With more than 7,500 varieties of the apple grown worldwide, it is no surprise that they are the most widely consumed fruit in the world. Round or oval, red, green, yellow, or pink in color, with a taste ranging from sweet to tart, and a crunch sensation when you take a bite that is like no other in existence, there really is nothing like an apple. Whether it’s McIntosh, Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious, or the puckeringly tart Granny Smith, there’s probably an apple for every palate. Grown on trees and typically harvested in the fall (when they seem to taste best), apples are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.
They make a perfect component in any lunch bag, and are frequently eaten raw as a snack. In the kitchen, they are commonly used in recipes such as pies, crumbles, muffins, cookies, fritters, tarts, juice, jams, and the perennial favorite since 1940, good old-fashioned Apple Upside Down Cake. They also taste great in salads, smoothies, and sliced and slathered with nut butter. And let’s not forget about apple sauce, apple butter, and apple cider, hot, spiked, or otherwise. The list is seemingly endless.
You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” And while there’s no scientific evidence to substantiate that claim, you can’t help but admit that the apple must be good for you. It’s rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, contains a number of antioxidants, is a good source of vitamin C, contains some vitamin K, and is high in potassium. That’s a lot of nutrients for one 95 calorie piece of fruit.
Apples can support a healthy diet if that diet is part of a lifestyle that includes moderate exercise, proper hydration, proper rest, and well-managed stress. At approximately 95 calories and 4 grams of fiber for one medium sized apple, they are a perfect healthy, and filling, snack. As good as they are, apples should only be part of a diet that includes a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables in order to maintain a healthy weight. If choosing apple sauce, watch out for the added sugar-unsweetened is always a better option.
Apples are a rich source of dietary fiber, polyphenols, and other phytochemicals which can support both immune health, and heart health. They can also help to maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure that are already within the normal range.
A variety of fruits and vegetables can have gut health promoting properties. Apples are an especially good source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Pectin, which is a soluble fiber, helps to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can lead to overall gut health. Apples also contain polyphenols which may also have benefits for gut health. This animal study demonstrated positive effects on the microbiota with apple intake. More research with human subjects is required.
Apples are a good source of antioxidants which can help boost brain function. The content of polyphenols in apples can help promote neuroprotective properties. Foods such as apple juice or apple butter may not have these same benefits due to the sugar content.
Apples contain several nutrients that support a healthy immune system. They are a good source of vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant. They also contain flavonoids and polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties that can help to boost immunity.
Apple allergies can happen in people who are allergic to birch pollen. In some cases, the people who are allergic can eat cooked apples, or raw apples without the skin. Unfortunately, at least half of the fiber and many of the nutrients of apples are found in the skin, so the nutrition value of the apple is significantly lowered when eaten without its skin. If you suspect you have an apple allergy, talk to your doctor. There are skin prick tests and IgE tests used to confirm food allergies.
Apples can have a positive effect on dental health because of their high fiber and water content. According to this study, the act of biting into an apple can decrease the salivary bacteria that mimics the oral environment after brushing the teeth. It does not, however, remove dental plaque.
Apples also contain natural sugars, which are far less likely to cause tooth decay then the refined sugars found in processed snacks and drinks. When it’s snack time, an apple is always a better choice for your dental health. It is important to remember that nothing promotes dental health as much as regular dental visits, brushing 2-3 times each day, flossing, tongue scraping, regularly scheduled cleanings, and mouthwash.
Raw apples and dried apple pieces are choking hazards for babies, small children, and those with swallowing difficulties. Unwieldy pieces of the hard, round fruit can easily get lodged in the throat if not properly chewed. Apple sauce and cooked, soft apples are easier to chew and swallow.
Apple seeds contain cyanide and should be avoided, though you would have to consume large amounts of seeds to actually experience toxicity. You should speak with your healthcare provider if you accidentally consume apple seeds.
The storage protocol of apples depends in part upon the variety of apple you are storing. Some apples, like Granny Smith, store easily and for a long time, while others like the McIntosh last for only a few weeks at best. Store apples in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Keep your apples away from other fruits and vegetables as they release ethylene while ripening, and ethylene can cause other produce to spoil more quickly. Do not wash your apples before storing, as moisture can cause them to spoil more quickly. Only wash apples when you are ready to eat them. Apples should be stored in baskets, boxes, or plastic bags with ventilation holes. Do not store them in airtight containers, as moisture can get trapped in them and cause premature spoilage.
When you enter the word apple into your favorite search engine, you have to scroll quite a bit to get to any information about what is arguably the world’s most popular fruit. But if you keep scrolling through technology’s latest and greatest, you’ll eventually get to the facts about the little red fruit that’s been around since the Paleolithic era.
Apples are good, and good for you. The delicious little fruit is low in calories, high in fiber, loaded with antioxidants, and packed with nutrients. It’s a perfect portable snack and a great, healthy addition to any salad or meal. When autumn falls, you can head to your local orchard to pick your own apples, grab some freshly mulled cider, and head home with a basket full of apples that can be turned into your family’s favorite pie at the center of your holiday dessert table. Not bad for a little nutritional dynamo that simply grows on trees!