An apple a day…
Keeps the doctor away.
That’s what the old saying tells us. (It was shortened in the 19th century from the rather lengthy “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” )
Is it true? What are the health benefits of apples?
I personally love apples and really do eat one most days of the week, because I know an apple is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, and it keeps my teeth and gums healthy.
Dietary fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet. It helps keep our intestines running smoothly. Constipated? Eat more fiber!
Chronic constipation is a risk factor for colon cancer; an apple a day with its dietary fiber can help reduce your risk.
Dietary fiber also makes you feel more full after a meal, so you are less likely to overeat. An apple a day is a good part of any weight-loss diet.
Apples also contain soluble fiber, which lowers bad cholesterol levels (preventing heart disease) and stabilizes blood sugar (preventing diabetes).
On average, one small apple (about 3″ in diameter) contains 5 grams of dietary fiber, about 18% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).
Apples are also a great source of the antioxidant vitamin C.
One small apples provides almost 15% of the RDA.
What are the health benefits of vitamin C? There are so many, including:
- forming and healing skin, muscle, collagen, cartilage and blood vessels
- protecting against free radicals
- boosting the immune system
- preventing age-related macular degeneration
- increasing iron absorption
- possibly preventing some cancers (breast, colon, and lung)
Our bodies don’t make vitamin C, so it’s important we get enough from our diets.
Most of the vitamin C and fiber is in the apple skin, which is why many nutritionists recommend eating organic apples. I don’t always buy organic, but I do prefer apples that are fresh and in season because they aren’t coated in wax to make them shiny. Yuck. I’ll choose a dull, waxless apple every time!
OK, “crunch” isn’t a dietary term, but it’s an apple’s crispiness that makes it healthy for your teeth and gums.
Dentists recommend eating raw, crunchy fruits and vegetables for snacks. The mechanical motion of chewing an apples helps clean plaque and tartar from our teeth. It also increases salivation, and saliva has antibiotic properties that protect teeth and gums from the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.
Sugar—the downside of apples
Low-carb diets are popular now, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!
Yes, apples do contain sugar, but I think the health benefits of apples cancel out the negative.
Here are some things to consider:
Eat whole, fresh apples. A small apple (about 1 cup, sliced) is about 130 calories and contains 25 grams of sugar.
A serving of unsweetened applesauce has a little more sugar, but much less fiber. A serving of unsweetened apple juice also has a little more sugar and less fiber. Neither applesauce nor apple juice will provide the crunch you want for your gums. In fact, they are more likely to just coat your teeth in sugar.
Worse are dried apples. A serving of these is very high in sugar, about 56 grams. There is more fiber, as well, but the combination of high fiber and sugar can lead to diarrhea in some people.
Of course there’s no harm in occasionally eating applesauce or dried apples. But for the most health benefits, stick with fresh.
Know the variety. Every spring I see new varieties of apples in the store, and most of these are being engineered for sweetness—that is, a higher sugar content.
The difference isn’t too much, but if you’re really concerned with counting carbs, pick a variety with the least amount of sugar. Most of the old-fashioned apples—red delicious, golden delicious, and Granny Smith—contain less sugar than Fuji, Gala, and Honeycrisp.
Consider the serving size. Have you seen apples that are the size of grapefruit? They will count as 2-3 servings, rather than one. I prefer to buy the small, lunchbox apples.
One of my goals every year is to stay away from doctors and stay out of the healthcare system.
Maybe eating an apple a day can help me do that.