5 Amazing Health Benefits of Apples
Want to lose weight and boost your health? Try munching on more apples. Here's why they can help.
Apples are sweet, crunchy and delicious—and they've always been known to be super-healthy (hence the saying, "An apple a day ..."). Multiple studies show that, as part of a healthy diet, regularly eating apples can help prevent diabetes, reduce cholesterol, help fight heart disease, keep your brain sharp, protect against asthma and even fight some kinds of cancer.
Pictured Recipe: Apple with Cinnamon Almond Butter
As if that isn't enough, here's one more big benefit: Apples can help you lose weight. Here's why.
Apples Are Low in Calories
Pictured Recipe: Green Apple Slaw
Not all calories are created equal. The calories in most fruit—including apples—are low-density, meaning there are fewer calories per gram of food. Translation: Apples give you fewer calories in each crunchy bite. And that's good news if you're trying to lose weight.
In one study, researchers compared the effects of eating low-density versus high-density foods in 49 middle-aged women. One group added oat cookies to their regular diet while another group added apples. Both the cookies and apples were similar in calorie counts and total fiber, but the apple calories were much lower-density. At the end of 10 weeks, the women who ate the cookies had no weight change, while the apple eaters had lost weight and consumed fewer calories overall.
They're Rich in Fiber
Pictured Recipe: Apple & Fennel Salad with Blue Cheese
Recent studies suggest that the high fiber in apples may be a weight-loss secret weapon. One analysis of studies following more than 133,000 people for 24 years looked at the weight loss of those who ate more high-fiber, low-glycemic fruits like apples and pears compared to people who ate more starchy vegetables like corn, peas and potatoes. The results? After adjusting for exercise and other lifestyle factors, the researchers found that the apple eaters lost weight, while the peas-and-potato group actually put on pounds.
Experts say eating high-fiber foods helps reduce the risk of weight gain in a couple of ways. First, fiber fills you up, so you're less likely to overeat. Fiber also feeds the good bacteria in your gut, improving gut health. Studies have shown a connection between harmful gut bacteria and obesity. And if you want to get the most fiber from your fruit, eat the apple skins.
What kind of apple you eat may make a difference, too. One recent animal study found that Granny Smith apples, which have more non-digestible fiber than other varieties, benefited the growth of gut-friendly bacteria. The study was on mice, so the implications for humans aren't clear. But if you're trying to shed pounds, munching on a tart green Granny Smith can't hurt—and it may help.
Related: Fiber-Rich Recipes
They Fill You Up
Pictured Recipe: Apple & Smoked Gouda Sweet Potato Toast
Apples are high in water content (they're 85 percent water) and rich in fiber (a medium apple contains 4 grams, or about 16 percent of your daily value), two things you need to feel full. According to the Satiety Index-a list researchers created in 1995 that ranks foods by how well they help you feel full-apples can fill you up more than many other foods, even eggs, cheese and beans. The more satisfied you feel, the less likely you are to overeat and pack on pounds.
Apples have one other feel-full benefit: They take time to eat. Foods you can gobble down quickly tend to leave you hungry, so you end up eating more. In one five-week study of 58 people, those who had an apple before their meals ate less and took in fewer calories than those who had either apple juice or applesauce-both of which have less fiber and take less time to polish off.
They Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, Naturally
Pictured Recipe: Apple "Donuts"
Apples have a low glycemic index, which means your blood sugar levels don't spike when you eat them. So while a rosy Red Delicious or sunny Honeycrisp might taste amazingly sweet, your body is able to process the sugar in a manageable way. And because apples are both sweet and filling, snacking on an apple can be a smart way to control cravings when you're trying to lose weight. Just be sure to eat the whole fruit, peel and all. The fiber will help keep you satisfied.
Related: Healthy Apple Recipes
Watch: Farmers' Market Tips: Best Apple Varieties for Eating and Baking
Some original reporting by Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.