Posted on 22 June 2022
If you’re looking for superfoods to incorporate into your diet, you might at first think of the likes of beetroot, blueberries or ginger. However, research suggests you might want to consider the age-old adage about eating an apple every day.
New research is showing that eating apples (and particularly the skin) can have a significant impact on health. This is largely down to their flavonoid content. These are anti-oxidants found in apple skins that have been shown to have a variety of benefits. Apples are rich in triterpenoids, which can suppress inflammation and may even suppress cancer, and also contain probiotic fibre, which feeds the good bacteria in the gut.
These benefits aren’t just theoretical: numerous studies have found that regular apple consumption is associated with real health benefits and even increased life expectancy:
Some of these studies are observational in nature, which means that scientists observed the health of people who were already eating apples on a regular basis. This means we have to take them with a grain of salt, because people who choose to eat apples every day are likely to be making other healthy choices too, and might also be wealthier or better educated, which are all factors that are difficult to control for. Nevertheless, the combined evidence from large observational studies, small clinical trials and what we know about the health effects of flavonoids seems to point to apple consumption as an effective way to improve health and longevity.
Flavonoids are polyphenols, a type of chemical compound that can be found in a variety of plants. They’re particularly abundant in apple skin, and there are many different types. Plants produce flavonoids to protect themselves against cellular stress caused by sunlight and disease, and flavonoids appear to have similar protective properties when we eat them. Research also suggests that flavonoids can increase the production of nitric oxide, a molecule that is essential for keeping blood vessels healthy. This may explain the apparent effects of apple skin consumption on blood pressure.
Not all apple varieties have the same flavonoid content. According to research, Fuji apples have the highest known flavonoid content, though varieties like Red Delicious and Northern Spy come close. There’s also good news for fans of apple pie: cooking the apples does not appear to alter or destroy their flavonoids, so long as you keep the skin of course. Apple juice is a different story: though dependent on exactly how the juice is made, juicing of apples generally results in a decrease in flavonoid content.
So, the take home message is that fitting an apple a day into your diet could be an effective and enjoyable small step towards improving health and lifespan. Whatever you do, just don’t peel it!
Why apples keep the doctor away: https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/sites/gateway/files/Why%20apples%20keep%20the%20doctor%20away.pdf
'Apple a day' advice rooted in science: https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/711266
Apple intake and cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies: https://doi.org/10.1017/s136898001600032x
Comparison of the Effects of Blending and Juicing on the Phytochemicals Contents and Antioxidant Capacity of Typical Korean Kernel Fruit Juices: https://doi.org/10.3746%2Fpnf.2014.19.2.108
An Apple a Day: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0018gqq