Apples (Malus domestica) are the most consumed fruit in the United States. They come in various colors and flavors and are commonly eaten raw as a snack or cooked into baked goods. Apples are also used to produce ciders, juices, jams, and wine.
In addition to their culinary uses, apples are known for their numerous health benefits. Evidence shows that eating apples can improve digestion and protect against chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, among other benefits.
Here’s everything you need to know about the health benefits of apples and how to incorporate them into your diet.
Apples, especially with the skin on, are a rich source of fiber, polyphenols, and other nutrients that support heart health.
Several studies have linked apples to a lower risk of heart disease. One 2020 review found that eating 100-150 grams (g) of whole apples daily (around one small apple) is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
In addition, daily apple consumption was associated with a 27% lower risk of dying from a stroke and a 25% lower risk of dying from heart disease.
Apples are a good source of pectin, a soluble fiber that can improve digestion. As a soluble fiber, pectin absorbs water in the digestive tract creating larger, softer stools that are easier to pass.
Pectin is also recognized as a prebiotic that encourages the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Apples are high in water and fiber yet low in calories which can support weight management by keeping you full and reducing your daily calorie intake.
One study in adults linked a higher intake of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to weight loss. Participants who frequently ate apples lost an average of 1.24 pounds over four years.
Another review found that apple intake significantly decreased body mass index (BMI). However, no significant differences in body weight were found.
Research suggests that people who eat two servings of whole fruits, such as apples, per day have a 36% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than people who consume less than half a serving.
One review found that apples and pears were associated with a significant 18% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that even one serving per week can reduce the risk by 3%.
One potential reason for this may be the concentration of flavonoids, including quercetin, in apples which may help lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity.
The soluble fiber in apples may also prevent diabetes by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates, preventing blood sugar spikes.
Apples are rich in antioxidants, which may decrease cancer risk by neutralizing cancer-causing free radicals.
In addition, research suggests that the phytochemicals in apples can help slow down the growth of cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying.
The fiber found in apples may also help protect against colorectal cancer. Recent findings from the American Institute for Cancer Research suggest that for every 10-gram increase in dietary fiber, there’s a 7% decrease in the risk of colorectal cancer.
Several observational studies suggest that apples may help decrease the risk of:
However, more human studies are needed to confirm the anti-cancer effects of apples.
The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables may benefit cognitive function, especially in older adults.
In particular, studies have shown that quercetin in apples may help protect neurons in the brain from oxidative damage and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. However, human studies are needed to establish a clear relationship.
One medium raw apple—with the skin on—provides the following nutrients:
- Calories: 95 calories
- Protein: 0.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 25 g
- Sugar: 19 g
- Fiber: 4.4 g
- Vitamin C: 9% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Water: 86%
Apples are relatively high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps the immune system work properly to fight off disease. Vitamin C helps improve the absorption of iron from plant foods and is required for collagen production.
The fruit is also high in phytochemicals, including quercetin, catechin, chlorogenic acid, and epicatechin, all of which have strong antioxidant properties.
Since apples contain carbohydrates, people with diabetes should try to stick with one small apple— equal to around 15 carbohydrates—per meal or snack.
Apples are unlikely to cause any serious side effects when consumed in moderation. However, some people experience bloating, gas, and digestive issues after eating apples.
This is because apples are high in fiber and contain the FODMAPs fructose and sorbitol, which are sugars that some people can’t tolerate.
People with an apple allergy should avoid apples and foods containing apples that could trigger symptoms. Studies show that 70% of people with birch pollen allergy develop pollen-related food allergies, especially to apples. This is due to the similarity between apple proteins and birch pollen.
Lastly, while a few apple seeds are unlikely to cause harm, consuming too many can be dangerous. This is because chewed or crushed apple seeds release a highly toxic compound called cyanide.
The best way to eat an apple is whole or sliced, with the skin on. The peels of apples are a concentrated source of fiber, antioxidants, and other beneficial nutrients.
Here are a few other ways to incorporate apples into your diet:
- Pair sliced apples with nut butter
- Use applesauce instead of butter in baking recipes
- Blend apple slices into smoothies
- Bake apple slices or halves with a variety of spices
- Add chopped apples to salads
When consuming apple juice, choose 100% apple juice without added sugar. Because fruit juice does not contain the fiber found in whole fruit, it is best to enjoy it in small amounts.
Apples are a good source of nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants which can help support healthy digestion, brain health, and weight management. There is evidence that apples can also protect against certain chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
When eaten regularly, apples with the skin provide the most health benefits. Apples are relatively safe and unlikely to cause serious side effects when eaten in moderation and without seeds.