Apples are considered nutrient-dense fruits, meaning they provide a lot of nutrients per serving.
The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 2 cups of fruit daily for a 2,000-calorie diet, emphasizing whole fruits, like apples (2Trusted Source).
The same serving also provides 2–5% of the DV for vitamins E, B1, and B6.
Vitamin E serves as a fat-soluble antioxidant, vitamin B1 — also known as thiamine — is needed for growth and development, and vitamin B6 is essential for protein metabolism.
Apples are also a rich source of polyphenols, an important group of antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that protect your cells from free radicals — harmful molecules that contribute to the development of chronic conditions, like heart disease and cancer.
While nutrition labels don’t list these plant compounds, they’re likely responsible for many of apples’ health benefits.
To get the most out of apples, leave the skin on, as it contains half of the fiber and most of the polyphenols.
- May support weight loss
Apples are high in fiber and water, two qualities that make them filling.
An increasing feeling of fullness works as a weight-loss strategy, as it helps manage your appetite. This, in turn, might lead you to reduce your energy intake.
In one study, eating whole apples increased feelings of fullness for up to 4 hours longer than consuming equal amounts of apple purée or juice. This happened, because whole apples reduce gastric emptying — the rate at which your stomach empties its contents.
Research also suggests apple intake may significantly reduce Body Mass Index (BMI), a weight-related risk factor for heart disease.
Interestingly, apple polyphenols may also have anti-obesity effects.
- Could be good for your heart
Apples have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
One reason may be that they contain soluble fiber. This kind of fiber can help lower your blood cholesterol levels.
Another reason may be that they offer polyphenols. Some of these, namely the flavonoid epicatechin, may lower blood pressure.
Studies have also linked high intakes of flavonoids with a lower risk of stroke.
Plus, flavonoids can help prevent heart disease by lowering blood pressure, reducing LDL cholesterol oxidation, and reducing atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in your arteries.
Another study has also linked eating white-fleshed fruits and vegetables, like apples and pears, to a reduced risk of stroke. For every 1/5 cup (25 grams) of apple slices consumed per day, the risk of stroke decreased by 9%.
- Linked to a lower risk of diabetes
Eating apples may also reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
A compilation of studies found that eating apples and pears was associated with an 18% reduction in type 2 diabetes risk. In fact, just one serving per week may reduce the risk by 3%.
Their high content of the antioxidant polyphenols quercetin and phloridzin could explain this beneficial effect.
Quercetin’s anti-inflammatory effects may reduce insulin resistance, a big risk factor for the onset of diabetes. Meanwhile, phloridzin is believed to reduce sugar uptake in the intestines, contributing to a reduced blood sugar load and thereby reduced diabetes risk.
- May promote gut health
Apples contain pectin, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic. This means it feeds your gut microbiota, which is the good bacteria in your gut.
Being involved in many functions related to both health and disease, your gut microbiota plays an essential role in your overall well-being. A healthy gut is often key for better health.
Since dietary fiber cannot be digested, pectin reaches your colon intact, promoting the growth of good bacteria. It especially improves the ratio of Bacteriodetes to Firmicutes, the two main types of bacteria in your gut.
New research suggests that, by beneficially altering your gut microbiota, apples may help protect against chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
- Might help prevent cancer
Antioxidants in apples may offer beneficial effects against certain types of cancers, including lung, breast, and digestive tract cancers.
Test-tube studies suggest that these effects may be attributed to apple polyphenols keeping cancerous cells from multiplying.
What’s more, one study in women reported that higher apple intakes were linked to a lower risk of cancer death.
Apples’ fiber content may also contribute to their cancer-fighting properties.
For example, another test-tube study found that apple pectin fiber could inhibit the growth of cancerous cells and even trigger their death.
However, further research in humans is needed to better understand the possible link between apples and cancer prevention — for example, to identify adequate amounts and eating timing.
- Could help fight asthma
Antioxidant-rich apples may help protect your lungs from oxidative damage.
An excess of harmful molecules called free radicals can cause oxidative damage. This may lead to inflammatory and allergenic responses in your body.
Apple skin is rich in the antioxidant quercetin, which can help regulate your immune system and reduce inflammation. Theoretically, this could make apples effective against late phases of bronchial asthma responses.
Supporting this, test-tube and animal studies suggest quercetin may be a suitable treatment for allergic inflammatory diseases like asthma and sinusitis.
Similarly, other compounds found in apples, including ones called proanthocyanidins, may reduce or prevent allergic asthma airway inflammation.
Still, more human research is needed on the topic.
- May help protect your brain
Quercetin in apples may protect your brain from damage caused by oxidative stress.
Research in rats shows that quercetin’s antioxidant effects may protect the brain and nerves from oxidative damage and prevent injuries that can result in degenerative brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
In addition, quercetin may prevent stress-associated nerve damage by regulating oxidative and inflammatory stress markers.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that most research focuses on a specific compound instead of whole apples. Therefore, further research is still needed before any conclusions can be drawn.