When it comes to fruit, apple health benefits may outrank them all – or at least the majority.
Apples are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that do everything from protect your heart to help you stay slim, says Janet Bond Brill, a Hellertown, Pennsylvania-based registered dietitian.
“The old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ couldn’t be more true,” Brill says.
October is National Apple Month. In honor of the great fruit, here are a few ways apples help boost your overall health and well-being.
1. Apples protect your heart.
Apples contain a fiber called pectin that is known to lower cholesterol levels, says Brill, who has written three books on heart health, including “Cholesterol Down” and “Blood Pressure Down.”
Research at the UC Davis Department of Internal Medicine found that regularly eating apples or drinking apple juice can reduce your risk of heart disease in just six weeks.
“I like to say an apple a day keeps the cardiologist away,” Brill says. “It’s a perfectly heart-healthy food.”
2. Apples are rich in antioxidants.
Apples contain “an incredible amount” of disease-fighting antioxidants, including polyphenols, Brill says. Varieties that are especially rich in antioxidants include Fuji, Red Delicious and Northern Spy.
“Be sure you eat the skin and don’t peel it,” Brill says. “If you peel the skin, you throw out the antioxidants.”
3. Apples are rich in fiber.
A diet rich in fiber can help lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. But few of us have gotten the news. “Americans tend to eat ridiculously low amounts of fiber,” Brill says. “So, you want to bump up your intake of fiber.”
A medium-sized apple contains about 4.4 grams of fiber, with the peel alone containing about 1 gram of fiber.
4. Apples help you lose weight.
Apples are a great snack if you are hungry, especially if you are trying to lose weight. “It’s a portable, low-calorie, nutrient-dense sweet treat that you can use to take the edge off,” Brill says.
5. Apples provide other health benefits.
The humble apple has tannins that can prevent urinary tract infections, and the fleshy fiber helps scrape your teeth and gums.
Apples are so good for you that Brill calls them “Mother Nature’s medicine chest.”
Create an apple-rich diet
Although apples are a great part of any diet, Brill urges you to be selective when choosing fruit. “Apples are very high in the pesticide department,” she says, citing research from the Environmental Working Group.
The organization reports that apples are among the four fruits most contaminated with pesticides. The others are peaches, strawberries and nectarines.
“You should try to buy organic if you can,” Brill says. In addition, make sure to wash and rinse your apples before eating them.
When choosing apples, look for firm and shiny fruit. Apples will remain good for up to six months in the refrigerator.
Some people miss out on an apple’s health benefits, because they simply don’t like the taste of the fruit. If you are an apple skeptic, Brill recommends smearing a bit of peanut butter or almond butter on apple slices to change the taste, and to add a little protein.
Other people simply hate to eat apples raw. If you dislike the raw fruit, try to combine apples with other foods, like in a broccoli salad or green smoothie. “Chop them up and throw them in anything,” Brill says.
Some people who don’t like raw apples do enjoy dried apple rings. You can also bake apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon in an oven for 30 minutes.