Contributor: Kari Skaflen
Photographer: Sarah Shreves
I’ve been using Dr. Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar (aka ACV for short) for about a year now. It all started because I kept seeing the ubiquitous cloudy bottle staring out at me from every grocery store, and it seemed to be a staple on my friends’ countertops. So I got on board, swallowing the slightly sour liquid daily, a spoonful at a time; sometimes with water, and sometimes just on its own in a hasty blaze. I realized recently that I didn’t quite know why I was adding a capful of ACV to my water daily. I had only an oblique idea that I was ameliorating my health in some way. So I decided to investigate why ACV is so popular. And it seems that there is indeed pretty hefty evidence that it helps the body out in more ways than one— and yes, it’s worth the grimace-inducing taste.
So what exactly is this “Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother” that everyone is talking about?
Dr. Bragg’s unfiltered, organic ACV is one of the most popular brands, and the one I chose to buy. It contains bits of the “mother”— tendrils of good the bacteria created in the fermentation process. The process of making ACV is not so dissimilar from the process of making wine or hard cider. Apples (not grapes) are picked, mashed, and the juice extracted. Bacterias and sugar are added to the juice to begin a first fermentation process whereby the sugars will be converted to alcohol. In a second fermentation, the alcohol is turned into vinegar through the development of natural airborne acetic bacteria. And it turns out that this acetic acid is one of the key elements that makes ACV special. The unfiltered, organic version is the good stuff that you want to buy for the health benefits that allegedly go back as far as Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine.
How does it work?
Acetic bacteria are generally prevalent in spaces where ethanol is present as a bi-product of the fermentation of sugars. In apple cider that has fermented, they grow easily. A concentration of acetic bacteria and its strands are commonly referred to as the “mother”. The “mother” is easily used to start a second fermentation process in a new batch of fermented apple cider. And when a vinegar is unpasteurized the ACV has tendrils or strands from the mother aka concentrations of acetic bacteria. Such bacteria provide a host of benefits.
What are the benefits?
The acetic acid in ACV helps keep blood sugar in the body from spiking. It inhibits the digestion of starches; this leaves some starches undigested and thereby lessens any spike in blood sugar. This makes for less of a blood sugar spike when carbohydrates or sugars are consumed. Such moderating properties could decrease the risk for diabetes and heart disease. An added benefit of the undigested starch is that it may create a probiotic effect, which means that it acts as nourishment for the good bacteria that lives in the gut, helping to equalibrialize the delicate balance of our body’s bacteria, and the body’s pH or acid to alkaline levels.
ACV also has great alkaline properties, which help balance the body’s pH. Poor diet and stress can shift the body towards a more acidic state creating an environment where diseases and illness are can thrive. Even a slight shift in the body’s pH can change nutritional absorption.
While it’s still a tough swallow some mornings, the thought that I’m setting my body up for successful digestion and health is enough to keep me coming back.