We’re all familiar with the old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But is there really any truth to this statement?
Considering all that’s packed into a single apple, it’s a good food to eat as part of a healthy diet.
“Apples are very nutritious and low in calories,” says Gale Pearson, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group (TPMG) in Hampton Roads, Va.
Apples are also a great source of soluble fiber and antioxidants and a good source of Vitamin C. They also have over 16 different phytonutrients, especially quercetin, which give them their antioxidant capacity.”
Because most of the fiber and the phytonutrients are concentrated in the skin, it’s OK to eat the entire apple — well, mostly. The seeds contain a substance called amygdalin, which when chewed or crushed release small amounts of cyanide. Cyanide is highly toxic, but you’d probably have to chew and swallow hundreds of seeds at once to notice any adverse effects.
Apples also promote healthy bacteria in the stomach and aid with reducing blood pressure and cholesterol as well as lowering the risk of cancer and heart disease. They may even help with weight loss. In a 2014 study, Washington State University food scientist Guilana Noratto found that apples help restore the microbial balance in the gut, which reduces chronic inflammation and boosts feelings of fullness to help stave off overeating.
Most apples are great for snacking, while others are used for baking, or for making applesauce or apple juice. Although all apples will give you health benefits, tart Granny Smith apples contain the highest concentration of fiber and polyphenols (naturally occurring micronutrients that act as antioxidants) and have low carbohydrates.
When choosing which variety to purchase, it really depends on the taste, color, or texture you are looking for,” notes Julie Wells, a registered dietitian and nutritionist with Bon Secours In Motion-Outpatient Nutrition Services in Chesapeake, Va. “All varieties of apples will give you the same healthful benefits.”
More than 2,500 varieties of apples, all with their own unique taste, are grown in the United States alone. The fruit can be consumed in numerous ways, although cooking destroys the polyphenols.
“Apples are a convenient fast-food that is actually good for you,” says Wells. “Slice, cut, or eat whole. They can easily be tossed into a lunch bag as a naturally sweet addition to your meal or cut up to top a salad. For a satisfying snack, why not pair an apple with a handful of nuts or tablespoon of nut butter? Go beyond apple pie and try a European twist on dessert, or serve apple slices with a variety of cheeses.”
Apples are also one of Pearson’s favorite fruits to enjoy.
“I love apples and cottage cheese, or chopped apples and cinnamon in oatmeal, or an apple for my afternoon snack,” she says. “I also add them to butternut squash soup. One of my clients loves to bake an apple in her air fryer. Stew apples with water and spices without frying them. Granny Smith and McIntosh apples are good for applesauce. With all the varieties available and nutrition benefits of apples, surely you can find one you like and ‘keep the doctor away.’”