Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away?  The health benefits of fruit

Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? The health benefits of fruit

According to data from the US Apple Association, there will be more than 10.7 billion pounds of apples produced in the United States during the 2022-2023 growing season. With fall fast approaching, it’s time to pick! Whether you’re buying your apples on the farm, at the farmer’s market, or at the supermarket, it’s worth adding this portable crispy fruit to your cart. Not only are apples packed with nutrients, but they also make a healthy snack or a versatile ingredient for salads, entrees and desserts.

Here are some of the best reasons to add a bushel of apples to your grocery list and tasty ways to eat “an apple a day.”

Apple Nutrition Information

A medium apple contains:

  • 95 calories
  • 0.5 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 25 grams of carbohydrates
  • 4 grams of fiber (16% Daily Value (DV))
  • 8 milligrams of vitamin C (11% DV)

Most of the beneficial compounds in apples come from polyphenols (plant compounds), which are not listed on the Nutrition Facts label.

The health benefits of apples

The old adage that an apple a day is the antidote to just about anything may have some validity. Research on apples points to their benefits for heart health, diabetes, cancer, gut health, weight loss, and inflammation. “Apples are high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, and low in calories,” says Sarah Schlichter, Registered Nutritionist and owner of Bucket List Tummy.

A recent meta-analysis described apples as having “medicinal value”, citing research that shows the protective properties of apple consumption for various chronic diseases. In fact, a meta-analysis of over forty studies found that apple consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cancer. The authors hypothesize that the polyphenols in apples act as antioxidants, which may inhibit tumor multiplication and growth.

Some of the most impressive research on apples relates to their heart health benefits. A recent randomized controlled trial in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of eating one apple a day on inflammatory biomarkers associated with cardiovascular disease in an obese population. Researchers found that just one apple a day for six weeks could reduce obesity-related inflammation that’s normally associated with cardiovascular disease, even without any weight loss.

Additionally, a second randomized controlled trial in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating two apples a day for eight weeks lowers blood cholesterol in adults with high cholesterol. Again, the researchers attribute these results to polyphenols in the fruit.

Another point for the polyphenols column concerns their role in gut health. Research on apple polyphenols suggests they may play a positive role in gut microbial activity, but more research is needed.

Beyond the polyphenols, Schlichter said the fiber in apples contributes to their health. “Eating enough fiber can be great for balancing blood sugar, managing satiety, and aiding digestion,” she said. Data from a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that apple consumption is also associated with weight loss.

Are there any downsides to eating apples?

Apples contain natural sugars, mainly fructose, sucrose and glucose. A medium apple contains 6 grams of fructose, 2 grams of sucrose and 2 grams of glucose. “A lot of people may not be aware that the fructose in apples can cause problems for people with fructose intolerance,” Schlichter said. “Since apples contain (certain carbohydrates called) FODMAPS, which are fermentable fibers that cause digestive issues, some people may experience gas or abdominal pain after eating apples,” she adds.

These digestive issues are not for everyone, so many people are fine with incorporating apples into their diet.

Fun facts about apples

Beyond their impressive nutritional profile, here are some other fun reasons to eat apples.

There are over 7,500 varieties grown worldwide

While you can stick with gala or honeycrisp, “there are 7,500 varieties of apple grown around the world and it’s the second most consumed fruit behind bananas,” according to Schlichter. About 2,500 varieties are grown in the United States alone.

Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, and Pink Lady are some of the most common varieties in the United States. Some are crunchier and sweeter, like the Honeycrisp and Gala, while others are more tart, like the Granny Smith.

The fiber is in the skin

Science suggests that the beneficial antioxidant properties of apples come from the skin.

There’s a reason an apple’s skin is a bit tough: it houses the majority of the fruit’s fiber. A medium apple with the skin on has 4 grams of fiber, but remove that skin and you halve the fiber to just 2 grams. Science also suggests that the beneficial antioxidant properties of apples come from the skin. In other words, it’s best to snack on your whole apples. Leave the skin intact unless you really need to remove it for a recipe like apple pie.

Apples contain pectin, a plant-based alternative to gelatin

The soluble fiber in apples is called pectin. This type of fiber is a starch found in the cell walls of some fruits and vegetables. Once extracted from the plant, it is sold in liquid or powder form.

Pectin is used as a natural thickener for jellies or jams, especially with fruits that are not high in pectin, such as berries. Since pectin comes from plants, it’s a vegan alternative to gelatin.

Healthy Apple Recipes and Snack Ideas

Apples are incredibly versatile and can fit perfectly into any meal of the day. There are really two ways to accompany apple dishes, sweet or savory. Both are equally delicious. Here are some easy ways to use apples in different ways.

Breakfast: “I love tossing diced apples into baked oats, overnight oats, or yogurt parfaits,” Schlichter says.

Snacks: “When we enjoy with my kids, we often make ‘apple nachos’ and cut the apples into flat ‘chip’ shapes, then top with Greek yogurt, peanut butter, sprinkles and chia seeds,” a Schlichter said.

Accompaniments: The sweetness and crunch of apples make them the perfect ingredient for a simple coleslaw or an addition to a leafy fall salad.

Sector: Apples go great with savory dishes, like herbed pork tenderloin or salmon tacos.

desserts: You can’t go wrong with a decadent apple crisp, apple pie, or zesty apple pie with caramel sauce.

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