“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” It’s a rhyme everyone’s heard a thousand times. You probably say it to your children, and your mom may have even said it to you. But is it even true? Well, it seems we weren’t the only ones who were curious. A group of researchers set about finding the answer to this age-old question. And what they found may well surprise you.
Part of the reason we see apples as being such great snacks is how easy they are to eat. Unlike oranges or bananas, you can just tuck in without the hassle of peeling them beforehand. Plus, not only are they juicy and refreshing, but they can be prepared in a number of exciting ways.
Apples? Exciting? Yep, grab a pen, or if you’re hip and modern, open your smartphone’s notes app. Because food expert and author Fiona Tuck revealed to HuffPost Australia some delicious ways to jazz up the humble fruit. And her ideas are perfect if you’re looking for healthy treats that taste just like, well, naughty treats.
To start, Tuck recommends you, “Take the core out of a whole apple, stuff [it] with a mixture of dried fruits (such as prunes, sultanas, cranberries), cinnamon and chopped walnuts, and bake [it] in the oven. Top [the apple] with natural yogurt for a delicious healthy dessert or breakfast.” And if your mouth’s watering, you’re in luck. She didn’t stop there.
“You can also cut an apple into slices and spread nut butter [over them] for a tasty snack,” Tuck added. “Or [you could] stew apples with a little honey and cinnamon, and add to porridge for a healthy breakfast.” We don’t know about you, but we’re pretty excited to try out all of these tasty apple hacks – regardless of whether the fruit keeps the doctor away!
Apples, as you know, come in different colors. You can harness your inner Snow White and opt for the shiny red variety. Or you can pick the bright-green kind that often appear on the front of juice cartons. Everyone has their favorite. But what you may not be aware of is that there are actually some very slight differences in terms of their nutritional value.
To explain more, Tuck continued her conversation with HuffPost Australia in 2017. According to the nutritionist, the different colored apples can provide different dietary needs. So you might want to bear this in mind when you’re next at the grocery store.
Tuck told the Australian website, “Green apples may contain slightly more fiber and less carbohydrates and sugar than red apples. Red apples contain higher amounts of anthocyanins which are found in the red skin, which offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.” Interesting stuff, right?
Anyway, that brings us on to another intriguing topic – the varying price of apples. Why do certain types cost more than others? For instance, Honeycrisp products are pretty pricey when compared to different brands at the shops. A kilogram would set you back a bit over $6 in Walmart at the time of writing. But is there a reason for that?
Well, in the case of Honeycrisp, it all comes down to the growing and harvesting process. To shed a bit more light on that, a member of the U.S. Apple Association spoke to the Star Tribune in September 2019. His name is Mark Seetin, and he plies his trade as a regulatory and industry affairs director.
Seetin explained, “[Honeycrisp is] one of the most difficult apples to grow. It tends to like to bear fruit every other year, and to achieve annual production requires significant additional labor.” On that, one of the men behind Honeycrisp offered some additional information to the newspaper’s site as well.
David Bedford revealed that Honeycrisp apples need to have trimmed stems to preserve the outer skin of those around them. He said, “Apples pickers are used to picking with two hands, but with Honeycrisp you have to pick with one hand and clip with the other. With more labor costs, you have to charge more.”
So, the higher cost makes sense in this case. But regardless of the price or color, we have to go back to the earlier question: can a daily dose of apples really keep the doctor away? To answer that, let’s first break down the nutritional value of a single apple.
As per the Healthline website, a 6.4 ounce apple is considered to be a medium size. Using that helping as an example, you’d get roughly 95 calories and 25 grams-worth of carbohydrates. It also contains around 4 grams of fiber and a decent vitamin C measurement.
Specifically, a medium-sized apple houses 14 percent of a person’s recommended intake for the day. Thanks to the 13 grams of sugar in the fruit – which is “naturally occurring” – it could also be a worthwhile breakfast item. Simply put, it’s a healthier way to boost your energy levels than opting for a cup of coffee.
Though how else do apples impact your health? Well, they could actually help you shed a few pounds if you’re looking to lose some weight. The fruit’s water and fiber contents apparently play a significant role in making your body feel more full than it actually is, according to Healthline.
The Appetite science journal took a closer look at this in a research paper published back in April 2009. In that report, certain test subjects consumed pieces of apple ahead of their main food dishes. While others only had apple juice, applesauce or nothing related to the fruit in comparison.
In the end, the first group were more satiated than the second. And their average calorie intake was lower as well. They actually consumed roughly 200 calories less when compared to the individuals in the latter category. Pretty intriguing, right? It might be an idea to add apples to your regimen if you’re starting a diet!
A daily helping of apples could also benefit your health in another way, too. To explain more, food expert Kathy McManus spoke to the Harvard Medical School website in April 2015. She plies her trade at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital as its Department of Nutrition’s director.
McManus told the website, “There is good data to show that the soluble fiber in apples can help prevent cholesterol from building up on artery walls. Apples [also] contain a good amount of potassium, which can be beneficial for those who are watching their blood pressure.” Of course, this all leads back to the heart.
If cholesterol or blood pressure aren’t kept under control, then you run the risk of developing heart disease. Yet apples don’t just aid you in that department. According to Healthline, a flavonoid in the crunchy skin could shield you from strokes as well. It’s called epicatechin, and it acts like an antioxidant.
As per the health website, you’re around 20 percent less likely to suffer a stroke if you eat sizable flavonoid measurements. Adding to that, a report from the Stroke journal in 2011 found that 25-gram helpings of apples cut down your chances by 9 percent. Fascinating stuff, wouldn’t you agree?
Elsewhere, the fiber found in apples can also help another part of your body. Your colon stands to benefit, as an apple’s pectin fiber provides you with so-called “good bacteria.” According to Healthline, these cells can transform into different chemical substances that spread throughout your system – giving you a healthy boost.
How else can an apple a day aid you, though? Well, the fruit might prevent you from developing type two diabetes. The Advances in Nutrition journal published a paper on the topic back in September 2011. And it’s fair to say that the results are pretty eye-opening!
According to that report, people who consumed apples each day were 28 percent less likely to get type two diabetes than those who didn’t. That’s some contrast! In addition to that, the researchers noted that a small portion over a weekly period was quite effective in the fight as well.
Apples might also shield you from asthma, too. In that same Advances in Nutrition paper, over 68,000 ladies volunteered to take part in the study. By the end, those who had adopted the fruit into their diets had around a 10 percent lower risk of developing the condition.
Yep, your chances of developing asthma could be cut by ten percent if you just take a few bites from a big apple each day. It’s got to be worth a go, right? Also, they’re not the only conditions you might be protected from – cancer is another big one.
The British Journal of Nutrition ran an investigation on it and published the results in March 2016. Over 1,450 ladies aged 70 and and above were recruited for this project, which spanned 15 years. When it concluded, the researchers behind the report made the following observation regarding apples and cancer.
The authors of the paper noted, “Our analysis found that higher apple intake was associated with lower risk for cancer mortality.” So keeping all that in mind, it’s safe to say that the old rhyme is fairly accurate! Though a recent study highlighted one more disease that the fruit could potentially fight against.
According to a paper from the Stem Cell Reports journal in February 2021, apples might also cut down your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Additional dementia-like conditions were included in that, too. The study itself was helmed by analysts from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE).
What did the team look at, then? Well, apples house chemical substances called phytonutrients. During this project, they zoned in on a couple in particular. We’re talking about dihydroxybenzoic acid (DHBA) and quercetin. The former is located within the apple’s internal tissue, while the latter can be found in the crunchy skin.
The researchers then took these phytonutrients and exposed them to stem cells that came from the brains of mice. After that, they soon discovered that the samples boasted extra neurons that weren’t there before. And on top of that, they were kept alive by the presence of the DHBA and quercetin, too.
But what does this mean? The activity that we just spoke about is called “neurogenesis” in the science world. And it refers to the formation of neurons in the brain. These cells are responsible for improving memory and learning functions, which deteriorate when an individual develops Alzheimer’s or dementia.
It’s incredibly interesting, and the research is sure to encourage people to add apples to their daily diets. Mind you, while the numerous health benefits are clear for all to see, you might be wondering: what happens if you eat too many? Will that have a negative impact on your body?
To help answer that question, a food expert named Laura Flores spoke to the Live Science website in December 2018. She raised an intriguing point along the way. Flores explained, “Eating apples in excess will not cause many side effects. But as with anything eaten in excess, apples may contribute to weight gain.”
It’s not hard to imagine that you could put on weight from eating apples – especially if we go back to the medium-sized ones that we spoke of earlier. Yes, 95 calories by itself might not seem that bad, but imagine if you incorporated ten of them into your diet every day. That’s 950 calories, on top of all your other meals.
It all adds up in the end, so that’s something to be wary of. Plus, your teeth could be under threat as well. Why’s that? Well, the acidity in apples is capable of causing great harm. For instance, a report from the Journal of Dentistry in 2011 revealed that the fruit could be up to four times more damaging than fizzy drinks!
The man who helmed that project spoke via a statement that was released by King’s College in London, England. His name is David Bartlett, and he works at the university as the head of prosthodontics. Bartlett said, “It is not only about what we eat, but how we eat it.”
Bartlett added, “Snacking on acidic foods throughout the day is the most damaging, while eating them at meal times is much safer. An apple a day is good, but taking all day to eat the apple can damage teeth.” Experts in the field also suggest that you can swirl some water around your mouth to remove any lingering acids.
Yet we’ve still got one final question – is apple juice just as healthy? Kathy McManus informed the Harvard Medical School website, “Juice doesn’t have the fiber a whole apple does, and a good part of the beneficial nutrients are in the skin. Apple juice isn’t equal to a real apple.” Fair enough. We can’t think of a rhyme for the drink anyway!