What if you could have your cake and eat it too? Well, according to the latest research, it turns out that maybe you can!
Today I’m going to walk you through a super-simple hack that can help you dramatically improve your blood sugar and overall metabolic health.
What’s this game-changing hack?
I recently had Jessie Inchauspé—aka the Glucose Goddess—on my podcast to talk about her new book, How to Be a Glucose Goddess. In her book (which is amazing by the way) Jessie walks the reader through countless pieces of advice and practical tips that anyone can do to improve their blood sugar level without having to follow an extremely restrictive diet—and all while still making room for the foods you love.
Today we’re focusing on one of the hacks that Jessie talked about in our interview: the impact vinegar can have on curbing glucose spikes.
Here’s the hack: Having vinegar before, with, or after your meal can significantly blunt your blood glucose and insulin response, which is critical for preventing insulin resistance and chronic disease.
Jessie shines the spotlight on apple cider vinegar (ACV) because it tastes the best when mixed with a tall glass of water (make sure you drink it with a straw), but any vinegar will do, including rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, and sherry vinegar (we’ll leave balsamic out because it can contribute to a spike).
Before I get into the protocol on how to integrate this blood glucose hack into your life for maximum benefits, let’s first briefly discuss the research and mechanism behind why it works.
What Does the Research Say?
There’s a great deal of evidence that supports better blood glucose and insulin responses after meals that contain a couple of tablespoons of vinegar. And, for the most part, these results are consistent in nondiabetics, diabetics, and people with prediabetes (1)(2).
For example, in a study of healthy individuals, having a couple of tablespoons of ACV with a high-glycemic meal (i.e., bagel and juice) and a low-glycemic meal (i.e., chicken and rice) resulted in a 55 percent lower blood glucose spike than having those same meals without vinegar (3). Compared to the control groups (no vinegar + high-glycemic meal and no vinegar + low-glycemic meal), the lower blood glucose response was only significant for the high-glycemic meal.
In type 1 diabetics, drinking a vinegar beverage before a meal composed of bread, cheese, turkey, orange juice, butter, and a cereal bar resulted in a blood glucose response that was about 20 percent lower than the placebo group (4). In type 2 diabetics, having just one tablespoon of ACV daily for a month has been shown to reduce blood glucose and HbA1c levels significantly (5).
Similarly, in a small study of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS (a condition that’s mostly linked to insulin resistance), drinking ACV daily for three months resulted in improved insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance; four out of the seven women even started menstruating again (6).
In addition to blood glucose, vinegar can also improve other metabolic factors. A Japanese study found that drinking a beverage containing one or two tablespoons of vinegar before meals for three months helped overweight patients lose two-to-four pounds and reduced their visceral fat, waist-to-hip measurements, and triglyceride levels (7).
And finally, a study that assigned overweight and obese participants the same calorie-restricted diet, either with or without two tablespoons of ACV daily, found that the ACV group lost twice as much weight compared to the non-ACV group. The ACV group also had significant reductions in appetite, triglycerides, and total cholesterol, and increased HDL cholesterol (8).
This hack isn’t a loophole to eat refined carbohydrates for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But that being said, there’s no doubt that adding vinegar to your meals is a simple way to stay on track when we plan on eating higher-glycemic foods to support a more favorable blood glucose response.
So, what makes vinegar such a potent shield for blocking blood glucose spikes after eating something starchy?
How Vinegar Stabilizes Our Blood Glucose
Vinegar works on lowering our blood glucose response through a few different mechanisms:
- The acetic acid in vinegar inactivates alpha-amylase, an enzyme in our saliva that starts breaking down starch into glucose. This means that vinegar helps curb blood glucose spikes by slowing the absorption of glucose.Additionally, acetic acid delays gastric emptying (the time it takes food to travel from your stomach to your large intestine), which slows carbohydrate absorption and allows more time for glucose to be removed from the bloodstream.
- Acetic acid enhances glucose absorption and delivery to our muscle tissue. It also encourages our muscles to convert glucose into glycogen (the storage form of glucose) faster than they normally would. But there’s one important requirement to take advantage of this: you have to have lean muscle mass.You can also speed up the absorption of glucose from the bloodstream by going for a five-to-ten-minute walk after eating a carb-rich meal.
- Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity, which helps keep our fasting and post-meal glucose and insulin low and in the desirable range. Less insulin makes it harder to store fat, lowers inflammation, and reduces the risk of insulin resistance and the overall risk of chronic disease. It also allows us to be more metabolically flexible, so we can easily shift from burning carbs to burning fat for energy.
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Here are some tips for how to use vinegar to start hacking your blood glucose:
- Mix one tablespoon of ACV (or any vinegar from the list above) into a large glass of water. You can drink your vinegar beverage up to 20 minutes before your meal, during your meal, or up to 20 minutes after your meal, and you will still benefit from its blood glucose and insulin-stabilizing effects.This hack is most useful before eating a meal or snack that’s going to cause a big glucose spike (think refined flour, sugar, or sweets), but you can still include it with any meal and experience the same glucose-stabilizing effect.Be sure to pick up a copy of Jessie’s book for recipes that take some of the punch out of vinegar and make it easier to drink.
- Add vinegar to your salad dressing and eat your salad before carbs. Adding vinegar to a salad with extra virgin olive oil can significantly blunt the blood glucose response after eating a meal that contains carbohydrates compared to a salad with extra virgin olive oil and no vinegar (1).If you are having a salad or non-starchy vegetable with a meal, plan on eating that first with a homemade dressing that has vinegar in it. This is a fun and easy way to incorporate vinegar to get the glucose benefits while still tasting delicious.
- Some precautions to consider:
If drinking a vinegar beverage, drink it through a straw. Anecdotally, dentists report that frequent apple cider vinegar consumption can damage tooth enamel, so this is a good practice just to be on the safe side.
If you have acid reflux or a gastrointestinal condition, vinegar consumption may be contraindicated because it could irritate your mucus membranes. However, this is just a precaution—no studies (that I’m aware of) have actually been done to prove that it can damage the stomach lining.
What about ACV gummies or pills? These are not as effective as drinking liquid vinegar because they skip over the crucial step of deactivating our alpha-amylase enzymes. Gummies are usually loaded with sugar and can cause a glucose spike themselves! That being said, there could be a role for ACV pills for people who prefer not to drink ACV directly. My favorite brand would be from PaleoValley.
You can’t “ACV” your way out of a bad diet, but if you are being intentional about the sweets in your life or are planning to have some high-glycemic grains, veggies, or fruit, this hack is super effective for curbing blood glucose and insulin spikes. And it might even be worth adopting as a lifestyle habit.
For the full list of references cited here and for all of my previous Try This newsletters, head on over to my blog.
Here’s to your health,