There is a rumor circulating the Internet that one or two tablespoons of vinegar taken before meals will “kill” increases in blood sugar levels and control type 2 diabetes. The truth is that starting a meal with vinegar, a food containing vinegar, or an acidic food, may be very helpful for diabetic control, but it’s not a cure for the underlying disease.
The way to describe how acidic foods affect or alter the glycemic index… is to say it is unexpected. The way vinegar lowers blood sugars is by slowing the absorption of digested sugars from the large intestine. The acid in vinegar is neutralized by bicarbonate in the intestines, and without the bicarbonate, glucose does not pass into the bloodstream quickly. Eating a vinegary pickle, or even taking a little shot glass of vinegar before a meal will reduce post-prandial blood sugar increases.
All that said, this is the summary of how acidic foods work: what happens is acidic foods significantly lower the glycemic index of a carbohydrate food, or a meal, by one-third. The reason lies in how your stomach and digestive system work (see above). Acidic foods slow down the emptying of your stomach. The food slows down your digestion, which slows down how quickly your blood sugar levels rise.
Here is a list of foods, including vinegar, that are acidic:
- dill and sweet pickles
- lemon juice
- green olives
- lime juice
- marinated vegetables, such as mushrooms, carrots and artichokes
- pickled herring
- tangy salsas
- vinegar and oil salad dressings
Some of the acidic foods, such as chutney, some of the pickled vegetables and sweet pickles have sugar added… therefore, it would not be advisable to eat large amounts of these.
You can use some of these acidic foods as condiments and side dishes to your meals. To reduce the glycemic value of your meal by 30% you would need to add four teaspoons of vinegar to your salad.
But your body still needs to be producing insulin to prevent increases in blood sugar levels once the digested sugars finally reach their destination. If you have type 2 diabetes, the problem may be that your pancreas cannot release insulin fast enough to take care of all the carbohydrates digested after you eat… vinegar may be very helpful for you.
If you have diabetes, type 1 or type 2 and take insulin, a shot of vinegar may slow down the dump of sugar after a meal, long enough that your insulin has time to work, but it will not enable you to take fewer total units of insulin. Vinegar delays your body’s need for insulin, but it does not eliminate it. Vinegar is a “treatment” for type 2 diabetes, not a cure. It helps to change the glycemic index of your foods… it does not mean you have cured your type 2 diabetes, you just have lower blood sugar levels after its use.