Vinegar has a low pH, making it acidic, but consuming it doesn’t change your body’s pH balance, which remains consistent unless you’re dealing with a specific health issue.
Vinegar serves multiple purposes, from cooking and preserving food to cleaning tasks.
Certain types of vinegar, like apple cider vinegar, are popular in the natural health world and are claimed to alkalize your body.
Given that vinegars are inherently acidic, this has led to confusion about whether they are acidic or alkaline in nature.
This article clarifies if vinegar is acidic or alkaline and discusses its relevance to your health.
What is pH?
To understand if something is an acid (acidic) or base (alkaline), you must understand what pH is.
The term pH is short for “potential of hydrogen.”
Simply put, pH is a scale that measures how acidic or alkaline something is.
The pH scale ranges from 0–14:
- 0.0–6.9 is acidic
- 7.0 is neutral
- 7.1–14.0 is alkaline (also known as basic)
The human body is slightly alkaline with a pH between 7.35 and 7.45. Your kidneys and lungs work automatically to keep your blood’s pH level within this narrow range.
If your body’s pH falls out of this range, it can have severe or even fatal consequences, as internal processes can malfunction or stop altogether.
It’s important to note that your body’s pH only changes in certain disease states and is not affected by your diet.
Summary: pH measures how acidic or alkaline something is. Your body is slightly alkaline with a pH of 7.35–7.45. Your lungs and kidneys work to keep your body’s pH within this range.
Is vinegar acidic or alkaline?
Vinegar comes from the French phrase “vin aigre,” which means sour wine.
It can be made from nearly anything containing sugar, including fruit, vegetables, and grains. Yeasts first ferment sugar into alcohol, which is then turned into acetic acid by bacteria.
Acetic acid makes vinegar strongly acidic, with a typical pH of 2–3.
Apple cider vinegar vs. white vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is produced similarly to other vinegar. First, apple juice is fermented with yeast. This turns the sugar in the apples into alcohol. Then, acetic acid bacteria are added to turn the alcohol into acetic acid.
White vinegar also starts with sugars that are fermented with yeast and then distilled to make alcohol. Next, acetic acid bacteria are added to a distilled alcohol and water mixture. The bacteria turn the alcohol into acetic acid.
The acid levels of apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are similar. Apple cider vinegar contains 5%-6% acetic acid, while white vinegar contains 4%-7%.
Both apple cider vinegar and white vinegar typically contain no vitamins and only trace amounts of minerals.
Given the similarities, why do some people believe apple cider vinegar is an alkaline food? It may be because this food is associated with apples, which are “alkalizing.” This means that when your body digests apples, alkaline byproducts are produced.
However, apple cider vinegar is an entirely different food from apples, with a very different nutritional profile. Nutritionally, apple cider vinegar is much more similar to other vinegars than it is to apples. There’s no evidence to support the idea that apple cider vinegar is an alkalizing food.
Summary: Vinegar is very acidic, with a pH of 2–3. Apple cider vinegar is nutritionally similar to other types of vinegar. Some believe it’s more alkalizing than other vinegars, but no evidence supports this.
Does the pH of foods matter?
In recent years, pH levels have become a health trend.
It’s based on the idea that different foods can alter your body’s pH.
Suggested read: The alkaline diet: A science-based review
Proponents believe that eating a diet rich in acidifying foods can make your body more acidic and thus more vulnerable to disease and illness over time.
In general, no evidence shows that food adversely affects blood pH levels in healthy people.
It is a medical emergency if your body’s pH falls outside of the healthy range. That’s why your body has many mechanisms in place to regulate its pH balance closely.
While some claim that eating more alkalizing foods can prevent disease, this research shows mixed results. This means that many claims about the alkaline diet are not based in fact. Some conditions that have been studied include:
- Osteoporosis: Proponents of the alkaline diet believe that when your body’s pH is acidic, it uses minerals from your bones to neutralize the acidity. However, studies show that there is no link between the two.
- Muscle loss: Certain conditions like metabolic acidosis have been shown to promote muscle loss. However, some proponents believe acidifying foods may have a similar effect. A small number of studies suggest there could be a connection, but the evidence is limited.
- Digestive disorders: Eating foods that are low in acid may relieve digestive discomfort. While this is true, it does not treat more complicated gut disorders.
- Chronic kidney disease: According to studies, An alkalizing diet — specifically, a plant-based diet rich in fruits and vegetables — may support kidney function in some people with chronic kidney disease. However, if you have a kidney condition, it’s essential to follow your doctor and dietitian’s advice.
Acidic environments are known to promote cancer cell growth, so proponents of the alkaline diet believe acidifying foods may promote cancer.
Some studies have shown an association between a highly acidifying diet and cancer risk. But according to researchers, more evidence is needed before we can know if there is really a connection.
Suggested read: 6 health benefits of apple cider vinegar
If you want to change your diet to lower your cancer risk, experts recommend:
- eating more fruits and vegetables
- eating more whole grains
- limiting processed foods
- limiting processed and red meats
- limiting sugar-sweetened beverages
While a healthy diet is essential, it is not a replacement for other prevention, screening, or treatment methods your doctor recommends.
Does diet change the pH of urine?
People following an alkaline diet often worry about how food affects their body’s pH. That’s why many proponents use urine pH test strips to test their pH levels.
Some people might guess that consuming acidic foods like vinegar makes your urine more acidic. But the truth is more complicated.
In fact, many acidifying foods are protein sources, such as meat, eggs, cheese, and nuts. Digesting these foods produces acidic byproducts, some of which are expelled in a person’s urine.
Though your diet can affect your urine pH value, this only happens because your body diverts excess acids in the body into your urine to maintain your internal pH balance.
Additionally, other factors besides your diet can influence your urine pH. This makes it a poor indicator of your body’s overall pH.
Summary: Health claims about the alkaline diet are not backed by strong evidence. No evidence confirms that the pH of foods affects your body’s internal pH. Moreover, changes in urine pH tend to be a poor indicator of your body’s internal pH.
Benefits of vinegar
While vinegar likely won’t affect your body’s pH, regular consumption may have other benefits.
Here are some potential benefits of vinegar:
- Vinegar may kill harmful bacteria. The acidic properties of vinegar make it an excellent cleaning and disinfecting agent. It’s also a natural preservative to prevent bacteria like E.coli from spoiling food.
- Vinegar may lower heart disease risk factors. Several animal studies have shown that vinegar can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and other heart disease risk factors. However, whether vinegar would have the same effect in humans is unknown.
- Vinegar may raise insulin sensitivity. Vinegar has been shown to raise insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Vinegar may promote weight loss. Some studies suggest that vinegar, including apple cider vinegar, may aid weight loss by curbing hunger and reducing calorie intake. However, the evidence connecting vinegar intake to weight loss is too weak to conclude.
Side effects of vinegar
Some research suggests that following an alkalizing or acid-reducing diet that limits acid-producing foods may benefit people living with chronic kidney disease. People following this diet also tend to avoid certain highly acidic foods like soda and carbonated water.
Suggested read: Acidic foods: What foods to limit, or to avoid
Like soda and carbonated water, vinegar is a highly acidic food. If you limit acidic foods for medical reasons, asking your doctor or dietitian about consuming vinegar is a good idea.
People who find that acidic foods trigger acid reflux or other digestive conditions might also choose to limit vinegar intake.
Regardless of your health status, consuming vinegar in large amounts is associated with some side effects. These include eroded tooth enamel and low potassium levels.
Summary: Regular consumption or use of vinegar may benefit your heart, blood sugar levels, and weight, but the evidence for some of these claims is weak. Consuming vinegar in large amounts may also cause side effects such as tooth erosion and low potassium.
All types of vinegar are acidic due to their low pH levels.
However, the acidity of what you eat doesn’t change your body’s pH, thanks to internal systems that maintain a steady pH level for proper bodily functions.
The only scenarios where your body’s pH might deviate from this balanced range involve specific illnesses or health crises.
Vinegar is versatile for flavoring various foods, making them a valuable part of your eating plan. They might even offer some health perks, although more research is needed to confirm this.