They are delicious, nutritious, and provide some fantastic benefits for our health. We’re talking about apples, one of the most popular fruits all over the world. They are rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C, low in calories, have a trace of sodium and contain no fat or cholesterol. They are also rich in antioxidants. In this article, you will learn more about the nutritional profile and health benefits of apples.
Apple trees have been grown in Asia and Europe for thousands of years and were brought to North America by European colonists. Nowadays, many varieties of apples are grown in the US. Some of the popular types include Red Delicious, McIntosh, Crispin, Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji, and Honeycrisp. Each variety has a different shape, color, texture, and flavor. One thing that is common of all these varieties of apple is that they are all highly nutritious and beneficial for health.
One raw, unpeeled, medium-sized apple (182 grams) contains (1) –
- Calories – 95
- Water – 86%
- Carbs – 25 grams
- Sugar – 19 grams
- Fiber – 4 grams
- Vitamin C – 14% RDI
- Potassium – 6% RDI
- Vitamin K – 5% RDI
If you are following a keto diet, apples may not be the fruit for you but compared no many other foods apples do not have many carbs. One medium apple meets only 8% of your daily carb requirement. It is also a low-glycemic fruit, which means it causes only a slight increase in blood sugar. Eating low-glycemic food helps in weight loss and lowers the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Apples are rich in insoluble and soluble fiber. One medium-sized apple provides 4 grams of fiber, which is 17 % of the required daily intake. The insoluble fiber provides bulk to the intestinal tract and helps the food to move quickly through the digestive system. Apples contain a soluble fiber called pectin. This fiber prevents cholesterol from building up in the lining of the blood vessels, which helps to prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease.
One medium apple contains 19 grams of simple sugars like fructose, sucrose, and glucose. This fact means that almost three-fourths of the carbs in apples come from sugar. However, these sugars are natural sugars which are beneficial for health.
Apples contain vitamin C and beta-carotene. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which helps our body to develop resistance to infectious agents. It also scavenges harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body. Apples are also a good source of B vitamins such as riboflavin, thiamine, and pyridoxine. These vitamins help in metabolism as well as various other functions in the body.
Apples are rich in potassium. One medium-sized apple provides 6% of the daily requirement. Potassium is beneficial for heart health. They are also rich in manganese and copper.
Apples contain a variety of phytochemicals like catechin, quercetin, phloridzin, and chlorogenic acids. The phytochemical composition of apples varies between different types of apples. Maturation and ripening of fruit also change its phytochemical profile.
Catechin helps improve brain and muscle formation in animal studies. Quercetin has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-cancer, and antidepressant effects. Chlorogenic acid lowers blood sugar and also helps in weight loss.
Health benefits of apples
1. Improve neurological health
Several studies have shown that apples can help improve neurological health. Apples contain quercetin, an antioxidant known to reduce cellular death due to oxidation and inflammation of neurons. According to a 2004 study from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, drinking apple juice compensates for the increased reactive oxygen species and decline in cognitive performance in mice (2).
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is essential for brain health. According to a 2006 study, drinking apple juice helps to maintain acetylcholine levels in the body and prevent cognitive decline linked to aging (3). Another study found that when researchers gave aged rats a diet rich in apples, it reversed the age-dependent impairment to sustain long-term potential (4).
2. Improve heart health
Apples are rich in polyphenols and fiber. Several studies have found that frequent apple consumption can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (5). Apples contain soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol levels in the body. Apples also contain polyphenols like epicatechin, which help lower blood pressure.
Flavonoids in apples inhibit LDL oxidation, reduce blood vessels permeability, antiplatelet and anti-inflammatory activity, and direct vasodilator action. So flavonoids can be used as safe potential therapeutic agents for the prevention of atherosclerosis and its consequences like heart attack and stroke (6).
3. Lower risk of diabetes
Eating apples can also lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes(7). The phenolic compounds in apple juice slow down digestion and absorption of glucose in the body (8). The polyphenols in apples help prevent tissue damage to the beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells produce insulin in the body. According to one study by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, that involved 38,018 women, eating one apple a day was linked to a 28 % lower risk of type 2 diabetes (9).
4. Help prevent cancer
Apples contain polyphenols that are known to have potent anti-cancer and tumor-fighting properties. Phloretin, a polyphenol present in apples, inhibits a protein called glucose transporter 2 (GLUT2) which plays a role in advanced-stage cell growth in some types of cancer.
According to a study published in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, the apple polyphenol phloretin inhibits breast cancer cell growth via inhibition of signals by type 2 glucose transporter (10). Several studies have also shown that apples can help protect against lung and colon cancer (11, 12).
5. Improve digestive health
Apples contain insoluble fiber, which does not absorb water. It provides bulk to the intestinal tract and helps to keep the food moving in the gastrointestinal tract. Apples also contain soluble fiber pectin. Pectin acts as a prebiotic, which means it feeds the good bacteria in the gut. The small intestine does not absorb fiber; instead, it goes to the colon, where it promotes the growth of the good bacteria.
6. Build strong bones
Apples, especially the peals, contain a unique phytonutrient called phloridzin. This flavonoid antioxidant can help improve bone density and reduce bone breakdown in women after menopause. During a 2004 study from Canada, 15 women were given a control diet, fresh apples or processed applesauce to eat. The results showed that women who ate apple products had less calcium excretion as compared to the control group (13).
Apples are rich in vitamin C, which is essential for the production of collagen. Vitamin C helps maintain muscles, blood vessels, bones, and cartilage. Apples also contain boron, a trace mineral that supports the function of nutrients essential for bone health like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin D.
7. Prevents gastric damage by NSAIDs
Chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and diclofenac can cause damage to the stomach lining, leading to gastritis and ulcers. Studies have found that compounds like chlorogenic acid and catechin found in apples can reduce damage to the stomach lining (14). According to a 2005 study from Italy, freeze-dried apple flesh extracts helped prevent damage to the stomach cells (15).
8. Help fight asthma
Studies have found that apples contain quercetin, a flavonoid that helps to reduce inflammation and regulate the immune system. This helps to reduce the incidence of asthma (16). During one study, 68535 women filled a food questionnaire which had 238 food items. This study showed that women who ate the most apples had the lowest risk of asthma (17).
9. Help in weight loss
Apples are rich in fiber and have high water content. This makes them satiating, which helps in weight loss. One study found that when people ate apples before their meals, it helped reduce their calorie intake by 15 percent. The study also found that eating raw apples affects satiety more than juice or pureed apples (18).
During another study, 49 women in the age group of 30 to 50 years ate either apples, pears, or oats cookies in addition to their regular diet for ten weeks. The results showed that women who ate apples lost an average of two ponds and consumed fewer calories as compared to the women who ate pears and oats cookies (19).
10. Improves dental health
Biting and chewing apples stimulates saliva in the mouth. This helps lower the bacteria in the mouth and prevents tooth decay.
Side effects of apples
Apples are safe as long as you don’t eat the seeds. Apple seeds contain cyanide and are considered poisonous. Apples can also cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Rosaceae family like apricot, almond, plum, peach, pear, and strawberry.
Apples might also cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to birch pollen. Apples and apple juice can also lead to an increase in blood sugar levels. People with diabetes should be cautious while having apple and apple products.
Apples are amongst the most popular fruits around the world. They are delicious, nutritious, and provide a host of health benefits. They improve neurological health, boost heart health, lower the risk of diabetes, help prevent cancer, improve digestion, build strong bones, and help in weight loss. Consume both the skin and the flesh of apples to gain all the health benefits.