Why are Apples good for you?
An apple a day may reduce high blood pressure, lower cholesterol and help you live longer.
You probably know the saying,
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But are apples really that good for you? Snow White, who ate a poisoned apple and fell into a coma, might claim otherwise. But assuming you’re not living in a fairy tale, apples are one of the most delicious and healthy fruits you can eat.
“Apples are popular for a reason,” says registered dietitian Amber Sommer, RD, LD. “They’re easy to eat on the go, and they taste terrific. But what most people don’t know is that eating them regularly over time can provide a big health boost.” Sommer shares the benefits of apples and why you should grab a bushel at the market.
Are apples healthy?
Apples are only about 60 calories each, giving you a lot of nutritional bang for the calorie count. You get the most health benefits of apples when you eat them whole, raw and unpeeled. Juice, cider and applesauce aren’t as healthy because cooking and processing apples remove valuable nutrients.
Apples’ nutrients vary a bit, depending on the type you eat. Red Delicious apples may be the healthiest variety of apple. Its dark, red skin contains more antioxidants (substances that protect cells from damage). But all apples are loaded with nutrients, including:
Antioxidants: Apple peels are rich in antioxidants, most notably quercetin. This nutrient is found in highly pigmented (colorful) foods, including citrus fruits, berries, green tea and red wine.
Fiber: Apples are a good source of fiber, which aids digestion.
Water: Apples are about 85% water, making them a hydrating snack.Health benefits of apples The combination of antioxidants and fiber makes apples a nutritional powerhouse.
Here are some of the ways eating apples benefits your health:
1. Stabilizes blood sugar
“When you eat sugary, processed foods like doughnuts, the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood spikes,” says Sommer. “But when you eat foods that are high in fiber and lower in sugar, like apples, it keeps your glucose levels steady.”
High glucose levels over time can lead to Type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition that affects more than 33 million Americans. Good news for apple fans, though: A study of more than 38,000 people found that those who ate more than one apple a day were 28% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who didn’t eat any apples.
The benefits likely come from both antioxidants and fiber in apples:
Antioxidants may protect your pancreas from damage. Your pancreas produces insulin to remove glucose from your blood.
Fiber slows the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream.
2. Lowers cholesterol
Having high cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease because it clogs your arteries, restricting blood flow to your heart. But the antioxidants and fiber in apples are a winning combo to help lower that number. The type of fiber that stands out here is pectin, which binds to cholesterol in your digestive tract and flushes it out.
Multiple studies in people with high cholesterol show that consuming a few apples a day can reduce total cholesterol levels by about 5% to 8%. Can’t down that many apples in 24 hours? Try a daily serving of 3 ounces of dried apples (no sugar added). One study’s participants reduced their total cholesterol by 13% in six months after eating that much.
3. Reduces blood pressure
When you have high blood pressure, the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels can damage them. It’s a leading contributor to stroke and heart attacks. A healthy diet is one way to prevent and manage high blood pressure.
A small Australian study found eating apples helped lower blood pressure. Other research has had mixed results. But researchers agree that antioxidants in apple peels help your blood flow smoothly. The fiber in apples may also play a role.
4. Eases inflammation
Inflammation is one way our bodies fight infections and heal damaged tissue. But inflammation should only last a short time. Continual, longstanding (chronic) inflammation actually causes damage and can lead to disease.
Apples contain anti-inflammatory substances — mainly fiber and quercetin, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation, especially in your respiratory system. According to multiple studies, eating apples lowers c-reactive proteins in your blood, a sign that chronic inflammation is improving.
5. Boosts your microbiome
Your body is a wonderland for many microorganisms that live in your gut and on your skin. Some are helpful, while some are harmful. Apples help with both types:
Quercetin stops those harmful microbes from growing in your gut. Pectin acts as a prebiotic (food for beneficial microorganisms), promoting good gut health.
6. Satisfies hunger longer
“Because apples are high in water and fiber, they make a filling snack,” says Sommer. “The fiber helps slow digestion, so you feel full for longer.” And as apples are low in calories, choosing a healthy snack like apples over higher-calorie snacks such as cookies or candy, can help you maintain a healthy weight.
7. Helps you live longer
If you eat an apple a day, you might just live longer, says one study. Researchers discovered that participants who did this were 35% less likely to die when they followed up 15 years later.
Adding apples to your diet can reduce your risk of heart disease or cancer, the top two leading causes of death in the United States. In a study of nearly 40,000 people, those who ate apples were 13% to 22% less likely to develop heart disease than those who skipped the fruit.
Apples may also help prevent cancer. Research indicates that those who eat apples are less likely to get the disease. But how many apples do you need to eat to lower your risk? One big study of 77,000 people found that those who ate at least one apple a day had a lower risk of lung cancer.
Apples: Healthy, inexpensive, easy to find
Apples are found in nearly every supermarket and farmer’s market. You can toss them into lunchboxes, pack them for a picnic and add them to charcuterie boards. They may not be as fancy-looking or prized as berries, grapes or kiwis — but they’re less expensive and easier to find.
And who knew that the humble apple had so many amazing health benefits? It can extend your years and protect against chronic diseases that can take a toll on daily life. Eat them whole or have fun with fresh, creative apple recipes.
Try adding them to oatmeal or tossing some onto a salad to give it an extra nutritional boost. “Apples have definitely earned a place in a healthy diet,” Sommer states. “It’s a fruit that can impact your health in such positive ways.”
August 7, 2023, Nutrition