HEALTH BENEFITS OF APPLES

September is the beginning of fall and peak season for apples. Soon there will be a variety of local and US grown apples in the food stores. For those who like picking their apples, making a fall trip to western North Carolina near Asheville and Hendersonville, you will find beautiful fall foliage and an abundance of apple orchards. We have all heard the old proverb ‘An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away’. Is it true? It turns out apples confer a variety of health benefits that make them a clear health choice.  Read on to find out the 5 health benefits of eating apples.

Nutrition

Tart or sweet, apples are a nutritional powerhouse. They contain the following critical nutrients:

Vitamin C– a powerful antioxidant 

B Vitamins– such as B-6, B-2, 

Dietary Fiber– needed to feed our good bacteria and keep our gut healthy 

Quercetin– a phytonutrient in the flavonoid family is a PREBIOTIC that feeds our good bacteria 

Minerals-such as calcium, potassium, phosphorous

One medium apple contains the following:

One medium apple — 6.4 ounces or 182 grams — contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 95
  • Carbs: 25 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams
  • Vitamin C: 14% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Potassium: 6% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K: 5% of the RDI

What’s more, the same serving provides 2–4% of the RDI for manganese, copper, and the vitamins A, E, B1, B2, and B6. It has a low glycemic load of 6 so won’t raise your blood sugar quickly. It can be used in combination with some protein and fat as a great morning or afternoon snack.

 

Health Benefits

There are many health benefits of eating an apple a day.

    1. Weight Loss- several studies have demonstrated that eating whole apples, not cooked apples, with meals  confers more fullness and less calorie consumption. The high soluble fiber and water content contribute to that fullness.
    2. May Be Good for Heart- the soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol, and polyphenols (like quercetin) in the skin reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol oxidation. This helps reduce heart disease and stroke.
    3. Prebiotic Effect and Help Good Gut Bacteria-  contain pectin, a type of prebiotic
    4. Helps control blood sugar- the fiber help slow the digestive process absorption of sugar
    5. Boosts immune system- nutrients like vitamin C help boost the immune system and ward off infection.

 

Health Risks

As you can see there are many health benefits to eating apples. Raw apples, eaten close to when to they are picked confer the most benefit as their nutrient content are higher. There are, however, some potential risks. 

  1. Apple seeds contain cyanide, so avoiding them in large numbers is best.
  2. Conventionally grown apples contain on average 4 pesticides, used to reduce mold and worms. Many of these are deleterious to human health. Apples rank high on the Environmental Working groups Dirty Dozen. It is best to buy organic apples. 
  3. FODMAPS- Apples are part of a group of short chain carbohydrates that are resistant to digestion and can produce gas and bloating in sensitive individuals when certain gut bacteria use them for fuel. If you  have this sensitivity, it may not be permanent;  it may mean your gut bacteria are not in balance and you need to see someone to help you rebalance the ratio.

Bottom Line

Eating an ‘apple a day’ may very well help keep the doctor away. Whole, organic apples confer the best benefits. Cooking will destroy some of the heat sensitive nutrients but will still confer health benefits- especially if you leave the peels. So… start filling your cart with a variety of delicious apples today.

 

Donna Bacchi-Smith, MD, MPH has over 30 years of clinical experience improving patient health and wellbeing using a broad- based approach that focuses on the four pillars of wellness- nutrition, physical activity, stress reduction and mindfulness. She currently resides in Southport, NC. There she is on the Brunswick County Health Advisory Board, is a co-chair of the Way to Wellness Initiative, and sees clients looking to improve their health by addressing the root causes using the four pillars of wellness.

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