5 Health Benefits of Apples
You know the old saying: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Turns out there's more truth to that than you might think. Studies show apples have powerful health benefits, particularly when it comes to fighting chronic diseases that kill millions of people each year. So powerful are components found in apples, that a 2022 study in Antioxidants shows that researchers are looking for ways to include apples in healthcare products for the prevention and treatment of diseases caused by inflammation.
Here are a few reasons why eating more apples can help keep you healthy, along with some apple-licious ways to add them to your meals.
The nutrition varies slightly between the different apple varieties, but not all that much. Here's the nutrition breakdown for 1 medium apple, per the USDA.
- 95 calories
- 0 g protein
- 0 g fat
- 25 g carbohydrates
- 4 g fiber
- 8 mg vitamin C
- 98 IU vitamin A
- 195 mg potassium
Apples are high in water content—they're about 85% water—and rich in fiber (a medium apple contains 4 grams or about 16% of your daily value), two things you need to feel full. 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.
Apples also 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 respond to cravings. Just be sure to eat the whole fruit, peel and all, as the peel also contains fiber and nutrients. In fact, a 2022 study in Foods showed that the peel of Fuji apples contributes to 41% of the apple's total flavonoid content and 31% of the phenolic content of the entire apple (flavonoids and phenols have antioxidant properties).
5 Health Benefits of Apples
1. Protects Your Heart
Pictured Recipe: Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa Bowl
Multiple studies show apples are good for your ticker in many ways. In a large 2020 review in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, researchers combed through 16 studies that looked at apple consumption and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. They found that whole apple consumption was associated with a reduced risk of dying from CVD, ischemic heart disease, stroke, severe abdominal aortic calcification, as well as dying from anything.
Specifically, these researchers found that whole apple consumption reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol), systolic blood pressure, pulse pressure, and plasma inflammatory cytokines. In turn, apple consumption can increase HDL cholesterol, the helpful form of cholesterol. These researchers state that these findings are based on 100-150 grams of apple consumption a day, which is about two medium-sized apples.
2. Boosts Brain Health
In a 2018 study published in Nutrients, Swedish researchers following 2,000 people for six years found that those who stuck to a diet called the Nordic Prudent Dietary Pattern (NPDP) had better cognitive function than people who ate more fatty, processed foods. Among other things, the NPDP calls for eating plenty of non-root vegetables, plus pears, peaches and—you guessed it—apples.
In a 2022 study in Alzheimer's Research and Therapy, older adults who followed the MIND diet—a fusion of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, both of which stress eating fresh fruits and vegetables—had a lower risk of developing dementia. Experts point out that more research is needed, but the results look promising.
Looking more specifically at components in foods like apples, tea, and berries, 2020 research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people with low intake of foods with high levels of antioxidant-like components had higher rates of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD). Specifically, a low intake of components called flavonoid polymers, found in apples, pears and tea, was associated with twice the risk of developing ADRD. Similar results were found regarding AD.
3. May Help You Lose Weight
Pictured Recipe: Apple-Crisp-Stuffed Baked Apples
One medium apple can help fill you up for under 100 calories, so it's no surprise that apples can help with weight loss. A 2018 review in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition shows many associations between apple consumption and weight loss.
The compounds in apples also help feed healthy gut bacteria, potentially lowering the risk of some obesity-related problems. Prebiotics in apples have been shown to feed good gut bacteria. For example, a 2021 lab study published in Agriculture looked at whether components in apple peels (as well as banana and mango peels) could act as prebiotics. Results suggest that these peels all increased certain types of beneficial gut bacteria, by providing food for them.
Related: Is Eating Fruit Bad for Weight Loss?
4. Lowers Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
A 2019 meta-analysis published in Current Developments in Nutrition that included at total of 339,383 participants over several studies, suggests that regularly eating apples, pears or a combination of the two can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
An interesting 2022 study in Foods suggests that eating an apple prior to a meal can lower postprandial (after eating) blood glucose levels in people with impaired glucose tolerance (pre-diabetes). And a 2017 review in Food & Function suggests that eating apples and pears might reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 18%. Even eating just one apple or pear a week reduced the risk by 3%.
A 2021 systematic review in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health also suggests that a high intake of apples and other fruit (including pears, blueberries, grapefruit, and grapes) is related to about a 7% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
5. Fights Cancer
Pictured Recipe: Turkey-Apple-Brie Sandwiches
Including apples in your diet is linked with a lower risk of several cancers. For example, a 2021 review in Nutrients looked at studies that found that the consumption of apples seems to be related to a reduced risk of lung, bladder, breast, pancreatic, colorectal, pharynx, esophagus, ovary, renal and prostate cancers. That's a lot of protection in that one fruit!
In addition to preventing cancers, researchers state that the phytochemicals in apples can also help slow down the progression of cancer. Just make sure you're eating the whole fruit and not tossing the peel—that's where many of the cancer-fighting antioxidants are found.
Like any other food, apples are not a magic bullet for all things health. But including them regularly in your diet, along with other fruits and vegetables, may allow you to reap many of the health benefits shown here. And while we love eating apples as is, we also love including them in our recipes, like Sausage-Stuffed Apples, Curried Chicken Apple Wraps or Roasted Squash & Apples with Dried Cherries & Pepitas. Or simply dice and toss them into your salads.
Some original reporting by Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.