Apples: Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts

Apples are among the most popular types of fruit in the world.

They are the fruit of the apple tree (Malus domestica), originally from Central Asia, and are grown all over the world.

Apples: Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts

They taste delicious on their own and are usually eaten raw, but they are also used in various recipes, juices and drinks.

There are many different types, with a variety of colors and sizes.

"Apples are high in polyphenols, which function as antioxidants,” said Laura Flores, a nutritionist based in San Diego. “These polyphenols are found in both the skin of the apples as well as in the meat, so to get the greatest amount of benefits, eat the skin of the apple."

All of these benefits mean that apples may mitigate the effects of asthma and Alzheimer's disease, while assisting with weight management, bone health, pulmonary function and gastrointestinal protection.

Often called a "miracle food" and "nutritional powerhouse," an apple a day really may keep the doctor away. Here are the nutrition facts :

Health benefits

Apples are loaded with vitamin C. Almost half of an apple's vitamin C content is just under the skin, so it's a good idea to eat apples with their skins. Flores said that this is also where apples' fiber is found. Apples contain insoluble fiber, which provides bulk in the intestinal tract. The bulk holds water that cleanses and moves food quickly through the digestive system.

According to Flores, "Regular intake of apples has been shown to have cardiovascular benefits. [This is due to] two properties of apples: the fiber that they contain and the polyphenols that are found in high amounts." 

In addition to digestion-aiding insoluble fiber, apples have soluble fiber, such as pectin. This nutrient helps prevent cholesterol from building up in the lining of blood vessels, which in turn helps prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease. In a 2011 study, women who ate 75 grams of dried apples every day for six months had a 23 percent decrease in bad LDL cholesterol, said study researcher Bahram H. Arjmandi, professor at and chair of the department of nutrition at Florida State University. Additionally, the women's levels of good HDL cholesterol increased by about 4 percent, according to the study. 

When it comes to polyphenols and antioxidants, Flores explained that they "work in the cell lining to decrease oxidation resulting in lowering risk of cardiovascular disease."

Another study tracked food consumption among 9,208 people for 28 years. Those who ate more apples had a lower risk of stroke. Researchers attributed the results to quercetin, an antioxidant in apples.

There are respiratory benefits to eating apples, as well. "Apples' antioxidant benefits can help lower the risk of asthma,” Flores told Live Science. Also, a study of 2,500 middle-aged men in Wales found improved lung function among those who ate an apple a day, according to the University of California, Davis. A study in Brazil showed that adding three apples a day to women's diets helped lower their calorie intake and contributed to weight reduction.

Apples and cancer

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends eating lots of fruits and vegetables, including apples. The antioxidant content of apples ranks among the highest for fruits, and research shows that antioxidants help prevent cancer. 

Lung cancer risk can especially be lowered through apples' antioxidants, according to Flores. A study in Hawaii found that people who regularly eat apples, onions and white grapefruit cut their lung cancer risk in half. 

Health risks

"Eating apples in excess will not cause many side effects," said Flores. "But as with anything eaten in excess, apples may contribute to weight gain." 

Furthermore, apples are acidic, and the juice may damage tooth enamel. A study published in 2011 in the Journal of Dentistry found that eating apples might be up to four times more damaging to teeth than carbonated drinks. 

However, according to the lead researcher, Professor David Bartlett, head of prosthodontics at the Dental Institute at King's College in London, "It is not only about what we eat, but how we eat it." Many people eat apples slowly, which increases the likelihood that acids will damage tooth enamel. 

"Snacking on acidic foods throughout the day is the most damaging, while eating them at meal times is much safer," Bartlett said in a press release from King's College. "An apple a day is good, but taking all day to eat the apple can damage teeth." 

Dentists recommend cutting up apples and chewing them with the back teeth. They also recommend rinsing the mouth with water to help wash away the acid and sugars.

Apple science
  • The science of apple growing is called pomology.
  • Apples are members of the rose family.
  • The largest apple ever picked weighed 3 lbs. (1.4 kg).
  • Apples have five seed pockets or carpels. Each pocket contains seeds. The vigor and health of the plant determines the number of seeds per carpel. Different varieties of apples have a different number of seeds.
  • Apples ripen six to 10 times faster at room temperature than when refrigerated.

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