AUTHORITY NUTRITION

Apples 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Written by Atli Arnarson, PhD on October 11, 2014

Apples are among the most popular types of fruit in the world.

They are the fruit of the apple tree (Malus domestica), originally from Central Asia, and are grown all over the world.

Apples are high in fiber, vitamin C and various antioxidants. They are also very filling, considering their low calorie content. Studies show that eating apples can have multiple benefits for health (, , , ).

They taste delicious on their own and are usually eaten raw, but they are also used in various recipes, juices and drinks.

There are many different types, with a variety of colors and sizes.

Nutrition Facts

One medium-sized apple contains only 95 calories, with most of the energy coming from carbs.

The table below contains detailed information on all the different nutrients in apples.

Nutrition Facts: Apples, raw, with skin - 100 grams

Amount
Calories 52
Water 86 %
Protein 0.3 g
Carbs 13.8 g
Sugar 10.4 g
Fiber 2.4 g
Fat 0.2 g
Saturated 0.03 g
Monounsaturated 0.01 g
Polyunsaturated 0.05 g
Omega-3 0.01 g
Omega-6 0.04 g
Trans fat 0 g

Carbohydrates in Apples

Apples are mainly composed of carbs and water, and are rich in simple sugars, such as fructose, sucrose, and glucose.

Despite their high carbohydrate and sugar content, the glycemic index is low, ranging from 29 to 44 ().

The glycemic index is a measure of how food affects the rise in blood sugar levels after eating. Low values are associated with various health benefits ().

Fruit often score low on the glycemic index, probably due to their high fiber and polyphenol content that helps slow down carbohydrate digestion ().

Fiber

Apples are very rich in fiber. A single medium-sized apple contains about 4 grams of fiber, about 17% of the recommended daily intake.

A portion of their fiber content is made up of both insoluble and soluble fibers called pectin.

Soluble fiber has been associated with numerous beneficial effects on health, partly mediated by their effect on the friendly bacteria in the intestine (, , ).

Fiber may also help improve satiety and cause weight loss, while lowering blood sugar levels and improving the function of the digestive system ().

Bottom Line: Apples are mainly made up of carbs and water. They also contain fiber, which moderates blood sugar levels and promotes colon health.

Vitamins and Minerals

Apples contain many vitamins and minerals, but not in high amounts. However, apples are usually a good source of vitamin C.

  • Vitamin C: Also called ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a common antioxidant in fruits. It is an essential dietary nutrient that has many important functions in the body ().
  • Potassium: The main mineral in apples. High intake of potassium may have beneficial effects for heart health.
Bottom Line: Apples are not particularly rich in vitamins and minerals. However, they contain decent amounts of both vitamin C and potassium.

Other Plant Compounds

Apples are high in various antioxidant plant compounds, which are responsible for many of their health benefits (, ).

Here are the main ones:

  • Quercetin: A nutrient found in some plant foods, shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-depressant effects in animal studies (, , , ).
  • Catechin: A natural antioxidant, also found in large amounts in green tea. Shown to improve brain and muscle function in animal studies (, ).
  • Chlorogenic Acid: Also found in coffee, chlorogenic acid has been shown to lower blood sugar and cause weight loss in some studies ().
Bottom Line: Apples are a good source of several antioxidants, including quercetin, catechin, and chlorogenic acid. These plant compounds are responsible for many of the health benefits of apples.

Weight Loss

There are two properties of apples that make them a weight loss friendly food.

They are high in fiber and low in energy density.

Both of these have been shown to lead to reduced calorie intake and significant weight loss in the long-term (, ).

In one study, women who were instructed to eat 300 grams of apples (10.6 ounces or 1.5 large apples) per day lost 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg) over a period of 12 weeks ().

For this reason, eating apples may be a useful addition to a weight loss diet, especially if eaten between or before meals.

Bottom Line: Apples may be an effective component of a healthy weight loss diet, largely due to the fiber and low calorie content.

Health Benefits of Apples

Given the immense popularity of apples, especially among health conscious people, it is not surprising to see that they have been studied quite thoroughly ().

Blood Sugar Control and Type 2 Diabetes

There is some evidence that eating apples can help lower blood sugar levels and protect against diabetes.

This makes sense given the fiber content, but apples (probably because of the fiber) have been shown to help reduce blood sugar levels ().

Some of the antioxidants in apples also appear to be able to slow down digestion of sugars, so that they get absorbed slower ().

In one study of 38,018 women, eating 1 or more apples per day was linked to a 28% lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes ().

Bottom Line: A few studies indicate that eating apples may help protect against diabetes.

Blood Cholesterol and Heart Disease

Several studies have looked at the effect of apples on risk factors for heart disease.

One of the studies, done in hamsters, showed that apples can reduce total cholesterol levels and lead to drastic reductions (48%) in plaque buildup inside the arteries ().

If these animal studies were to apply to humans, it would mean that apples could be highly useful in helping to prevent cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes).

One study in Finland showed that the risk of dying from heart disease was 43% lower in women, and 19% lower in men, for those who consumed more than 54 grams (1.9 ounces) of apples per day ().

Bottom Line: Apples are rich in healthy antioxidants and fibers, which may make them protective against heart disease.

Cancer

Numerous studies in test tubes have shown that apples, apple juice, or some of the plant compounds in apples, can have anti-cancer effects ().

There have also been some animal studies showing that apple phytonutrients can protect against cancers of the lungs and colon (, ).

In a study titled "Does an apple a day keep the oncologist away?", those who consumed 1 or more apples per day were at a lower risk of getting cancer, including a 20% lower risk of colorectal cancer and 18% lower risk of breast cancer ().

Bottom Line: As a good source of several antioxidants, apples may lower the risk of cancer.

Potential Adverse Effects

Apples are generally well tolerated.

However, they may cause problems for people with irritable bowel syndrome as apples contain FODMAPs, carbohydrates that are known to upset the digestive system ().

Apples also contain fructose, which can be problematic for people with fructose intolerance.

Bottom Line: Apples are generally considered healthy, but they can cause digestive problems in some people.

Summary

Apples are healthy, tasty and among the most popular fruits in the world.

Although they are not particularly rich in vitamins and minerals, they are a good source of fibers and several antioxidants.

Regular consumption of apples may improve heart health, and cut the risk of cancer and diabetes. They may also be useful as part of a weight loss diet.

If you want to eat healthy, then apples are an excellent choice.

An evidence-based nutrition article from our experts at Authority Nutrition.

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