The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” might just turn out to be a pretty true cliché. Apple nutrition benefits include the ability to improve your digestion — thanks to being one of best high-fiber foods — lower disease-causing inflammation, improve heart health and help you better manage your weight. Plus, apples make a great, portable post- or pre-workout snack thanks to their quick-releasing natural sugars than can raise your energy.
While berries usually get most of the credit when it comes to supplying antioxidants, apples are a close runner-up. With a diverse family of phytonutrients present in apple pulp and skin, some studies have linked the consumption of apples with a reduced risk of certain forms of cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease and even diabetes.
According to Department of Food Science at Cornell University, “In the laboratory, apples have been found to have very strong antioxidant activity, inhibit cancer cell proliferation, decrease lipid oxidation, and lower cholesterol.” Not too bad for one of the most widely available, easy-to-use fruits there is!
Apple Nutrition Facts
Apples are the fruit of the tree known as Malus domestica. Today, many different types of apples trees are grown worldwide, but they first originated in Asia thousands of years ago.
One medium apple has about:
- 95 calories
- 4 grams fiber
- 19 grams sugar
- 0 grams of protein or fat
- 4 milligrams vitamin C (14 percent DV)
- 196 milligrams potassium (6 percent DV)
- 4 milligrams vitamin K (5 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams vitamin B6 (4 percent DV)
- 1 milligrams manganese (3 percent DV)
10 Health Benefits of Apples
1. Great Source of Cancer-Fighting Antioxidants
Apples are a high-antioxidant food and a very significant source of flavonoids in people’s diets in the U.S. and in Europe. In the United States, 22 percent of the phenolic antioxidants consumed from fruits are from apples, making them the largest single source of these compounds.
Apples are ranked second among all types of fruit for their total concentration of phenolic compounds, a class of bioactive substances that includes flavonoids, second to cranberries. And compared to all other types of fruit, apples have the highest portion of free phenolic compounds, which means these molecules are not bound to other compounds in the fruit that can slow down their beneficial activity in the body.
Research shows that beneficial antioxidants found in apples include quercetin, catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid. Because of these special compounds, apples do more than combat free radicals — they also have anti-proliferative and beneficial cell-signaling effects.
In studies, anti-inflammatory foods like apples are linked with the prevention of prostate cancer because of their supply of quercetin. Other evidence suggests that certain protective phytochemicals in the skin of apples can help inhibit the reproduction of cancer cells within the colon. Since both cardiovascular disease and cancer are thought to be highly related to a condition called oxidative stress — which happens over time as damage to cells and DNA form — the ability to fight off free radical damage and oxidation is what gives apples their healing power (hence, it’s a part of my healing diet).
One thing to note here is that you want to eat the whole apple to get the most benefits, including the skin. When researchers studied the antioxidant capacity of pears and apples, they found that diets that included the fruit peels had a significantly higher level of healthy fatty acids (higher plasma lipid levels) and antioxidant activity than diets that discarded the peels and only ate the fruit’s pulp.
2. Help Prevent Inflammation
Phytochemicals found in colorful fruits, including phenolics, flavonoids and carotenoids, are known to reduce the risk for many chronic diseases that are widespread but largely preventable. This is because phytochemicals keep arteries clear, lower inflammatory responses and prevent high levels of oxidative stress.
Recent work from California State University suggests that high-antioxidant foods including apples are associated with “improved outcomes related to cognitive decline of normal aging, diabetes, weight management, bone health, pulmonary function, and gastrointestinal protection.”
3. Fight Heart Disease
There’s strong existing evidence that a diet that includes plenty of high-fiber foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, can help decrease the risk of numerous chronic diseases, including the number one killer in the U.S.: heart disease. Many studies have shown that people who consume more fresh plant foods filled with antioxidants experience lower inflammation and, therefore, have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
The specific type of fiber found in apples, called pectin, is especially known to be beneficial for lowering cholesterol levels naturally. One 2003 study found that when rats were fed a diet high in apple pectin extract and freeze-dried apples, they experienced significantly lower levels of cholesterol absorption and triglycerides than the control group. The group of rats receiving both apple pectin and the dried apples (instead of only one of these) experienced the most benefits in terms of intestine fermentations and lipid metabolism. This suggests that interactions between fibers and polyphenols in apples together play an important role in markers of heart health.
One study carried out by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health followed adults over a 15-year period and found that, overall,greater intake of fruits and vegetables was associated with lower risk of all-cause death and cardiovascular disease. There’s also evidence that antioxidant-rich fruits can play a role in preventing strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diverticulosis and hypertension.
4. High in Fiber
With over four grams of fiber in every one, apples are an ultimate high-fiber food and a great way to make sure you’re covering your bases of 25–30 grams daily. Apples are especially known for providing pectin, a type of soluble fiber that works by binding to fatty substances in the digestive tract — including cholesterol and toxins — and promoting their elimination.
The fiber found in apples helps make you feel full, since it expands in your intestines and takes up volume, but it’s also important for detoxification. Apple nutrition benefits the working of the digestive system because pectin regulates the body’s use of sugars and cholesterol while also helping to cleanse the blood and digestive tract.
5. Improve Digestive Health
Following a high fiber diet has been shown to fight digestive issues like IBS and even cancers of the digestive system. Higher fruit intake is correlated with better general digestive health, especially of the colon, stomach and bladder. The phytonutrients found in apples can help protect the digestive organs from oxidative stress, alkalize the body and balance pH levels.
When it comes to natural constipation relief, consuming plenty of high-fiber foods is a great way to prevent or treat this issue. Pectin in apples is also considered a natural diuretic and has a mild laxative effect, so this can help combat bloating and uncomfortable water retention. Try either eating raw apples (remember to also eat the skin) or adding them to recipes by blending them first. You can also obtain benefits by juicing apples, although you’ll want to avoid the types of high-sugar juices found in most grocery stores.
6. Good Source of Vitamin C
One apple supplies about 14 percent of your daily vitamin C, which is considered a powerful antioxidant that’s important for skin, eye, immune and brain health. Like other antioxidants we obtain through fresh vegetables and fruits, vitamin C fights free radical damage and helps protect DNA and cells from mutation and malformation.
Research shows that vitamin C is crucial for maintaining a healthy metabolism and repairing tissue, especially in the eyes and skin. Vitamin C-rich foods like apples have natural anti-aging effects because they promote skin cell renewal, help heal wounds or cuts, guard against infections and harmful bacteria, and also block damage from UV light exposure.
7. Can Help You Manage Your Weight
Much research has shown that higher fruit and vegetable intake is linked with protection against obesity. While apples provide high levels of important nutrients and antioxidants, they’re also low in calories since a high percentage of their volume is water and fiber.
Because they have a good dose of dietary fiber, which contains zero digestible calories and is useful for sustaining healthy blood sugar levels, apples can satisfy your sweet tooth without weighing your down or adding to food cravings. Indeed, when added to other smart ways to shed pounds, you can lose weight fast with the help of apples.
8. Can Help Fight Diabetes
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that eating five or more combined servings of fruits and vegetables daily significantly cut the risk of diabetes formation in adults. It might seem counterintuitive that fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain some sugar, would be inversely associated with diabetes incidence, but this has been shown time and time again in studies.
Certain flavonoids present in apples and other fruits are known to improve insulin sensitivity, which is key to preventing both diabetes and long-term weight gain. The other antioxidants and fiber found in apples also play a role in their anti-diabetic effects, since we know that a diet high in fiber and phytonutrients acts like a natural diabetes treatment.
Because apples are high in fiber, they’re considered a fruit that’s low on the glycemic index. Compared to refined carbohydrates or sweetened products, apples have the ability to unleash sugar into the bloodstream at a slower rate. This means they keep blood sugar levels more stable and prevent fluctuations in blood glucose that can potentially lead to insulin resistance.
9. Can Help Fight Asthma Symptoms
Interestingly, apples have been shown to act like a natural asthma remedy and are associated with general pulmonary health. In a 2003 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition involving 1,600 adults in Australia, apple and pear intake was associated with a decreased risk of asthma and a decrease in bronchial hypersensitivity.
The study surveyed nearly 600 individuals with asthma and 900 individuals without asthma about their diets and lifestyles. Total fruit and vegetable intake was found to be only weakly associated with asthma, but apple intake showed a stronger inverse relationship with asthma. The beneficial effect was most clear in subjects who consumed at least two apples per week.
What’s also interesting is that this seems to be uniquely an apple nutrition benefit; onion, tea and red wine consumption were not related to asthma incidence even though they also contain similar phytochemicals. This suggests that there are special interactions of apple flavonoids that help control asthma symptoms better than other antioxidants and nutrients.
10. High Source of Boron
A little known fact about apples nutrition? They’re one of the best natural sources of boron, a mineral that is important for building strong bones and helping to prevent osteoporosis. Boron uses and benefits include helping to develop sex hormones, building muscle mass and supporting brain function. Some evidence also shows that low boron intake might be associated with fatigue, arthritis and mood changes.