Switchel: The Benefits of This Fermented Energy Drink

Cathy Wong

In the aisles of your nearest natural foods store—or at the counter of your favorite café—you may have noticed a newly popular drink known as switchel. Often referred to as "nature's Gatorade," switchel is a sweet-tart mixture of apple cider vinegar, water or seltzer, fresh ginger, and maple syrup (or, in some cases, honey or molasses).

Although sipping switchel has only recently become trendy, this slightly acidic beverage has a long history of use as an all-natural thirst-quencher. In fact, switchel was the drink of choice for colonial farmers looking to rehydrate while haying the fields, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac. For that reason, switchel is sometimes known as “Haymaker’s Punch.”

What Are the Benefits of Switchel?

Aficionados often tout switchel as a long-lasting energy-booster and caffeine-free alternative to coffee or energy drinks. It’s also marketed as a top source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.

What’s more, switchel is said to offer scores of health benefits, such as a stronger immune system and healthier digestion. It’s also purported to help with specific health troubles, such as heartburn. And because certain compounds found in ginger possess anti-inflammatory properties, switchel is sometimes claimed to curb chronic inflammation (a key factor in the development of many illnesses).

Some proponents of switchel suggest that it can help speed up your metabolism and support weight loss as well.

Research on Switchel: Can It Really Help?

Many fans of switchel state that the drink’s potent blend of natural substances creates a “synergistic effect” and, in turn, makes the mixture more powerful than any of the ingredients on its own. However, due to a lack of research on switchel and its health effects, there’s no evidence to support this claim.

Still, some research shows that the individual ingredients in switchel may be beneficial to your health. For example, some studies have shown that ginger may help soothe the pain associated with issues such as osteoarthritis. Ginger also appears to provide relief of nausea-related conditions.

In addition, preliminary research indicates that consuming apple cider vinegar may help regulate blood sugar levels and keep cholesterol in check.

While these findings suggest that switchel may protect against certain health problems, it’s important to note that switchel should not be used as a substitute for standard care in the treatment of any chronic health condition.

How to Make Switchel

Switchel is now sold in many stores, but you can make your own by combining four teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (make sure to avoid these common mistakes), four tablespoons of pure maple syrup, a teaspoon of grated or minced fresh ginger, and four cups of water or seltzer. Mix the ingredients in a pitcher or jug, let sit for 24 hours, and stir well before serving. (Note: this recipe yields four glasses of switchel.)

To infuse your switchel with even more flavor, try squeezing in some lemon juice, adding a sprig of mint, or dropping in a few fresh berries. Some switchel lovers also enjoy adding a pinch of powdered spices, such as cardamom or cinnamon.

What to Watch Out For

While most people can drink the occasional glass of switchel, keep in mind that it the vinegar in the drink is acidic, so consuming it regularly may erode tooth enamel over time. Rinsing your mouth after drinking it may help remove some of the acids, but brushing your teeth too soon after consuming acids may weaken tooth enamel.

Avoid consuming excessive amounts of apple cider vinegar, as there is evidence that it may harm the esophagus (or other parts of the digestive tract), lead to low blood potassium levels and low bone mineral density, or interact with heart medications, diabetes medications, laxatives, or diuretics.

Should You Drink Switchel?

Switchel is just one of many natural beverages that may help enhance your wellbeing. Other drinks with possibly health-boosting properties include the fermented drinks kombucha, kefir, and various types of tea (such as green tea and ginger tea).

If you’re thinking of adding switchel to your routine, just make sure to monitor your sugar intake. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 24 grams of added sugar daily and that men limit their sugar intake to 36 grams per day. When made with one tablespoon of maple syrup per serving, switchel contains 14 grams of sugar.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

View Article Sources
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