Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Apples are one of the world’s most frequently consumed fruits. They are delicious, sweet, crunchy, travel well and therefore make the perfect lunchbox snack.
There is considerable scientific evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can improve health and protect against chronic diseases. Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption by only 100 grams per day reduced risk of cognitive impairment and dementia by 13% (1) (that is about 1 cup of berries or 1 small apple!).
Health benefits of apples:
Epidemiological studies suggest that frequent apple consumption have beneficial effects on lipid metabolism, weight management, vascular function, inflammation, chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, specific cancers, diabetes, asthma and pulmonary dysfunction (2)(3). Researchers also noted that they could improve outcomes related to Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline of normal aging and bone health (4).
Apples contain both insoluble and soluble fibre. The major soluble fibre, pectin has been reported to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels (2)(5).
Polyphenols (often referred to as antioxidants) including flavonoids like quercetin, anthocyanins and dihydrochalcones are significantly higher in the peel than the flesh (2), with higher levels generally found in darker and redder apples. The average medium apple (180 grams) contain up to 540 mg of polyphenols (6). Flavonoid content is also affected by external factors like exposure of fruit to sunlight, fruit maturity, type and length of storage.
Studies showed that the ingestion of flavonoids reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases due to reduction of oxidative stress, inhibiting low-density lipoproteins oxidation and platelet aggregation, and acting as vasodilators in blood vessels (7).
The high fibre and pectin have been shown to promote digestive health by impacting transit time, gastric emptying and nutrient absorption from the gut. Polyphenols, together with pectin reach the colon where they are fermented by the gut microbiota and may beneficially modulate the gut microbiota composition and activity (2).
Cohort studies of children shown that maternal intake of apples had a protective effect on the children, with about a 50% lowered risk of asthma at age 5 (8). Quercetin is a natural antihistamine associated with helping to relieve hay fever and hives (7).
Calcium, phosphorus and vitamin K assist healthy bone formation. Cross-sectional studies have shown a positive association between higher fruit intake and higher bone mineral density.
One raw medium apple (180 g) with skin provides approximately (9):
Calories: 95 kcal
Carbohydrates: 25 g
Fibre: 4 g
Sugars: 19 g
Calcium: 10 mg
Potassium: 192 mg
Phosphorus: 20 mg
Boron: 497 mcg
Magnesium: 9 mg
Vitamin A: 99 IU
Vitamin C: 8 mg
Vitamin K: 4 mcg
Glycaemic load: 1 (low)
Apples contain fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts so consume them in moderation.
Apple juice does not contain the fibre and pectin of whole apples and contains only small amounts of quercetin and dihydrochalcones. It often has a high sugar intake.
Please note: Apples are one of the most pesticide-contaminated foods in the produce section, so it’s best to buy them organic. For more information see Dirty Dozen list and visit the Environmental Working Group (https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php).
1. Jiang, X. Huang, J. Song, D. et al. (2017). ‘Increased Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables Is Related to a Reduced Risk of Cognitive Impairment and Dementia: Meta-Analysis.’ Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 9, p.18.
2. Koutsos, A. Tuohy, K. and Lovegrove, J. (2015). ‘Apples and Cardiovascular Health-Is the Gut Microbiota a Core Consideration?’ Nutrients, 7(6), pp.3959-3998.
3. Hyun, T.K. and Jang, K. (2016). ‘Apple as a source of dietary phytonutrients: an update on the potential health benefits of apple.’ EXCLI Journal, 15, pp.565-569.
4. Hyson, D. (2011). ‘A Comprehensive Review of Apples and Apple Components and Their Relationship to Human Health.’ Advances in Nutrition, 2(5), pp.408-420.
5. Ravn-Haren, G. Dragsted, L.O. Buch-Andersen, T. et al. (2013). ’Intake of whole apples or clear apple juice has contrasting effects on plasma lipids in healthy volunteers.’ European Journal of Nutrition, 52(8), pp.1875-1889.
6. Ganesan, K. and Xu, B. (2017). ‘A Critical Review on Polyphenols and Health Benefits of Black Soybeans’. Nutrients, 9(5), p.455.
7. Parasuraman, S. Anand David, A. and Arulmoli, R. (2016). ‘Overviews of biological importance of quercetin: A bioactive flavonoid.’ Pharmacognosy Reviews, 10(20), p.84.
8. Pizzorno, JE. & Murray, MT. (2013). Textbook of Natural Medicine. 4th edn. Missouri: Elsevier, p.1725.
9. Shealy, C.N. (2014). The Illustrated Food Remedies Sourcebook. 1st edn. London: Harper Collins Publishers, pp.20-21.
Written by Jana Papajova