Is it healthy to consume hard cider? A more progressive question might be whether cider a functional food. In their book on fruit wines, Joshi and associates highlight some of the key ways that fruit wine, including hard cider, could provide healthful compounds and might lead fruit wines to be considered functional food(1). Two of those key healthful elements are vitamins and minerals. There are other aspects that impact health and may lead us to consider fruit wines as functional food but the body needs vitamins and minerals to survive. In fact the human body needs all known vitamins but only certain minerals. So is cider a good source of vitamins and minerals?
Vitamins and minerals are different compounds. Vitamins are organic while minerals are inorganic. Organic means the compound contains carbon that is usually bonded to hydrogen or other carbon molecules. Vitamins are generally a group of molecules and there are 13 universally recognized vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, C, D, E, and K). You may also know them by names like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, and ascorbic acid to name a few. Joshi(1) noted that fruit wines generally contain some B vitamins like thiamine(B1), riboflavin(B2), and cobalamin(B12) but, they usually contain very little A, C, D, and K vitamins. The juice may start out with many of these but fermentation often causes many vitamins to be oxidized or utilized by the yeast during fermentation. Add this to the impact chronic or excessive consumption of alcohol can have on the absorption of many vitamins and the results are that cider and fruit wines are not a great source for your daily vitamin needs.
Does that mean cider is bad for you or not a functional food? It means cider in excess is not good for you, but almost anything in excess falls into that category. The other consideration is that nutrition is not just about vitamins. Cider and fruit wine contain various amount of minerals, especially potassium and calcium. Potassium is generally the most prevalent mineral and it is very beneficial to us. Cider is also generally low on sodium so it provides an excellent potassium to sodium ratio. Other minerals, like manganese, are important contributors of antioxidative reactions. Because minerals generally come from the soil, there can be a wide range of beneficial minerals like iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc in cider and fruit wine. The good news is that cider generally has low levels of cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, nickel, and lead, which are generally undesirable.
Again, excessive consumption of alcohol can also reduce mineral absorption just like vitamins. Cider’s ability to deliver minerals is much better than the vitamins it can provide. So, cider consumed in moderation can provide some vitamins but mostly minerals with the top being potassium. Vitamins and minerals are only two potential aspects of what make up healthy or functional food. One key point made by Joshi and others is that not enough research has been done to fully appreciate the interactions and impacts of fruit wines like cider on health. We need more research and there are lots of interesting questions to explore.
(1) V.K. Joshi and associates, Science and Technology of Fruit Wines: An Overview, 2017
(2) )A. Alberti et al. / LWT – Food Science and Technology, 65, 2016
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