Which is better for gut health, lemon water or apple cider vinegar? They’re both gut superstars, but they have very different drawbacks and benefits. Let’s settle the debate, once and for all.
Sisanda Tofile (30) is an artist and an avid runner based in Khayelitsha, in Cape Town. She tells Health For Mzansi that she has experienced plenty of benefits consuming both lemon water and water with apple cider vinegar. Tofile says that drinking lemon water has even helped her treat her period pains.
She says, “I just boil it with water for two minutes, let it cool and drink it. This has worked very well to relieve menstrual cramps.”
Finding a substitute for a fizzy drink
Tofile says that her guilty pleasure is having a fizzy beverage, but she has now replaced this with a chilled glass of apple cider vinegar with water. “Apple cider vinegar in cold water and a spoonful of honey did the trick for me,” she says.
Meanwhile in Theunissen, Free State, Phiwokazi Bam says that she starts her day with a warm cup of water and lemon to ease bloating.
She says that apple cider vinegar is a handy tool in your cosmetic cabinet too.
“I just use warm water with apple cider vinegar in the morning and to clean my face after I had applied make-up. It quickly gets rid of black spots and pimples that are often caused by makeup.”
Citrus can benefit your diet
Aside from providing a small amount of potassium, adding lemon juice is a great source of vitamin C, according to Megan Pentz-Kluyts, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA).
While lemon water may provide around 20-25% of your daily needs for vitamin C, there are several food sources that far exceed this amount.
- One medium bell pepper which provides eight times the amount of vitamin C from the juice of a whole lemon;
- Kiwi provides four times the amount; and
- Orange provides three times the amount.
Debunking the claims
However, there are plenty of unsupported health claims surrounding the benefits of lemon water.
“When we consider that the recommended amount of daily vitamin C needed by an adult is 100 mg/day, one spoonful of lemon juice would provide around 7% of daily vitamin C while the juice of a whole lemon would provide 20-25% of daily vitamin C. With that in mind, any nutritional benefit obtained from lemon water is more than likely attributed to the vitamin C content it provides.”
Pentz-Kluyts says that a major claim behind the lemon water trend is that it can help relieve digestion and bloating. “The main ingredient in lemon water that may have these effects is water. In other words, whether you drink plain water, or lemon water, the effects on digestion would be virtually the same. This is because constipation is often due to dehydration, so drinking plenty of fluids will help to move things along. When bloating occurs, drinking water may help flush out the excess fluids and help you feel more comfortable.”
Apple cider vinegar: is it really that good?
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is produced by fermenting apples, and like other fermented foods, ACV contains gut-friendly probiotic bacteria. While, in theory, there’s a benefit to boosting your probiotic intake with ACV, this particular food source hasn’t been studied; so there’s no proof that you’ll get this benefit from using it, explains Pentz-Kluyts.
“Any highly acidic food or drink, including oranges, grapefruits, soda, wine, fruit juice and ACV, can damage your protective tooth enamel. The more frequently you consume these foods and drinks, the higher the risk.”
She adds that consuming them before bedtime is especially damaging because the mouth produces less saliva at night, which means the acids are likely to be less diluted. You can minimise the risk to your teeth by swishing your mouth with water after consuming drinks with apple cider vinegar in them (or consuming any another highly acidic substance) and waiting at least 30 minutes before you brush your teeth.
“In the meantime, you can amp up the polyphenol content of your diet by eating plant-based foods, like fruits, veggies, whole grains and pulses, along with spices, cocoa powder, tea and coffee. These are rich sources of these substances.”