Not only do apples taste delicious on their own or when added to recipes, they also come loaded with health benefits. Apples have been linked to numerous health benefits, including improved gut health and reduced risk of stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and some cancers.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a medium-sized apple contains 4.8 grams of fibre. The same apple is also a good source of vitamin C, offering 9.2 milligrams, along with small amounts of other vitamins and minerals.
Sarah Gold Anzlovar, RDN, suggests adding the fruit to salads or to a grilled cheese toastie, making baked apples for a healthy dessert, or cooking up some pulled chicken with apples in the slow cooker for an easy lunch or dinner.
“All apples offer benefits, though the nutrition and antioxidant content will vary slightly from one apple to another – the best one to eat is the kind you enjoy,” says Anzlovar.
Here’s why else the phrase “an apple a day helps keep the doctor away” may have some truth to it.
1. Apples May Lower High Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Savour a juicy apple and you may keep your ticker healthy in the process. “Studies have linked apple consumption to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, which may be related to the cholesterol-lowering benefits of the soluble fibre found in apples,” says Anzlovar.
According to the University of Illinois, soluble fibre helps prevent cholesterol build-up in the lining of blood vessel walls, therefore lowering the incidence of atherosclerosis (restricted blood flow in the arteries due to plaque build-up) and heart disease. It can also help lower blood pressure levels: One past review found that a higher intake of soluble fibre was associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Further research shows that eating apples (or pears) regularly was associated with a 52 percent lower stroke risk. And another study published in February 2020 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating two apples a day helped study participants lower both their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
2. Apples Can Aid Digestion
You’ve likely heard that fibre is good for digestion – and what you’ve heard is true! According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, both types of fibre (soluble and insoluble, which means it can’t be absorbed in water) are important for digestion. And you’re in luck – apples have both types, according to the University of Illinois.
Soluble fibre helps slow down digestion, allowing you to feel full, and also slows the digestion of glucose, which helps control your blood sugar.
Meanwhile, insoluble fibre can help move food through your system and aid with constipation and regularity, per Harvard.
So be sure to eat the apple skin, which contains much of the apple’s insoluble fibre, according to the University of Illinois.
3. Apples Can Support a Healthy Immune System
Who doesn’t want a stronger immune system? Apples can be an important tool in your immune-supporting tool kit. According to past research in animals, a diet filled with soluble fibre helped convert immune cells that were pro-inflammatory into anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting ones.
Another animal study, published in May 2018 in the journal Immunity, found that a diet high in dietary fibre helped protect mice against the flu. (It’s not clear whether these effects would occur in humans though.)
Still, there’s reason to believe that apples may bolster immunity, in part because they contain immune-boosting vitamin C. One large review found that regular consumption of vitamin C plays many roles in helping the immune system function. For example, it can help strengthen the epithelial (a type of tissue) barrier against pathogens and guard against environmental oxidative stress, such as pollution and radiation.
4. Apples Are a Diabetes-Friendly Fruit
If you have type 2 diabetes, consider adding apples to your diet. Sure, they’re a fruit, but it’s a common misconception that people with diabetes can’t eat fruit.
In this case, the soluble fibre from apples can help slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and may improve blood sugar levels. Plus, per Mayo, a healthy diet that includes insoluble fibre can lower your odds of developing type 2 diabetes in the first place.
Furthermore, a study of people with type 2 diabetes published in August 2016 in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, found that regularly consuming soluble fibre helped reduce insulin resistance and improved blood sugar and triglyceride levels.
5. The Antioxidants in Apples May Play a Role in Cancer Prevention
While there’s no one surefire way to prevent cancer, apples may help play a role in fighting off these diseases. “Apples may reduce the risk of certain cancers, which researchers speculate is related to the antioxidants found in apples,” says Anzlovar. Research suggests that apples are high in antioxidants, and in laboratory studies, these antioxidants have been shown to limit cancer cell growth.
A review published in October 2016 in Public Health Nutrition found that eating apples regularly is associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, including colorectal, oral cavity, esophageal, and breast cancers.
The fibre in apples may provide cancer-preventing perks. A study published in March 2016 in the journal Pediatrics found that women who ate more high-fibre foods during adolescence and young adulthood (especially lots of fruit and vegetables) had a lower breast cancer risk later in life.
And another study, published in January 2019 in the journal The Lancet, found that a diet high in dietary fibre could help protect against colorectal cancer and breast cancer, as well as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
6. Eating Apples Can Support Healthy Weight Loss
A diet rich in fruit (and vegetables) can help you maintain a healthy weight – or shed pounds – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Because apples are filled with dietary fibre, they are high on this list. “Fibre slows digestion and the rise of blood sugar, keeping you satiated and less likely to overeat,” says Levinson.
According to that study in The Lancet, people who ate the most fibre had a significantly lower body weight.
Past research also shows that overweight women who ate three apples a day lost 1.22 kilogram (2.7 pounds) after 12 weeks.
At only 95 calories for a medium-sized apple, this fruit is one you’ll want to keep on hand when sweet cravings strike.
7. Apples May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
It’s time to start eating more apples and other flavonoid-rich foods like berries. Research published in August 2020 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adults ages 50 and older who included only a small amount of flavonoid-rich foods like berries and apples in their diet were a whopping 2 to 4 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and related types of dementia over 20 years compared with people who ate more flavonoid-rich foods.
On top of that, a review published in January 2020 in the journal Biomolecules found that quercetin, a flavonoid found in apples, protects neurons from oxidative damage and contains other anti-Alzheimer’s disease propertied as well. But, the researchers say, more research needs to be done outside of a laboratory setting.
8. Apples Might Help Keep Your Gut Healthy
Gut health is a seriously trendy topic these days, and it turns out that eating apples may be one way to do your digestive system a favour.
Apples contain a type of starch called pectin, which is a prebiotic. Prebiotics are important because they help feed the “good” bacteria in your gut, according to the Cleveland Clinic. They also boost immune function, stimulate hormone production, and help your body absorb certain minerals (like calcium and phosphorus), among other benefits.
Apples also contain bacteria that may be beneficial to your gut, found one study published in July 2019 in Frontiers in Microbiology.
However, the researchers noted that freshly harvested organic apples have a more diverse and distinct bacteria colony compared with conventionally grown store-bought apples — all the more reason to check out your local farmer’s market, plan a day out apple-picking, or get planting!