Does an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away?
You can't skip the peel.
We've all heard (or even sang), "An apple a day keeps the doctor away!" The catchy adage was coined in 1913, but it was actually based on a Welsh rhyme approximately 149 years older than that: "Eat an apple on going to bed and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread."
While the old proverb is a cute reminder to nosh on the yummy fruit when hunger strikes, does it really reduce visits to the doctor?
According to a JAMA Internal Medicine study with a wonderfully apt name — "Association Between Apple Consumption and Physician Visits: Appealing the Conventional Wisdom That an Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away" — "Evidence does not support that an apple a day keeps the doctor away; however, the small fraction of U.S. adults who eat an apple a day do appear to use fewer prescription medications."
Even though you might not ditch your doc completely just by munching on apples daily, the favorite fall fruit are jam-packed with nutrients, vitamins, and water, making them a healthful snack option, ingredient, or garnish. The popular tree fruit definitely earns a spot in your lunch sack or in a basket on the kitchen counter.
To dig a little deeper, AllRecipes.com tapped experts to better understand the nutritional benefits behind the fresh fruit.
1. Apples keep your smile healthy
Turns out, the fruit is ideal to pack with your brown-bag lunch. Why? It's nature's toothbrush, of course. Leslie Young, MS, RD and a faculty member for Nutrition Health Sciences at Purdue University Global tells Allrecipes.com that apples come in handy if you need to clean your teeth, but don't have a toothbrush and paste at the ready.
"When you bite into an apple, the tough and spongy texture begins to remove plaque that often clings to teeth in between meals and routine brushing times," Young says. She also notes that the production of saliva is triggered while munching on the simple carbohydrate: "After eating an apple, the remaining saliva continues to coat and protect tooth enamel."
2. Apples are good for your peepers
Eating apples assists with keeping your vision in check. Fujis, Cortlands, Empires, and all of the other varieties you hand-picked in the orchard this Autumn, contain a considerable amount of vitamin A. This nutrient helps bolster the eye's surface, mucous membranes, and skin around the eye so they can act as barriers to bacteria and viruses that could set up as an eye infection if given the chance. But that's not all.
"Most people might be surprised to learn that cholesterol can build up in the blood vessels of your retina, increasing the risk of damage to your eye," Dr. Christine Joy, a VSP Network Doctor tells Allrecipes.com "Because apples contain antioxidants and pectin, they help to reduce inflammation and LDL cholesterol levels."
3. Apples promote better digestion
Apples are an excellent source of fiber, sorbitol, and fructose, which all help with digestion. (That's why it's a good idea to start your day with an oatmeal apple muffin.) Additionally, the popular fruit has a high-water content, which works in your favor to prevent constipation and uncomfortable bloating — that's great news for your tummy.
"The fiber found in apples helps to improve digestion by serving as a prebiotic source for gut bacteria," Dana Peters, RD tells Allrecipes.com. She explains, prebiotics are fibers found in foods that your "good gut" bacteria use to grow and thrive, plus push out the bad bacteria. "All of this helps food to move smoothly through the digestive system, adding bulk to stool, making it easier to pass," she adds.
4. Apples promote heart health
Chomping on apples halts lipid peroxidation (the oxidation of fats). This lowers the risk of chronic heart problems, including cardiovascular disease. Peters says apples may help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
"Apples contain a soluble fiber called pectin, which absorbs water as it moves through the lower portion of the digestive tract creating a gel-like substance. As it moves through the digestive system, soluble fiber also binds with cholesterol carrying it out of the body, making it one possible way to reduce cholesterol through dietary patterns," Peters says.
That's not all. Apples contain a good amount of potassium, which can be beneficial for those who are watching their blood pressure. All the more reason to whip up a healthy apple walnut salad with cranberries this fall.
5. Apples can help you breathe better
The skin of an apple is brimming with an antioxidant called quercetin, which may protect your lungs from pollutants. In fact, research suggests that quercetin might be an effective antihistamine because it restricts histamine from being released from cells.
These anti-allergy properties indicate that quercetin might help treat bronchitis and asthma, too. Plus, a study from St. George's Hospital Medical School in London found that people who eat five or more apples a week have better lung function than those who don't.
What does this mean for you? An apple a day ... is a good idea! Remember, this holiday season when you're prepping the apple pie, nosh on apple peels instead of tossing them out!