Apple cider vinegar: A holistic history of healing
According to the National Apple Museum (yes, there is such a thing), until comparatively recent times in the history, apples were not consumed in the form of a fruit. Believe or not, apples in their most un-hybridized forms were bitter in taste. Probably this is one of the reasons why people concentrated on pressing apple juice and fermenting it.
Apple cider or the fermented form of apple juice has long been associated with ancient civilizations. Be it Julius Caesar in ancient Rome or Charlemagne in medieval England, royalties sprawling from the Africa to Europe wholeheartedly accepted this drink as a part of their lavish buffets.
Few interesting historical tidbits
The medieval era saw a sharp rise in the consumption of spiced cider as a delicious alcoholic beverage among the commoners as well.But in addition to all the merriment it brought to all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, apple cider vinegar has forever been at the crux of ancient holistic healing traditions too. Believed to have been first concocted by the Aryans, apple cider derives its name from the Phoenician word “shekar” literally translates to a strong wine or alcoholic beverage.
The Babylonians have been credited with utilizing this potent beverage both as a condiment and a preservative since the beginning of the civilization. Ancient pots and urns dating back to 3,000 BC have revealed to show traces of apple cider vinegar. And not to mention that the father of medicine, Hippocrates, used this powerful natural remedy to treat at least 17 different types of ailments. So what is so special about this run-of-the-mill, ordinary fermented juice of a fruit that it has been a part of healing and civilization for almost 10,000 years? The answer to this question lies in how apple cider vinegar is prepared.
Apple cider vinegar: How is it made?
The entire process of apple cider making involves two fundamental steps. First, chop off the fruit and mash it down to get the juice. And second, ferment the juice to get a cider of superior taste. While the first step usually required a human or horse-drawn mill, a relatively simple step, the second involved storage of the liquid in special casks that lent apple cider its trademark taste. These casks were kept covered and left for days.
One could see the formation of brown and whitish froth on top of the liquid which indicated that the process of fermentation was progressing well. After a week or so, these casks were sealed with cement and stored on for months during which the bacteria would work on the liquid to bring out the best flavor. And not just the flavor, the fermented form of apple juice was observed to possess countless more health benefits than the original fruit. So how did this happen? What exact magic transpired in those closed casks that transformed a simple juice to a multi-faceted remedy?
The magic of fermentation
Technically speaking, fermentation is an anaerobic process (something that takes place in the absence of oxygen) where beneficial micro-organisms chemically break down sugar and glucose present in a substance. This process releases heat, gases, and inevitably turns the aforementioned substance into a form of alcohol and acid.
The acid produced here is lactic acid and acetic acid, the latter known by the more common name “vinegar”. Anything edible (or non-edible for that matter) matter that contains glucose can be fermented. When you ferment grains, you get bread. When you ferment milk, you get yogurt and cheese. And when you ferment apple juice you get apple cider.
From the above description, it must be clear to you all that the micro-organisms here “break down the sugar molecules to derive energy”. Ergo, any fermented product will technically be devoid of any sugars or glucose, one of the most prominent unhealthy parts of our diets. But is it just the lack of sugar that makes fermented food healthy for our bodies? Let us answer this question in the next part.
Why are fermented foods great for your body?
There might be many who must have gotten grossed out by the fact that fermented foods are, in fact, a storehouse of bacteria. For those, there is another mind-blowing fact. Your gut, aka, your intestines is home to not a million, not a billion, but a trillion bacteria! That’s roughly ten times that of the number of human cells present in one human body. These gut bacteria, or gut microbiome, is inherently necessary for the healthy sustenance of our body.
These are fundamental to healthy digestion, absorption of nutrients, and building up of immunity. In simple word, your gut bacteria make sure that you are able to digest whatever you eat, extract nutrients from that digested food, and also build your body’s internal defense system.
Fermented foods and gut bacteria
So in all this discussion of trillions of gut bacteria helping you digest food, where do fermented foods play a role? The answer, as many of you must have correctly guessed, is that fermented foods contain the same healthy bacteria that reside in your abdomen. And this is why fermented foods are good for your body. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, and apple cider vinegar tend to repopulate your gut with the healthy microbes that play a pivotal role in many bodily processes. Additionally, since fermented foods have been broken down into simpler compounds, they put a lesser strain on our digestive tract. For example, yogurt is easier to digest than milk. And those who are lactose intolerant can digest certain cheeses and yogurts with much more ease.
And not to mention that fermented foods can have a positive effect on your mood too. Studies indicate that the mood-elevating hormone, serotonin, is produced in our gut. Also, the gut and brain are linked through the Vagus nerve. This means that the healthier is your gut environment the better is your mood. Now that we know how amazing fermented foods can be for our body (and mind), let us take a deeper look into why apple cider vinegar steals the show when it comes to therapeutic fermented foods.
List of unmatched health benefits apple cider vinegar can bring to you
ACV is one of the most remedies that can elevate stomach acid levels. If your stomach is not able to produce an adequate amount of digestive acids, it will not be able to digest whatever you eat. Nor will your gut be able to extract essential nutrients from it.
Thus consumption of ACV not only aids digestion by prodding the gut bacteria (as noted before), but it also increases the stomach acid levels to healthy levels.There are a number of factors because of which your stomach acids might fall below the required levels. These include stress, high-carb intake, allergies, and high alcohol consumption.These collective dietary and lifestyle habits can bring down digestive functions. But with ACV you can restore healthy digestion in your body.All you need to do is drink AVC mixed with water 15-20 minutes before each meal.
· Sore throat
Now that we know how the process of fermentation works, it is easy to deduce that apple cider vinegar is actually acidic in nature.When you have a sore throat, the acidic content of the vinegar helps in restoring pH balance in your inflamed throat tissues.
In addition to this, it is also bactericidal in nature, i.e, it helps to destroy the pesky bacteria creating infection in your throat.It can also thin the thick mucus deposits in your nasal, throat, and chest cavity making it easier to breathe. It also boosts your immunity so that your body is able to fight off the throat infection better.The best way to consume ACV for this purpose is to gargle ACV mixed in lukewarm water or consume ACV mixed with water, lemon, and honey.
· Lower cholesterol
Cholesterol is the waxy substance, made of fat cells, produced in your liver in order to carry out essential metabolic activities.It is also found in a wide variety of foods such as nuts, dairy, fish, and whole grains.
The LDL cholesterol, also known as the bad cholesterol, is the one that forms plaques that stick to your artery leading to several (and potentially fatal) cardiac conditions.ACV consumption can actually lower your LDL levels and mitigate plaque build-up in your arteries.Additionally, it also protects your body from free-radical damage, the major cause of atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in arteries).This means that if you have high cholesterol levels and/or have a family history of the same, you can avert the dangers of cardiac diseases by including ACV in your daily diet.
· Improved heart health
As noted above, ACV brings down the harmful cholesterol levels in your blood. And this has a direct impact on your cardiac health.With a lower risk of oxidative (free-radical damage) stress and unclogged arteries, your blood circulates to and from the heart effectively. This, in turn, ensures that your heart doesn’t have to put itself under extra strain to pump blood for maintaining normal circulation. So with just 15 ml of ACV mixed in a glass of water and consumed daily can not only reduce cholesterol levels but also improve cardiac health.
· Shinier hair, no dandruff
ACV is acidic in nature. This is opposed to basic or alkaline nature, the very feature that makes your hair look dull and brittle. Thus with ACV, you can counter the harsh effects of pollution and chemical products used on hair. Rinsing your hair with ACV restores it with shine and brilliance. The same acidic property also acts as an antimicrobial environment and destroys fungal growth, aka, dandruff from your scalp.
· Weight loss
Who here doesn’t want to lose a few extra pounds? Maybe get rid of the paunch belly and shape up your body?ACV helps you lose weight in several different ways. Firstly, it helps in increasing your fullness, which in turns restricts your calorie-intake. Secondly, it reduces cholesterol levels and brings down your triglycerides count. And thirdly, it targets the stubborn belly fat (visceral fats in general) and increases fat metabolism.
· Clearer skin
Imagine having a flatter stomach, shinier hair, and clearer skin – all thanks to one wonder drink!ACV, in addition to having fat-cutting and dandruff-removing properties, can also help you fulfill the dream of having a smooth acne free skin.
Acne, caused by bacterial growth and inflammation of pores in the skin, can be reduced by dabbing a cotton ball soaked in ACV on the acne-affected skin. The bactericidal nature of ACV helps in getting rid of the acne.In addition to this, ACV also helps in clearing acne scarring. However, one must remember that instead of using it directly on the skin, one must dilute it first in order to prevent burning sensation and skin irritation.
· Blood sugar control
Who knew that this simple ingredient of the kitchen cabinet could help prevent one of the biggest killers of our times – diabetes? Diabetes has gradually surfaced to become one of the leading causes of global mortality that can be easily prevented. And how does ACV help us in this case?
Any food that contains carbs causes a sugar spike in the blood. What ACV does is that it reduces these sugar spikes which are responsible for insulin resistance, aka, diabetes. It may also tend to slow down the digestion of complex carbohydrates. This means that instead of being released in your blood in a sudden rush, sugar will now be released in a more controlled and regulated manner. This means that for those in diabetic or pre-diabetic conditions, the blood sugar level will be controlled. And those who don’t have such a tendency will be able to safely prevent the onset of diabetes.
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