of the convenient processed foods cost even more when you consider the nutrition involved,” says Tucker. “Getting back to simpler, whole foods with minimal preparation can go a long way in making sure your child gets a healthy diet.”


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Source: Nutrition

6 Healthy Holiday Treats & Snacks to Make with Your Kids

6 Healthy Holiday Treats & Snacks to Make with Your Kids Blog Post

There’s no shortage of sweets, treats and cookies during the holiday season. But sometimes, the kids (and if we’re honest, grownups too!) just need a little break from the sugar high. I know that my own kids are much more likely to enjoy their food when they get to help make it. All that dipping and snipping and stirring is so tantalizing for little hands. These festive treats and snacks have celebration written all over them—with just enough sweet or no sweet at all. And I especially love them because they’re so easy, even the littlest kids can help!

Source: Food