An Apple a Day

by Gayle Cottrill

We’ve all heard the age-old adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but is there any truth to the saying? This month, while autumn is officially in full swing and apple-picking season is upon us, I thought I would go bobbing for some apple facts and learn about the health benefits of this wonderful fall fruit.

A medium-sized apple, about three inches in diameter, provides 1.5 cups of fruit (a daily serving is 2 cups) and is a good source of vitamins C and K, potassium, fiber, and polyphenols, which are found in plant-based foods and are full of antioxidants. Altogether, this makes for a powerful fruit, as long as you eat the skin; nearly half of the fiber is contained there.

The soluble fiber found in apples helps lower your blood cholesterol content, feeds your good bacteria in your colon aiding gut health, and can aid in weight loss. The fiber, combined with high water content, makes apples a filling snack. Eating an apple before a meal can help you feel fuller faster. Some studies have shown that people who eat an apple before a meal eat as much as 200 calories less during their meal.

The polyphenols, which create antioxidant effects in your body, can lower your blood pressure, help prevent Type 2 diabetes, aid in bone health even as you age, can help fight asthma, and potentially prevent cancer. The micronutrients act in a myriad of ways to help achieve all this.

While every apple variety contains nutrients and is a healthy choice for a snack or addition to a meal, each apple is slightly different in composition, and some are better than others, depending on the health benefits you are looking for. 

The top varieties vary depending on who you ask, but the consensus is that the Granny Smith and Red Delicious are the top two apples that provide the most complete nutrition. Granny Smiths are low in sugar, compared to other types, at only nine grams. They also are great sources of fiber. Red Delicious, and other red-pigmented apples are also rich in fiber and offer higher levels of antioxidant-packed polyphenols, because of their coloring. Honey Crisp apples, well-loved for their flavor, have a higher sugar content at 19 grams, but are known to keep their nutritional value for longer in storage than other varieties.

In addition to choosing the right apple, it’s important to consider where it came from and when it was picked. The longer an apple sits in storage or on a shelf, the more nutrients it loses and the less effective its health benefits will be. Freshly picked apples from a local source, especially if organic, will provide you with the best apple for your health. Furthermore, picking your own adds an element of physical activity. There are several local orchards that allow you to pick your own. Your local farmer’s market may also provide locally sourced apples during the season.

Local Orchards:

  • Apple Blossom Orchard and Market, Black Creek
  • Bauer’s Apple Shed, Hortonville
  • Hofacker’s Hillside Orchard, Appleton
  • Sprangers Orchard, Kaukauna
  • Star Orchard, Kaukauna

Ultimately, an apple a day may not keep the doctor away but making apples a regular addition to your diet may give you a healthy report at your next checkup.