“An apple a day keep doctor away”
An old Welsh proverb used to signify the importance of apples in our diet.
You might have heard the proverb but didn’t knew why it was termed the healthiest food. Since Apple is the most popular and nutrient abundant food, you should know what makes it so special.
Let’s explore the nutrition facts and health benefits of apple.
1. They are Dense in Nutrients
Apple is the most recommended fruit due to its high nutrient content. The nutritional profile is good but it is a dense source of phytonutrients.
1 medium size apple, raw, with skin (182 g) provides (1)
Calories – 94.6 (5%)
Fiber – 4.4 g (17%)
Vitamin C – 8.4 mg (14%)
Vitamin B6 – 0.1mg (4%)
Vitamin K – 4mg (5%)
Potassium – 195mg (6%)
It also contains manganese, vitamin e, vitamin B1 and vitamin B2.
The nutrients mentioned above are always on the list, but apart from those nutrients apple also provides phytonutrients. The maximum benefits are from apple’s peel where the most important nutrients – fiber and phytonutrients resides.
No nutrients in apple provide the benefit equal to these phenolic phytonutrients provides. There are dozens of phenols and polyphenols that an apple contains which gives it antioxidant property. (2, 3)
- Anthocyanins (red varieties only) – cyanidin galactosides, cyaniding arabinosides
- Dihydrochalcones – phloretin, phloridzin
- Flavonols – catechins, epicatechins, procyanidins
- Flavonols and flavonol glycosides – quercetin, isoquercetin, kaempferol, rutin, reinutrin, hyperoside
- Hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives – caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, coumaric acid
Both the skin and flesh contains phytonutrients, but the skin contains 3-4 time more phytonutrients than the flesh.
You can get phytonutrients from flesh but the maximum phytonutrients are in the skin. While eating a whole apple with the skin(peel) is recommended for lots more reason (fiber and it benefits), you will explore later.
Apples are a significant source of phytonutrients in people’s diet in the USA and Europe.
Apple ranks second for the total concentration of phenolic compounds, and most of it is free phenolic, compared to other fruit. Free phenolic doesn’t need to bound to other compounds so they are readily absorbed in the bloodstream.
Wrap up: Apple is low calorie, contains a good amount of nutrient and abundant source of phytonutrients.
2. It Can Protect From Diabetes
Considering the concern between fruit consumption and diabetes…
Eating fruits (blueberries, apple, pears, and grapes) can lower the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, according to a new study led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers. (4)
But, consumption of fruit in form of fruit juice can increase the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
The actual problem is not with whole fruit, it’s with the way of consumption. Processing of fruit to remove its fiber also removes major of anti-diabetic nutrient flavonoids.
Two servings each week of whole fruit (blueberries, grapes, and apples) – reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 23% compared who ate one serving.
One or two serving of fruit juice each week – increase the risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 21%.
While swapping to whole fruit would result in 7% in diabetes risk.
The benefits of fruit are with fiber that slow down the blood sugar rise compared to fruit juice which can be easily absorbed by the bloodstream increasing blood sugar and diabetes risk.
Apple is high in fiber and an abundant source of phytonutrients which can be a reason for additional benefit. Also, soluble fiber is fed by gut bacteria which is also linked to increased insulin sensitivity. (9, 10)
A study suggests that epicatechin acts as an insulin receptor activator and reduces the harmful effects of diabetes. (11)
So, if you have the concern to eat an apple if you have diabetes – feel free to add to your diet. There is no harm in adding a fruit that can improve insulin sensitivity. If you have concern then limit it to 2-3 serving per week, small apples (2.5 inches in diameter) and finally eat whole fruit instead of consuming juice.
Wrap up: Apple is loaded with anti-diabetic nutrient – fiber and phytonutrients. The fiber prevents a quick rise of blood sugar, while fiber and phytonutrients improve insulin sensitivity.
3. Apples are Heart Healthy Fruit
Consumption of apples has been associated with lower risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. (12)
Fiber contains high fiber and phytonutrients, both required for a healthy heart.
The fiber in apple is responsible to cut the level of LDL “bad” cholesterol in the blood. A higher level of LDL cholesterol in the blood is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
The fiber in apple is soluble fiber, pectin.
Pectin binds with the bile acids in the intestine, i.e., it traps excess bile acids and they are excreted from the body, leaving less of bile acids to be absorbed.
With less absorption of bile acids, the LDL level starts to drop in the blood.
Consumption of dietary fiber, particularly water-soluble fiber reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease in both men and women. (13)
Consumption of fiber has also found to lower the total cholesterol & triglycerides level. (14)
Protection from damage:
With the earlier mentioned phytonutrients, apple possesses high antioxidants value. Those phenolic phytonutrients are also present in flesh but mostly in peel which provides apple high antioxidants property.
Phenolic phytonutrients provide protection within blood vessels from free radicals.
Free radicals are an unstable molecule, that can cause lots of damage when left unchecked. To prevent any damage, it is important to neutralize those free radicals by eating a good amount of antioxidants.
The risk of atherosclerosis or plague buildup lowers with high antioxidants and lower level of LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Quercitin & epicatechin both have a blood pressure lowering effect because they can upregulate the production of nitric acid.
Eating fiber-rich fruit is responsible for a healthy gut and healthy heart. (20)
Wrap up: With lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and high antioxidants – apple can surely protect from heart disease. To get the nutrients responsible for the healthy heart you need to consume the whole fruit.
4. It Can Help You Achieve Your Weight Loss Goal
Apple can support weight loss due to high water and fiber content, along with low-calorie.
A study found that consuming fruit (apple, pears, grapes) provide greater satiety and reduce hunger compared to consuming fruit juice.
Pectin, a soluble fiber in apple is responsible for better satiety, while the slow release of energy is responsible for energy flow for longer, thus reducing hunger rate.
Studies have found that eating less energy dense food can promote weight loss by providing satiety and lowering hunger rate.
A study found that eating fruit compared to oats provide more satiety, reduce calorie consumption, although there was a minor change. It is claimed that eating low energy densities of fruits can reduce the consumption and body weight. (21)
The water and fiber content of apple make it filling. It can be used for a snack, a better alternative for calorie-dense snacks. You can satisfy your sweet tooth craving with low calorie and fiber dense apple.
Wrap Up: With low calorie, high fiber it increases satiety and lowers hunger rate. While consumption of apple before a meal can reduce the calorie in the next meal, all supporting a healthy weight loss.
5. It Can Protect From Many Types of Cancer
One-third of all types of cancer death could be prevented by improved diet, as per estimation by American Institute of Cancer Research.
There is evidence that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of lung, oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, and colon. (24)
The plant compounds in fruits and vegetables provide protection from free radicals and oxidative stress. These nutrients provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory property thus protecting from a lead cause of cancer.
A study suggests that flavonoids, especially flavonols and catechins, may be linked with reduced risk of developing prostate cancer. (25)
A study on rat found that apple’s procyanidins (flavanols) consumption reduce preneoplastic lesions and including 50% fewer aberrant crypts (one of the earliest changes seen in the colon that may lead to cancer). (26)
To get the same amount of procyanidin, you need to consume 2 apples.
Apple is a great source of many plant compound phytonutrients, that can protect from many types of cancer.
Wrap up: With a high amount of plant compounds, phytonutrients, an apple proves a great food to lower the risk of cancer.
6. It Boosts Cognitive Health & Memory
Increased oxidative stress and inflammation are responsible for the decline of cognitive performance and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia.
To lower the decline of cognitive performance and delays the onset of neurodegenerative disease – fruit and vegetables rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients should be consumed.
Among those foods, an apple contains phytonutrients that can prevent cognitive decline and lower the risk of neurodegenerative disease. (27)
Consumption of apple juice has been linked to the lower production of beta-amyloid plaques in mice as they ages. High beta-amyloid is associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. (28)
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit the message to other nerve cells which are crucial for memory and brain health. Consumption of apple juice can prevent the decline of a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine.
A study on rat found that apple juice was responsible for the production of acetylcholine, resulting in the improvement in working memory among mice who have Alzheimer’s disease.
* The above studies were funded by U.S. Apple Association and Apple Products Research and Education Council.
Major of studies were done with apple juice, but it is recommended consume a whole apple with its skin were major of phytonutrients are present.
Wrap up: With a high amount of phytonutrients it protects from damage caused by oxidation and inflammation which is responsible for Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. It increases the production of the neurotransmitter responsible for the improvement in working memory.
7. Helps To Build a Stronger Bone
Intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with better bone mineral density. (29)
The risk of osteoporosis decreases with a reduction in loss of calcium. The rate of fracture also increases with loss of calcium in bone.
Apple provides nutrients that support bone health like Vitamin C, vitamin K, and magnesium. Along with it is an alkaline fruit that prevents the excretion of calcium, thus improving bone health.
Studies have confirmed that eating apple prevents the excretion of calcium after a meal. (30)
Phytonutrients in apple are also found to improve bone health. Consumption of fruit is associated with higher bone mineral density.
Wrap up: Apple contains essential nutrients for healthy bone formation. With antioxidants and anti-inflammatory content, it prevents the loss of bone calcium, thus strengthening the bone and provides protection from osteoporosis.
8. It Can Protect From Asthma
Asthma is a common long-term inflammatory disease in the airways of the lungs. The susceptible cause of asthma is the increased damage in lungs due to increased oxidative damage.
Dietary antioxidants can help to fight that inflammation thus protects from asthma.
Apple can provide protection against asthma due to its high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory content. (31)
A study found that eating 15% of large apple was associated with a 10% risk of asthma. (32)
Quercetin a type of flavonoid is known for its antioxidant and anti-allergic property that boost immunity and reduce inflammation. All these properties reduce the risk of asthma and allergic symptoms. (33)
Wrap up: With high antioxidants, apple fight inflammation, regulate the immune system, and protects against asthma.
9. It Promotes Good Bacteria Growth
Apple contains fiber known as pectin, which is prebiotic.
Pectin is soluble fiber on which gut bacteria feed. For a healthy diversity of gut bacteria, you need a good amount of pectin. A healthy supply of pectin from food increases the population of healthy bacteria.
These gut bacteria have a great influence on our overall health like:
- Improve heart health
- Control blood sugar and lower risk of diabetes
- Affect brain health
- Boost immunity
Wrap up: Apple is a good source of pectin, a fiber which is required for the growth of gut bacteria.