We've all heard the phrase "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," but new research found out why this could actually be true. A new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, found that apples contain a hefty dose of bacteria—about 100 million—which can do wonders for our gut health.
The researchers chose to analyze the microbiomes of both conventional and organic apples, since apples are the most-consumed fruit globally. While both types of apples were teeming with bacteria, the organic apples showed significantly higher health benefits since they contained more gut-friendly bacteria (including a probiotic and flavor-enhancing strain).
Related: Are You Eating For a Healthy Gut?
The conventional apples actually possessed Escherichia-Shigella, which contains pathogens that can actually cause severe diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps for several days. They also contained fewer bacterium overall.
"Freshly harvested, organically managed apples harbor a significantly more diverse, more even and distinct bacterial community, compared to conventional ones," Gabriele Berg, one of the study's authors, said in a statement. "This variety and balance would be expected to limit overgrowth of any one species, and previous studies have reported a negative correlation between human pathogen abundance and microbiome diversity of fresh produce."
Another interesting discovery was that apple seeds were bursting with good gut bacteria. Throwing away the core of your apple instead of eating the whole fruit could cost you about 90 million microbiome-boosting bacteria!
Berg also wants consumers to be more mindful of consuming raw fruits and veggies, as cooking can deplete some of the important bacteria needed to fuel our immune and digestive systems.
"The bacteria, fungi and viruses in our food transiently colonize our gut," Berg says. "Cooking kills most of these, so raw fruit and veg are particularly important sources of gut microbes."
Apples are amazing for gut health because they not only possess a wide variety of good bacteria, but they're also high in prebiotic fiber which feeds the good bacteria and helps them grow. This combo could do some serious wonders for our microbiomes—especially since we unintentionally hurt our guts when we consume things like refined sugar, chemical additives and saturated fat from processed foods.
While we know buying all organic produce can cause our grocery bills to skyrocket every week, this study shows it may be worth purchasing organic apples for the potential gut health benefits. When you're eating food in its peak season, it will be less expensive and more delicious, so it will likely be much more budget-friendly to stock up on organic versions all your favorite apple varieties this fall.
This is also true for other foods, like summer tomatoes and winter squash, and eating with the seasons will help you enjoy higher-quality, lower-priced foods all year long! Check out our guide to creating the best Healthy Seasonal Recipes year-round.