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Apple Nutrition — The Ultimate Gut & Heart-Friendly Fruit

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Apple nutrition - Dr. Axe

Is an apple a day really good for you? You bet, thanks to all apple nutrition offers. The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” turns out to be a pretty true cliché. 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.” (1) Not too bad for one of the most widely available, easy-to-use fruits there is!

Apple nutrition benefits include the ability to improve your digestion, thanks to being one of best high-fiber foods. Apples are also a top source of pectin, a soluble, gelatinous polysaccharide that binds to cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract and slows glucose absorption. Eating apples can help 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, apple nutrition is a close runner-up. With a diverse family of phytonutrients present in apple pulp and skin, some studies link the consumption of apples with a reduced risk of certain forms of cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease and even diabetes.


Types of Apples and Apple Nutrition Facts

Apples are the fruit of the tree known as Malus domestica. Today, many different types of apples treeare grown worldwide, but they first originated in Asia thousands of years ago. Hundreds of varieties of apples are in existence today. There are skins that range in color from bright red to yellow, green, pink, or bi- or tri-colored patterns. They also come in a range of different tastes and levels of sweetness. It’s estimated that there are about 2,500 known varieties (cultivars) of apples that are grown in the United States and more than 7,500 varieties grown in the world! (2)

According to researchers, the phytochemical composition of apple nutrition varies greatly between different varieties of apples. Plus, there are also small changes in phytochemicals during the maturation and ripening periods. While other types of apples are good choices, good-old red delicious seems to be the highest in antioxidants according to some sources.

Some of the most common types of apples include:

  • Red delicious
  • Honeycrisp
  • Fuji
  • Gala
  • Granny smith
  • McIntosh
  • Cortland
  • Golden delicious
  • Empire
  • Braeburn
  • Envy
  • Jazz
  • Cameo
  • Jonagold
  • Rome
  • Macoun
  • Zestar
  • Mutsu
  • Ambrosia

Apple Nutrition Facts

How many calories are in an apple? How many carbs does an apple have? One medium apple (approximately 182 grams) has about: (3)

  • 94.6 calories
  • 25.1 grams carbohydrates
  • 0.5 gram protein
  • 0.3 gram fat
  • 4.4 grams fiber
  • 8.4 milligrams vitamin C (14 percent DV)
  • 195 milligrams potassium (6 percent DV)
  • 4 micrograms vitamin K (5 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (4 percent DV)
  • 0.11 milligram manganese (3 percent DV)

Apple nutrition also provides some vitamin A, vitamin E, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, choline, betaine, calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.


Apple Nutrition: 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. (4)

Apples are ranked second to cranberries among all types of fruit for their total concentration of phenolic compounds. Phenolic compounds are a class of bioactive substances that includes flavonoids. Compared to all other types of fruit, apple nutrition has the highest portion of free phenolic compounds. That 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 apple nutrition include:

  • quercetin
  • catechin
  • phloridzin
  • 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 forms — the ability to fight off free radical damage and oxidation is what gives apples their healing power. That’s why apples are part of a healing diet. (5, 6)

What is the healthiest part of an apple? 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. (7)

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 phytonutrients keep arteries clear, lower inflammatory responses and prevent high levels of oxidative stress.

Research from California State University suggests that high-antioxidant foods are associated with “improved outcomes related to cognitive decline of normal aging, diabetes, weight management, bone health, pulmonary function, and gastrointestinal protection.” (8)

3. Fight Heart Disease

There’s strong 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. That includes the No. 1 killer in the U.S.: heart disease. (9) Many studies show 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, 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. (10) 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. (11) 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. Eating an apple is a great way to make sure you cover your bases of 25–30 grams daily. Apples are especially known for providing pectin. Pectin is 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 apple nutrition helps make you feel full. It expands in your intestines and takes up volume. It’s also important for detoxification. Apple nutrition benefits the digestive system because pectin regulates the body’s use of sugars and cholesterol. It also helps cleanse the blood and digestive tract.

5. Improve Digestive Health

Following a high-fiber diet has been shown to fight digestive issues like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) 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 apple nutrition is also considered a natural diuretic. It 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 want to avoid the types of high-sugar juices found in most grocery stores.

 

An apple a day graphic - Dr. Axe

 

6. Good Source of Vitamin C

One medium apple supplies about 14 percent of your daily vitamin C. Vitamin C 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. (12) 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 you 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. May Help Fight Diabetes

Wondering if the sugar in fruit bad for you? 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. (13) It might seem counterintuitive that fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain some sugar, are inversely associated with diabetes incidence, but this is shown time and time again in studies.

Certain flavonoids present in apples and other fruits are known to improve insulin sensitivity. This 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.

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. Help Fight Asthma Symptoms

Interestingly, apples are shown to act like natural remedies for asthma. In fact, they 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. (14)

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

Here’s a little-known fact about apples nutrition: Apples are one of the best natural sources of boron. Boron is a mineral that is important for building strong bones and helping to prevent osteoporosis. Boron uses and benefits include helping 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.


Apples vs. Oranges vs. Bananas vs. Pears

  • Compared to apple nutrition, orange nutrition is higher in certain nutrients, including vitamin C, potassium, calcium and folate. Oranges are an an excellent source of vitamin C. They contain over 100 percent of your daily requirement in one orange compared to only 10 percent to 14 percent in one apple. Apples are a bit higher in calories and provide more fiber than oranges. However, some people can tolerate oranges and not apples. Why? Apples have more FODMAPs.
  • Bananas are a high-sugar and high-starch fruit, but they actually have less sugar than apples (14 grams in a banana compared to 19 in an apple). Bananas are a lot higher in starch, but they also provide higher levels of some nutrients too. These include potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, folate and vitamin B6. One banana has about seven times as much folate and three times as much potassium as one apple. However, apples have slightly more vitamin E and K. Plus they are richer in flavonoids.
  • Both apples and pears are fruits in the Rosaceae plant family. They are believed to originate in Asia. Both are rich in dietary fiber, providing more than fruits like oranges and bananas. Apples are known for providing pectin, but pears are actually a better source of this special type of fiber. As a soluble fiber, pectin works by binding to fatty substances in the digestive tract, including cholesterol and toxins, and promotes their elimination. There are a similar number of calories in a pear and an apple. Both provide about 100 calories and have between 17–19 grams of sugar. They also contain similar quantities of carbohydrates.

What’s one of the best times to enjoy fruit? Before or after a workout. Apples, oranges, bananas and pears can provide a quick boost of energy before a workout because they’re natural sources of fructose and glucose sugar molecules. Fruit provides carbohydrates and can help enhance physical performance, concentration and stamina if you have a piece as a snack prior to hitting the gym.

The body uses sugar best around the time of exercise because we need glucose to replenish depleted glycogen reserves and help promote muscle recovery. Consider throwing your favorite type of fruit into your work or gym bag. You can also have one as part of balanced, healthy snack following exercise.


Apple Nutrition in Traditional Medicine

Traditional uses of apples include helping treat digestive issues like constipation and dysentery. Dysentery is an inflammatory disease of the intestine. It’s especially common in the colon and results in severe diarrhea and abdominal pains. Apples also were used to treat fevers, heart ailments, scurvy and warts.

Apples are said to have cooling, astringent properties that can help ease heartburn and a sour stomach. Thanks to their antioxidants and vitamin C, apples have been traditionally used to help cleanse the mouth and teeth. They were also used to prevent diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency. Many folklore remedies utilized apples in various ways, including to make vinegar, herbal teas and alcohol. A healing tea or syrup can be made from the bark of an apple tree to relieve a sour stomach and restore strength and tone to the sphincter. (15)

Apples and their leaves have also been traditionally chewed and applied to the skin to treat inflammation, swelling, boils or infected bites. In Ayurvedic medicine, stewed/cooked apples are recommended to prevent constipation. Apples are considered helpful for balancing Kapha energy. In other words, they help relieve sluggishness, weight gain, blocked sinuses, allergies and colds. Apples also increase Vata and Pitta. Cooked apples help create “digestive fire” and “enhance immunity, happiness, and strength.” In Ayurvedic cuisine, apples and other fruits are used to make chutneys and preserves. They’re often combined with spices, such as cinnamon, fennel, dry-roasted ground cumin, ginger and coriander. (16)


Where to Find and How to Use Apples

When it comes to picking apples at the grocery store or farmers market, definitely try to buy organic apples. Unfortunately, the Environmental Working Group lists apples on the “Dirty Dozen” list of most chemically sprayed fruits and veggies for the past eight years in a row. (17) Research in 2015 showed that apples were the fruit/veggie with the highest number of pesticides among 48 different kinds that were studied! (18)

Does this really matter? Yes! A recent study shows people who buy organic produce have lower levels of organophosphate insecticides measured in their bodies even though they eat more produce than people who buy mostly conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. (19)

Store apples in the refrigerator to keep them fresh for longer. They have a pretty long shelf life and last for several weeks on average. That means they’re good to pick up at the grocery store whether you need them right away or not.

Even though it’s believed that storing apples has little to no effect on their phytochemical levels, the way that they’re cooked and processed can also really affect their availability of nutrients.

Many of the antioxidants found in apples are considered delicate. They are preserved best when the apples are eaten raw or lightly cooked. High temperatures can negatively impact an apple’s nutrients. Try to avoid any packaged foods made with apple. Instead use them in your own kitchen in a variety of ways that require little or no cooking.


Apple Nutrition: Apple Recipes

Apples are typically available all year. They are in peak season during fall but can be found pretty much anytime. Apples can be used in lots of different ways. Add some to salads or sauces. Make low-sugar apple sauce. Simmer or bake them with some cinnamon. Make juices and smoothies using fresh apples.

Remember that while it’s always preferable to eat the whole apple, homemade apple juice is definitely a cut above the store-bought kinds. The real thing contains natural enzymes, vitamins and phytonutrients that are usually missing or destroyed during large manufacturing processes. Just keep your juice portion small to limit sugar: about eight to 10 ounces per day.

Here are a few apple recipes to try:

One thing that can’t be overlooked is the use of apples to make one of the best fermented, health-promoting foods: apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar benefits the body in so many ways. It can improve immunity, treat the gut, fight cravings and blood sugar spikes, in addition to so much more.


History/Facts About Apples

Apples have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe. They first grew in Turkey and are considered to be perhaps the earliest tree to be cultivated by humans! The fruit of the apple tree has been improved through selection over thousands of years. It’s resulted in the many varieties and tastes we have available today.

They were originally brought to North America by European colonists during the 17th century and have been a staple of the American diet ever since (think: apple pie!). Throughout history, they have had special religious and mythological significance in many cultures. For example, they are mentioned in the Bible in the story of Genesis about Adam and Eve. They have also had symbolic meaning in ancient Greek, European and various Christian traditions.

About 69 million tons of apples are grown worldwide every year! China produces almost half of this total each year on average, followed by the United States (the second-leading producer), Turkey, Italy, India and Poland.

Apple trees are prone to a number of fungal, bacterial and pest problems, which are controlled by a number of organic and non-organic means. This is why apples are often heavily sprayed with chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. The skin of apples is also commonly covered in a protective layer of epicuticular wax to seal in their freshness, but ideally you’ll find a kind that is unwaxed (and organic).


Precautions Regarding Apples

Apples are one of the fruits that have a higher potential to cause allergic reactions, along with peaches and kiwis. (20) Fruit allergies are frequently observed as reactions in the mouth, lungs, face, nose and stomach. These can occur only minutes after consuming the trigger food and show up in itching and swelling of the mouth, lips and throat. If you or your children experience these reactions after eating apples or other food allergy symptoms, considering having an allergy test done before consuming them again.

Apples might also cause digestive problems for some people. That’s because they contain FODMAP carbohydrates that some people have difficulty breaking down. Apples, along with pears and some other types of fruits and veggies, can potentially ferment in the gut and cause IBS, bloating and digestive discomfort. If you have these issues and can’t seem to figure out why, you might want to experiment with following a low-FODMAP diet for a period of time.


Final Thoughts on Apple Nutrition

  • Apples are the fruit of the tree known as Malus domestica. It’s estimated that there are about 2,500 known varieties (cultivars) of apples that are grown in the United States and more than 7,500 varieties grown in the world.
  • Apple nutrition is high in fiber. Apple nutrition also provides pectin, vitamin C and antioxidants.
  • Benefits of apple nutrition include improving digestion; helping with weight loss; preventing inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, asthma and constipation; and providing nutrients like boron, vitamin and flavonoid antioxidants.

Read Next: Benefits of Cherries: Weight Loss, Gout Healing & Less Inflammation!


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