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Apple Health Benefits You Might Not Know About

Learn the risks and health benefits of apples, and how they can help fend off disease and promote weight loss.

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Why an apple a day keeps the doctor away

Sure an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but do you really know why? Well, for one, apples contain quercetin, a flavanoid and pectin. Flavanoids are known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, while pectin is a soluble fiber, which not only fills you up but keeps you regular. Together, they’re responsible for the amazing health benefits of apples. But that’s not all. “Apples are a wonderful, portable food,” says Seattle-based registered dietitian Ginger Hultin, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of ChampagneNutrition. Eat one every day and see all the powerful ways this fruit can boost your health. Want to amp up the effects with some fun physical exercise? Pick your own—here are the best places to go apple picking in every state.

applesDmitry Sheremeta/Shutterstock

Health Benefit: Apples prevent some cancers

Italian researchers reviewed a number of studies to determine whether eating apples could prevent cancer, specifically breast, lung, stomach, and colon cancer. The evidence was strongest for lung cancer—those who ate more apples were less likely to get lung cancer, but those protective properties only applied to people who smoked or were former smokers. There was also evidence to suggest that eating apples also lowered your risk of developing colon, breast, and digestive tract cancers like stomach cancer. Other studies have found that eating more fruits can protect people from colon and stomach cancer.

Fresh ripe red apples as backgroundNew Africa/Shutterstock

Health Benefit: Apples stabilize blood sugar

Apples are loaded with soluble fiber, which slows the digestion of food and the entry of glucose into the bloodstream. Chinese researchers found that eating both apples and pears reduced a person’s chances of developing diabetes by 18 percent—and adding one extra serving a week lowered the risk by an extra 3 percent. Eating fruit is good, but you’ll also want to know these 8 sneaky things that raise your blood sugar levels.

woman biting appleNungning20/Shutterstock

Health Benefit: Apples boost gum health

Apples have long been called nature’s toothbrush. Though eating an apple doesn’t actually clean your teeth, biting and chewing one stimulates the flow of saliva, which reduces tooth decay by lowering the level of bacteria in the mouth, Spanish researchers found.

Apples in a basket on burlap and wooden background, view from the topMospan Ihor/Shutterstock

Health Benefit: Apples may prevent strokes

A review of 20 studies found that for every 200 grams of fruit (especially fiber-rich apples) people ate per day they lowered their risk of strokes by 32 percent. Another study found that eating apples (along with other fruits, like grapes and blueberries) lowered cholesterol and helped regulate blood pressure.

Fresh ripe red apples on grey background, top viewNew Africa/Shutterstock

Health Benefit: Apples help you lose weight

Apples are packed with fiber and water and contain complex carbs, so you digest them more slowly and feel fuller after eating them. One very large study that followed roughly 133,000 men and women over 24 years found that those who ate the highest quantities of high-fiber fruits like apples and pears gained the least amount of weight. Your practitioner may clue you into the benefits of eating fruit, but here are 50 other things your doctor wishes you knew about losing weight.

Fresh organic red apples in orchardvvvita/Shutterstock

Health Benefit: Apples fend off heart disease

Apples are rich in a variety of plant chemicals, especially if you eat the skin. “Apples are high in fiber so they are linked to reducing heart disease by potentially lowering cholesterol levels,” says Hultin. Chinese researchers also found that eating apples lowered triglycerides.

ripe green apples and apple slices on wooden gray background, top viewKucherAV/Shutterstock

Health Benefit: Apples fight high cholesterol

Apples are low in calories and high in the soluble fiber pectin, which helps lower artery-damaging LDL blood cholesterol levels, British and Italian researchers found. While apples may be good for you, be sure you also know about the 10 worst foods for your cholesterol.

Closeup of woman's hands holding wooden crate with red ripe organic applesEkaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock

Go organic if you’re concerned about pesticides

“There are no known health risks of apples,” says Hultin, but if you’re concerned about pesticide residue from the conventionally grown varieties, buy organic. And wash fruit carefully before eating—whether you’ve bought the conventional apple or the organic one.

Dried apples in a bagSTSELIKAVA HANNA/Shutterstock

Opt for dried apples without preservatives

Sulfur dioxide is often added to dried apples to preserve moistness and color; it can provoke allergic reactions if you’re allergic to it. Look for dried fruit without sulfites (it’ll say on the label), or dry apples on your own. “Dried apples are a great snack and deserve a place in the diet if someone wants to eat them,” says Hultin.

apple juice in a glass and apples on wooden backgroundPavlova Mariia/Shutterstock

Avoid unpasteurized apple juice

E. coli and cryptosporidium lurk in unpasteurized apple juice or apple cider, which you can find at roadside stands, farmers markets, or country fairs—and give you food poisoning. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems should always stick to pasteurized juices and cider, but it may be best for all of us to do the same, Hultin notes. Check the label.

Foods that Harm-Foods that Heal

More hidden health benefits in your favorite foods:

Our newly updated resource, Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal, covers 175 foods and the 100 conditions they harm or heal; available on Amazon.com and wherever books are sold).

Sources
  • Ginger Hultin, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Seattle, Washington
  • Neuropharmacology: "The flavonoid quercetin ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease pathology and protects cognitive and emotional function in aged triple transgenic Alzheimer’s disease model mice"
  • Advances in Nutrition: “A Comprehensive Review of Apples and Apple Components and Their Relationship to Human Health.”
  • Public Health Nutrition: “Apple intake and cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies.”
  • The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Fruit, vegetable, and fiber intake in relation to cancer risk: findings from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).”
  • Journal of the American College of Nutrition: “Associations of Dietary Flavonoids with Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, and Markers of Insulin Resistance and Systemic Inflammation in Women: A Prospective Study and Cross-Sectional Analysis.”
  • Food and Function: “Apple and pear consumption and type 2 diabetes mellitus risk: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies.”
  • PloS One: “Effect of chewing an apple on dental plaque removal and on salivary bacterial viability.”
  • Atherosclerosis. “Total and specific fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of stroke: A prospective study.”
  • Nutrients: Fruits for Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Diseases.”
  • PloS Medicine: “Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies.”
  • Nutrients: “Apples and cardiovascular health--is the gut microbiota a core consideration?”
  • Stroke: "Fruits and Vegetables Consumption and Risk of Stroke."

Perri O. Blumberg
A former food editor at Reader's Digest, Perri Blumberg is a writer and editor based in New York City. After attending Columbia University, where she received a BA in psychology, she went on to study food at a health-supportive culinary school. Her work has appeared in O Magazine, Men's Journal, Country Living, and on Mind, Body, Green, among others.