7 Health and Nutritional Benefits of Apples

Medically Reviewed By Sade Meeks, MS, RD
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Apples may help protect you from type 2 diabetes to common digestive complaints like constipation. So, yes, an apple a day may very well keep the doctor away. An 1866 Welsh publication first published the original saying that eventually became, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Since that time, scientists have uncovered many health benefits of apples. They’ve also studied whether an apple a day truly keeps the doctor away or at least results in fewer health visits.

A 2015 study showed that while people who ate an apple a day used about the same healthcare as people who didn’t, they appeared to need fewer prescription medications.

Even though Snow White died after eating a poisoned apple, apples generally symbolize health and prosperity. Here are some of the documented health benefits of an apple.

1. Apples could protect against aging.

Truck bed full of red applies
Cherish Bryck/Stocksy United

Apple skin contains quercetin, an antioxidant flavonoid shown to prevent age-associated diseases, including dementia. While onions offer the most quercetin, apple peels also deliver varying levels. One study shows that this ingredient in apple peels helps specific hippocampal brain cells survive.

2. Apples might lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.

In one study where apples were the most commonly eaten fruit, people who ate a moderate level of fruit daily had a 36% lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes within a 5-year follow-up. The study specifically found no such protective benefit in fruit juice, which has a high glycemic index and provides no fiber to make you feel full, unlike whole apples.

3. Apples, and other fruit, could reduce the severity of asthma.

One meta-analysis of multiple studies shows that a diet high in fruit may reduce asthma severity. A study from 2001 showed that in adults and children who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables, apple consumption was associated with a reduced risk of developing asthma. The incidence of asthma was lowest in people who ate apples at least twice a week.

The word “diet” can have many meanings. This article uses the term “diet” to refer to an eating lifestyle rather than a temporary change in how you eat.

4. Apples may help prevent cancer.

The flavonoids and polyphenols in apples may help prevent cancer. A 2010 case-control study showed that more than one apple a day reduced the risk of colorectal cancer by 50%.

Scientists also showed that phloretin, an apple polyphenol, slowed the proliferation (growth) of non-small cell lung cancer cells cultured in a lab and even caused cell death.

5. Apples could reduce constipation.

Pectin, a soluble fiber found in apples, might help prevent constipation. Also, bacteria in the colon ferment pectin and create short-chain fatty acids, which help maintain health and prevent disease.

6. Apples might help lower bad cholesterol.

In a small study, 40 people who ate apples rich in proanthocyanidins (Renetta Canada apples) over 20 weeks showed eating 2 daily decreased serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Two apples daily did not affect HDL cholesterol.

7. Apples, as part of a diet high in fiber, may help you lose weight.

One large study conducted over 24 years found that people — mostly white adults — who ate high fiber fruits and vegetables were more likely to maintain weight than those who did not.

Foods high in fiber, like apples, help you feel full longer. In particular, researchers found greater benefits for fruit than vegetables. Berries, apples, pears, tofu or soy, cauliflower, and cruciferous and leafy green vegetables had the most benefit.

All about apples

Like a lot of fruit, apples are about 80–89% water, which makes them a good source of natural hydration. Apples also offer many health benefits in the form of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and other important qualities like fiber. 

Nutrients

Did you know that apples naturally contain protein? It’s not the best source of protein, at 0.26 grams (g) per 100 g whole apple — a medium-sized apple. A 100-gram apple also contains nutrients like:

  • carbohydrates, 13.8 g
  • fiber, 2.4 g
  • fat, 0.17 g

Vitamins and minerals

Apples also rank for having a variety of vitamins and minerals our bodies need. An apple provides about:

  • potassium, 107 milligrams (g)
  • phosphorus, 11 mg
  • calcium, 6 mg
  • magnesium, 5 mg
  • vitamin C, 4.6 mg
  • iron, 0.12 mg
  • zinc, 0.04 mg

Plant compounds

When you know a little about the healthy plant compounds in apples, you may understand why you would want to eat an apple a day.

Apples are especially known for having antioxidant compounds, including:

  • phytochemicals
  • carotenoids
  • flavonoids
  • phenolic acids

These substances may not sound appetizing, but they are known to help change the processes that kick off diseases, per a 2011 review. Apple compounds may interrupt the process of developing tumors, inflammatory responses, and more.

While apple pie is an Americana symbol, DNA testing shows that cultivated apples originated from the area now known as Kazakhstan. People carried apple seeds across Europe in the 1500s. The United States grows more than 100 apple varieties for commercial use, according to USApple, an apple advocacy group.

Ways to eat apples

If you want all the health benefits of apples, eating them raw is the best way to go. Cooking apples, like for homemade applesauce, apple pie, or apple crisp, is delicious but also destroys some of the nutrients, like vitamin C, you get from raw apples. Always leave the peel on the apple if you can because the peel has more beneficial antioxidants than the flesh.

Some ideas for raw apple eating include:

  • sliced apples served with peanut butter or almond butter for dipping
  • sliced apples served with slices of cheese
  • smoothie with raw apple
  • raw apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon

But what about apple juice? While pediatricians may warn parents about the dangers of too much juice and obesity, one research review documents several health benefits of apple juice that mirror those of apples. Most studies show that cloudy apple juice offers more health benefits than clear apple juice, which is consistent with higher concentrations of fiber and plant compounds in the peel and pulp of the fruit. 

Who should not eat apples?

While the health benefits of apples are well documented, they are not the best fruit choice for everyone.

For instance, people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) following a low-FODMAP diet to reduce such symptoms as diarrhea, gas, and bloating might want to avoid apples. Apples, which are high in fructose, a fermentable sugar, are high in FODMAPs and off the list of low-FODMAP options.

Read more about FODMAP in 6 Foods to Avoid When You Have IBS.

Other frequently asked questions

Sade Meeks, M.S., R.D., reviewed the following questions.

Is it OK to eat an apple every day?

Yes, it is healthy to eat an apple every day. Apples have antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients that are good for you.

When is the best time to eat an apple?

No scientific evidence that points to a best time to eat an apple.

Does eating an apple clean your teeth?

Eating an apple does not clean your teeth of plaque, but a small study showed that right after eating an apple, the bacteria in your mouth are temporarily reduced, like after you brush your teeth.

Summary

Apples provide many health benefits for most people, including several antioxidants, which may help prevent cancer, asthma, and type 2 diabetes, among other conditions. As part of a diet high in fruits and vegetables, Apple consumption can also contribute to weight loss.

Raw apples provide more health benefits than cooked apples because some nutrients and plant compounds change upon heating. However, the health benefits of apple juice, especially cloudy apple juice, appear almost the same as apples.

So while an apple a day might not keep the doctor away, many people benefit from including apples in their daily life.

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Medical Reviewer: Sade Meeks, MS, RD
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 27
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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