Apples are among the world’s most popular fruits. Not only are they delicious, but apples are also bursting with many essential nutrients and polyphenols that can help promote health and protect against illnesses.
Apples are a fruit of the apple trees that belong to the rose family (Rosaceae), a family of flowering plants which also includes pears, plums, cherries, peaches, apricots, raspberries, and strawberries.
The apple tree originated in the Central Asia, probably in Kazakhstan. They have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe, and were brought to North America by European colonists.
Newtown Pippin apples were the first type of apple to be exported from the colonies, when they were sent to Benjamin Franklin in London. Today, there are more than 8000 known cultivars and more than 100 are grown commercially throughout the world.
Apples come in an array of colors from pale yellow and green to deep red. Their taste and texture vary too, from sweet to tangy and crisp to soft. They range in size from as small as a large cherry to as big as a grapefruit.
The most common apple varieties in the world are the Red Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Baldwin, Cortland, and McIntosh.
Apples are very versatile and can be used in many different ways; baked and sliced into pancakes, cubed in a salad, served with peanut butter or cheese (great snack), or made into apple pie or apple crisp.
Does an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away?
You have probably heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But does it really? If you literally eat apples every day, will you really not have to go to the doctor?
This well-known phrase was first recorded in the 1860s and was actually adopted from the traditional English proverb “eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” By the early 20th century this phrase evolved to “an apple a day, no doctor to pay,” and it was not until 1922 that the phrase became what we say today: “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
To test the credibility of this popular phrase, researchers compared daily apple eaters (those who consumed at least one small apple per day) with non-apple eaters.
Of the 8,399 survey participants who completed a dietary recall questionnaire, 753 were apple eaters and 7,646 were non-apple eaters. The results showed that 39 percent of apple eaters avoided physician visits compared to 34 percent of non-apple-eaters, which was not a statistically significant difference.
However, the study did found that daily apple eaters take less prescription medications compared to non-apple-eaters, leading the researcher to joke that “an apple a day keeps the pharmacist away.” The study was found in JAMA Internal Medicine, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015.
Of course, an apple a day does not literally keep the doctor away, but it definitely has major health benefits. The combination of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber may help deter serious health issues and diseases.
Apple Nutrition Facts
Apples are low in calories, fat-free, and high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They also contain polyphenols, which may have numerous health benefits.
To get the most out of apples, leave the skin on as it contains half of the fiber and many of the polyphenols. One medium-sized raw apple (200 grams) offers the following nutrients :
- Calories: 104
- Carbohydrate: 27.6 g
- Protein: 0.5 g
- Sugars: 20.8 g
- Sodium: 2 mg
- Dietary Fiber: 4.8 g
- Vitamin C: 9.2 mg
- Vitamin E: 0.4 mg
- Vitamin K: 4.4 mcg
- Folate: 6 mcg
- Potassium: 214 mg
Health Benefits of Apples
1. Prevent heart disease
Apples contain quercetin, which has been shown to protect against heart disease. Research published in the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition suggests that those with higher quercetin levels, mainly through eating apples, had a lower risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease.
Another study comparing the effects of eating an apple a day to taking statins – a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol — concluded that apples would be almost as effective at reducing death from heart disease as the drugs .
2. Lower LDL cholesterol risk
The soluble fiber (pectin) in apples may help lower LDL cholesterol levels by binding cholesterol in the gut, thereby preventing its absorption into the bloodstream. People who ate two apples a day may decrease their cholesterol levels by up to 16 percent.
A randomized, single-blinded clinical study published in the European Journal of Nutrition revealed that the pectin fiber found in apples may help decrease the concentration of total serum cholesterol in the body .
3. Prevent cancers
A 2016 study in Italy found that consuming at least one apple a day could potentially cut the risk of lung cancer by 25%. Apples also offer protection against cancers of the bowel, mouth and breast.
Additionally, one study in women reported that eating apples was linked to lower rates of death from cancer .
4. Improve digestive health
Apples contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which are known to improve digestion by adding bulk to the stool and helps in facilitating smooth bowel movement.
Moreover, apples contain sorbitol, which is a natural laxative that can help relieve constipation by drawing water into the large intestine, making the stool softer and easier to pass. Eat a whole apple every morning on an empty stomach to maintain a healthy digestive system.
5. Boost immune system
Red apples with skin are a great source of quercetin. This plant flavonoid has been shown to boost immune system and reduce allergies by calming down white blood cell activity triggered by environmental or physical stress .
6. Control blood sugar levels
Apples are very useful for diabetics to control their blood sugar levels. The polyphenols in apples can help reduce carb uptake in the body. This helps in preventing fluctuations of blood sugar levels in the blood stream. Furthermore, they help in stimulating insulin receptors in the cells.
In one study, eating an apple a day was linked to a 28 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes, compared to not eating any apples. Even eating just a few apples per week had a similarly protective effect .
7. Maintain oral health
The natural fibers present in the flesh and the skin of apple act as a scrub that cleanses the tongue, teeth and gums. Also, these fruits are mildly acidic in nature and have an astringent quality which helps get rid of plague in your mouth.
Be sure to rinse your mouth with plain water to wash away the plague that the apple helps loosen. Brushing your teeth after eating an apple or just rinsing your mouth with water will give you better results.
8. Support bone health
Apples contain a flavonoid called phloridzin. This compound may help in maintaining bone density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.
In one study, 15 healthy female participants aged 19–50 years old each consumed a 500-kcal test meal on 3 different occasions consisting of either fresh peeled apples, canned apple sauce, or candy. Those who ate fresh apples lost less calcium from their bodies than the control group .
9. Weight loss
Apples are the ideal weight loss fruits thanks to their high-fiber, low-calorie content. Fiber aids weight loss by keeping you feeling full longer, causing you to eat less. Also, since apple is low in calorie, it does not add significantly to your overall daily calorie intake. Try adding some apple slices to your cereal, salads, yogurt, or oatmeal.
10. Fight asthma
Apples are loaded with phenolic acids and flavonoids that are known to reduce airway inflammation – the main cause of asthma and wheezing.
A 2007 study found that children of mothers who ate more apples during their pregnancy were less likely to develop asthma and childhood wheezing.
Researchers looked at the eating habits of women during pregnancy and, later, their children’s reported allergies. Kids whose moms ate the most apples during pregnancy were less likely to report wheezing or to have doctor-confirmed asthma at age 5, compared with kids whose moms ate few apples.
11. Improve vision
Apples are believed to improve vision and keep the eyes healthy. This is due to the fact that apples are rich in bioflavonoids, which can reduce the effect of free radicals on the eyes and prevent eye diseases, like age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma.
12. Reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Apples are also good for brain health. Some studies have shown that apples may help reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
A study conducted on rat brain cells by researchers at Cornell University in New York shows that the potent abundant antioxidants in apples protect the brain cells against oxidative stress, a tissue-damaging process associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders .
Another study on mice revealed that animals fed an apple-enhanced diet showed higher levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is linked to improving concentration, problem-solving, and memory.
13. Skin care
The powerful antioxidants in apples counteract the damaged caused by free radicals, which are directly related to premature aging. Apples also increase blood circulation which keeps the skin looking younger and more radiant.
How to Pick Apples
Here are a few tips for choosing the best apples:
- Make sure they are firm to the touch
- They should be well-colored for their variety
- The skins should be tight, unbroken, and unblemished
- Avoid the ones that are noticeably soft or bruised, as they have lost most of their nutritional values
How to Store Apples
Apples should be placed in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator or cover the apples with a damp paper towel.
Don’t store apples together with other fruits and vegetables because apples give off ethylene gas, the ripening agent that will lead to faster spoilage of the produce around it.