Here in the U.S., we commercially grow about 100 varieties of apples with 15 varieties making up most of what’s produced, according to the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and each variety has a unique flavor and nutrient profile (1).
Popular varieties include the Fuji which is firm and sweet, the Honeycrisp developed by the University of Minnesota is juicy and sweet, the Gala which was brought to the U.S. in the early 1970s is crisp, juicy, and very sweet, the Red Delicious perhaps the most widely recognized is also crisp, juicy, and sweet, the Granny Smith, discovered in the 1800s, has green skin and a tart flavor, and the McIntosh is an older variety that is juicy, tangy, and tart (2).
As one of the most popular fruits, apples are easy to store and transport because they come in their very own package!
So what’s so great about apples?
When it comes to apples we could talk about the nutrient content, and the fact that apples contain essential nutrients like vitamins C and K, minerals like potassium and manganese, as well as some B vitamins that the body needs each day (3) (4).
We could also highlight the fact that apples contain both soluble and insoluble fiber to help remove cholesterol from the body, slow the absorption of glucose, support a healthy microbiome, as well as move things through the digestive tract to help prevent constipation and disease as the fiber helps keep us feeling full longer which can lead to weight loss (5). Just remember to eat the apple skin, this is where the cellulose (insoluble fiber) is located.
However, the biggest benefit of consuming apples regularly may be due to their polyphenol content.
Polyphenols, like quercetin, kaempferol, epicatechin, and chlorogenic acid, have been found to provide various health benefits when consumed in the diet.
The antioxidant power of apples
Quercetin is a yellow pigment found in plants. The quercetin in the apple is found entirely in the peel, so be sure to consume the whole apple to gain the benefits described below (6).
Apples are a great source of quercetin which has been found to reduce allergic immune responses as it stimulates the immune system.
Quercetin can inhibit enzymes and suppress inflammatory mediators to have an anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating effect that has been determined useful in bronchial asthma responses, seasonal allergies, and even food allergies (peanuts) (6).
Kaempferol is a flavonoid found in many plant foods, like apples. This flavonoid has been found to improve blood glucose control in animal studies, as a natural anti-diabetic compound that can suppress the production of glucose and improve insulin sensitivity (7).
Kaempferol also exerts antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antitumor effects when consumed in the diet in the form of fruits and vegetables, and has been found to decrease the risk for developing certain cancers, like skin, liver, and colon cancers (8).
Epicatechin is a polyphenol and catechin with antioxidant properties. This polyphenol is found in apples and other foods and beverages like chocolate and green tea. Epicatechin has been found to regulate enzymes and the activation of transcription factors that promote the antioxidant properties (9).
Other studies show that epicatechin can prevent the development of cancer, and also protects the nervous system from toxins (10).
Chlorogenic acid is a dietary polyphenol that is found not only in apples but can also be consumed through coffee, tea, sunflower seeds, blueberries, and tomatoes.
Chlorogenic acid has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and may play a role in regulating glucose and fat metabolism in diseases like diabetes and fatty liver disease (11).
In addition, chlorogenic acid protects against liver damage from toxic chemicals and endotoxins (12).
These are just a few examples of research that support the beneficial role of apples in the diet.
Knowing a bit more about how good apples can be for you, perhaps you’ll give them a try…just remember to consume the whole apple, because many of the benefits are derived from the compounds found in and under the skin. And, to avoid consuming toxic pesticides, organic apples will be your best choice.