An apple is an edible fruit produced by an apple tree (Malus domestica). Apple trees are cultivated worldwide and are the most widely grown species in the genus Malus. The tree originated in Central Asia, where its wild ancestors, Malus sievesii, is still found today.
Apples have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe and were brought to North America by European colonists. Apples have religions and mythological significance in many cultures, including Norse, Greek and European Christian tradition.
Apple trees are large if grown from seed. Generally, apple cultivars are propagated by grafting onto rootstocks, which control the size of the resulting tree.
Worldwide production of apples in 2018 was 86 million tonnes, with China accounting for nearly half of the total.
IMPRESSIVE HEALTH BENEFITS OF APPLES
■ APPLES ARE NUTRITIOUS
A medium apple – with a diameter of about 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) – equals 1.5 cups of fruits. Two cups of fruits daily are recommended on a 2,000-calorie diet.
One medium apple – 6.4 ounces or 182 grams – offers the following nutrients:
● Calories: 95
● Carbs: 25 grams
● Fiber: 4 grams
● Vitamin C: 14% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
● Potassium: 6% of the RDI
● Vitamin K: 5% of the RDI
What’s more, the same servings provides 2-4% of the RDI for manganese, copper, and the vitamin A, E, B1, B2, and B6.
Apples are also a rich source of polyphenols. While nutrition labels don’t list these plant compounds, they’re likely responsible for many of the health benefits.
To get the most out of apples, leave the skin on – it contains half of the fiber and many of the polyphenols.
Apples are a good source of fiber and vitamin C. They also contain polyphenols, which may have numerous health benefits.
■ APPLES MAY BE GOOD FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Apples are high in fiber and water – two quantities that make them filling.
In one study, people who ate apple slices before a meal felt fuller than those who consumed applesauce, apple juice, or no apple products.
In the same study, those who started their meal with apple slices also ate the average of 200 fewer calories than those who didn’t.
In another 10 weeks study in 50 overweight women, participants who ate apples lost an average of 2 pounds (1 kg) and ate fewer calories overall, compared to those who ate oat cookies with a similar calorie and fiber content.
Researchers think that apples are more filling because they’re less energy-dense, yet still deliver fiber and volume.
Furthermore, some natural compounds in them may promote weight loss.
A study in obese mice found that those given a supplement of ground apples and apple juice concentrate lost more weight and had lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol than the control group.
Apples may aid weight loss in several ways. They’re also particularly filling due to their high fiber content.
■ APPLES MAY BE GOOD FOR YOUR HEART
Apples have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
One reason may be that apples contain soluble fiber – the kind that can help lower your blood cholesterol levels.
They also contain polyphenols, which have antioxidant effects. Many of these are concentrated in the peel.
One of these polyphenols is the flavonoid epicatechin, which may lower blood pressure.
An analysis of studies found that high intakes of flavonoids were linked to a 20% lower risk of stroke.
Flavonoids can help prevent heart disease by lowering blood pressure, reducing “bad” LDL oxidation, and acting as antioxidants.
Another study comparing the effects of eating an apple a day to taking statin – a class of drugs known to lower cholesterol – concluded that apples would be almost as effective at reducing death from heart disease as the drugs.
However, since this was not a controlled trial, findings must be taken with a grain of salt.
Another study linked consuming white-fleshed fruits and vegetables, such as apples and pears, to a reduced risk of stroke. For every 25 grams – about 1/5 cup of apple slices – consumed, the risk of stroke decreased by 9%.
Apples promote heart health in several ways. They’re high in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol. They also have polyphenols, which are linked to lower blood pressure and stroke risk.
■ THEY’RE LINKED TO A LOWER RISK OF DIABETES
Several studies have linked eating apples to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
In one large study, eating an apple a day was linked to a 28% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, compared to not eating any apples. Even eating just a few apples per week had a similarly protective effect.
It’s possible that the polyphenols in apples help prevent tissue damage to beta cells in your pancreas. Beta cells produce insulin in your body and are often damaged in people with type 2 diabetes.
Eating apples is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. This is possibly due to their polyphenols antioxidant content.
■ THEY MAY HAVE PREBIOTIC EFFECTS AND PROMOTE GOOD GUT BACTERIA
Apples contain pectin, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic. This means it feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
Your small intestine doesn’t absorb fiber during digestion. Instead, it goes to your colon, where it can promote the growth of good bacteria. It also turns into other helpful compounds that circulate back through your body.
New research suggests that this may be the reason behind some of the protective effects of apples against obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The type of fiber in apples feeds good bacteria and may be the reason they protect against obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
■ SUBSTANCES IN APPLES MAY HELP PREVENT CANCER
Test-tube studies have shown a link between plant compounds in apples and a lower risk of cancer.
Additionally, one study in women reported that eating apples was linked to lower rates of death from cancer.
Scientists believe that their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects may be responsible for their potential cancer-preventive effects.
Apples have several naturally occurring compounds that may help fight cancer. Observational studies have linked them to lower risk of cancer and death from cancer.
■ APPLES CONTAIN COMPOUNDS THAT CAN HELP FIGHT ASTHMA
Antioxidant-rich apples may help protect your lungs from oxidative damage.
A large study in more than 68,000 women found that those who ate the most apples had the lowest risk of asthma. Eating about 15% of a large apple per day was linked to a 10% lower risk of this condition.
Apples skin contains the flavonoid quercetin, which can help regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. These are two ways in which it may affect asthma and allergic reactions.
Apples contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that may help regulate immune responses and protect against asthma.
■ APPLES MAY BE GOOD FOR BONE HEALTH
Eating fruit is linked to higher bone density, which is a marker for bone health.
Researchers believe that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in fruit may help promote bone density and strength.
Some studies show that apples, specifically, may positively affect both health.
In one study, women ate a meal that either included fresh apples, peeled apples, applesauce, or no apple products. Those who ate apples loss less calcium from their bodies than the control group.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in apples may promote bone health. What’s more, eating fruit may help preserve bone mass as you age.
■ APPLES MAY PROTECT AGAINST STOMACH INJURY FROM NSAIDs
The class of painkillers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can injure the lining of your stomach.
A study in test tubes and rats found that freeze-dried apple extract helped protect stomach cells from injury due to NSAIDs.
Two plant compounds in apples – Chlorogenic acid and catechin – are thought to be particularly helpful.
Apples contain compounds that may help protect your stomach lining from injury due to NSAID painkillers.
■ APPLES MAY HELP PROTECT YOUR BRAIN
Most research focuses on apples peel and fresh.
However, apple juice may have benefits for age-related mental decline.
In animal studies, juice concentrate reduced harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS) in brain tissue and minimized mental decline.
Apple juice may help preserve acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that can decline with age. Low levels of acetylcholine are linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Similarly, researchers who fed elderly rats whole apples found that a marker of the rats’ memory was restored to the level of younger rat.
That said, whole apples contain the same compounds as apple juice – and it is always a healthier choice to eat your fruit whole.
According to animal studies, apple juice may help prevent the decline of neurotransmitters that are involved in memory.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Apples are incredibly good for you, and eating them is linked to a lower risk of many major diseases, including diabetes and cancer.
What’s more, it’s soluble fiber content may promote weight loss and gut health.
A medium apple equals 1.5 cups of fruits – which is 3/4 of the 2-cup daily recommendation for fruit.
For the greatest benefits, eat the whole fruit – both skin and flesh