Apples are so commonplace that one no longer even thinks about whether they are really as healthy as the saying One apple a day keeps the doctor away suggests. At the same time, apples are grossly underestimated.
Apples reduce the risk of disease
Many scientific studies confirm again and again that a diet that contains a lot of fruit and vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of chronic diseases. The reason for this preventive effect of fruit and vegetables lies in the high content of the so-called phytochemicals (secondary plant substances).
These include, for example, polyphenols, flavonoids, and carotenoids. In the apple, there are from these groups z. B. the quercetin, catechin, kaempferol, hesperetin, myricetin, and phloridzin – all powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects.
No wonder epidemiological studies always show connections between the consumption of apples and a reduced risk of cancer, asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disorders. Yes, the latter substance – phloridzin – seems to also protect against a loss of bone density, as initial studies have shown, and can therefore make an important contribution to the prevention of osteoporosis.
However, the composition of the active substances varies greatly depending on the apple variety (see also below “Which apple variety is the best”). The composition also changes during the ripening process, so unripe apples provide different plant substances than ripe ones. Storage also has an effect on phytochemical content, but to a lesser extent than processing into compotes, applesauce, or cooked juices. You should therefore never boil apples.
Apples and their health benefits
Apples should be on the daily menu – especially during the autumn harvest season: They help you lose weight, prevent asthma, protect against cancer, cleanse the liver, restore the intestinal flora, and are good for the brain – to name just a small selection of all of them to present positive apple effects.
Apples help with weight loss
When it comes to weight loss, you should definitely give preference to whole apples. They help you lose weight better than apple juice. Eat a medium-sized apple as a starter, about 15 minutes before the main meal. The effect is not huge, but it definitely contributes to your weight loss success. It was found that you save at least 60 kcal.
In the corresponding study, the test persons left 15 percent less of the main meal after the apple starter. Since the meals in this study contained around 1240 kcal, it was 186 kcal less than was consumed. The calories from the apple (which had 120 kcal in the present study) are then subtracted from this so that the 60 kcal mentioned remains.
Processed apple forms (sauce and juice) did not produce comparable results in this study.
A Brazilian study reported in the March 2003 issue of Nutrition also found that eating apples (and also pears) resulted in weight loss in overweight people. 400 women were divided into three groups. One group ate a portion of oatmeal biscuits three times a day in addition to normal meals (an effect was expected due to the oat-typical fiber they contain), the second an apple three times a day, and the third a pear three times a day – each for 12 weeks.
The apple and pear groups each lost 1.2 kilograms, the oatmeal group did not lose any weight. The two fruit groups also had healthier blood sugar levels than the oatcake group after the 12 weeks.
Apples and apple juice prevent lung diseases
According to a Finnish study of 10,000 men and women from 2002, people who regularly eat apples or drink apple juice suffer from asthma much less frequently – and also heart diseases.
The study showed that the more quercetin (one of the flavonoids in apples) a person consumed, the lower the mortality rate from heart disease. Quercetin also reduced the risk of developing lung cancer and type 2 diabetes, while reducing the risk of stroke when the diet was rich in kaempferol, naringenin, and hesperetin – all flavonoids are also known to be found in apples.
A similar finding was found in an Australian study of 1,600 adults. Those who ate a lot of apples and pears did not develop asthma as often and had stronger bronchial tubes.
Apples and apple juice protect the liver
Apples and naturally cloudy apple juice are a kind of protective elixir for the liver. According to a study from March 2015, it is probably primarily the polyphenols in the apple (the oligomeric procyanidins) that have a strong chemopreventive effect and can therefore protect against chemicals that are toxic to the liver.
Other studies have shown that the polyphenols in apples can protect against oxidative stress and thus the mitochondria (the powerhouses of our cells) from damage. The apple polyphenols also do this when, for example, painkillers are taken that would normally damage the liver and intestinal cells. Indomethacin is one such pain reliever. Now, depending on the dose of the drug and the number of apples, of course, apples can protect the liver and intestines from this drug.
At the same time, apples help the intestinal flora to maintain a healthy balance, which in turn relieves the liver. In the case of a diseased intestine, on the other hand, digestion is sluggish and numerous toxic substances are produced in the intestine, which then travels through the blood to the liver for detoxification. The cleansing of the intestines is therefore always one of the first steps if you want to do something good for the liver – and apples or apple juice obviously help with this.
Apples and apple juice are good for the gut
According to some scientists, the described influence of apples on the intestine is one of the main reasons why apples have such good effects on health. They believe that apples have such a positive effect on health because they help to restore intestinal flora. Because the intestinal flora is known to be the place where a large part of the immune system is located. If the immune system is strong and the intestines healthy, then hardly any disease can develop.
What makes the apple so gut-friendly is probably the combination of flavonoids, polyphenols, and fiber (e.g. pectin). Studies have shown that after eating an apple, the amount of short-chain fatty acids in the intestine increases, a sign that the intestinal bacteria are converting the fiber in the apple into those fatty acids.
On the one hand, apples provide food for the intestinal flora and, on the other hand, they ensure good regeneration and care of the intestinal mucosa, because the resulting short-chain fatty acids are used by the intestinal mucosa cells in particular as energy suppliers.
Apples and apple juice keep the brain healthy
Anyone who likes to drink naturally cloudy apple juice (daily) can also reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s. According to researchers in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2009, apple juice is said to inhibit the formation of beta-amyloid in the brain. Beta-amyloids are deposits that are also known as “senile plaque” and are associated with dementia.
And even if Alzheimer’s is already diagnosed, apples and apple juice should be part of the diet. Then regular consumption of apples can lead to an improvement in the behavior of the patient – according to another study.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, USA, had found that consuming a quarter liter of apple juice per day (divided into two portions and drunk for four weeks) in people with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease improved their behavior and also their psychological symptoms by almost 30 percent. Especially fears, nervousness, and delusions improved.
Apples and fructose
Apples are considered to be very fructose-rich fruits – and fructose is known to be not as good for health as we have described here and here. But the apple example shows once again very well that a substance is not bad per se, it is more important in what form and of course in what quantity you take it.
So if you consume fructose in a concentrated and isolated form in soft drinks, concentrated juices, or sweets, it can be harmful.
By consuming the natural fruit or its natural juice, on the other hand, this harmful effect does not appear to appear. The cocktail of all the other – very healthy substances – prevents fructose from causing damage. On the contrary. It may even be that fructose has a beneficial effect here.
Of course, you shouldn’t live off apple juice alone and drink it by the liter. In the studies mentioned, the subjects never consumed more than 250 ml of high-quality apple juice per day and experienced extremely positive effects despite this small amount.
Which apple variety is the best?
There are thousands of apple varieties—old and new. The new ones are often huge, immaculate, and last for weeks in the supermarket. Their taste is mostly sweet and mild, often bland. But the old varieties still taste like an apple should taste: aromatic, spicy and sweet, and sour, sometimes also tart or lemony.
They thrive less in orchards than in the good old meadow orchard. They require fewer pesticides (if any) and are more resistant to disease. Your yield is less calculable, there are good years and not-so-good ones.
Are new varieties better?
It is often said that new breeds are richer in vitamin C. Braeburn, for example, contains 20 mg of vitamin C per 100 g, while a “normal” apple only provides around 12 mg of vitamin C. As if vitamin C were the measure of all things – especially since the difference of 8 mg is not particularly relevant in view of the vitamin C requirement of ideally 500 mg daily (officially it is only 100 mg).
If you want to supply yourself with vitamin C, then you think less about the apple. You eat citrus fruits (50 mg of vitamin C), broccoli (115 mg), cauliflower (70 mg), red peppers (120 mg), kohlrabi (60 mg), and many other vegetables and salads, but not necessarily an apple.
With apples, vitamin C is completely irrelevant. As we have seen above, it is its secondary plant substances in particular that make it so valuable – and not the vitamin C. However, when it comes to polyphenols, the old apple varieties are much better equipped than the new breeds.
Old apple varieties are healthier
Apples need polyphenols to protect themselves from fungal infections and insect infestation. Modern apple varieties that grow in plantations and are sprayed 20 times a year against fungal infections and insects hardly need any self-protection and therefore only produce a few polyphenols. The old apple varieties are completely different. They are (if from organic cultivation) largely dependent on themselves and are therefore also rich in these very special substances that are beneficial to humans.
Only a few investigations or analyzes have been carried out in this regard. In a study, however, the red apples of the Idared variety were found to be particularly rich in polyphenols.
It can also be assumed that apples with a rather tart taste, i.e. those with a higher tannin content, also contain more polyphenols. The tart apple varieties include, for example, the Boskoop and the Cox Orange, the Reinette, the Goldparmäne, and the Gewürzluiken. At the same time, these apples are of course much less likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues.
You will most likely no longer find these types of apples in the supermarket. But maybe at the next vegetable market, in the organic market, or directly from the farmer who still tends his orchards.
Plant an old apple variety in the garden
If you have a garden and want to plant an apple tree, then choose an old variety of apples. You will find a wide selection at specialized nurseries and can choose a variety that has been particularly well adapted to the soil conditions and climate in your region for centuries. You can also find special tree nurseries under the term “Urobst” on the Internet, which even have ungrafted, i.e. not grafted, apple trees in their range.
Ungrafted means that the apple tree has been grown from seed and you can grow trees from the cores of your apples that will always bear the same apple variety. On the other hand, if you put an apple seed from a Granny Smith in the ground, it would grow into an apple tree, but it would not yield Granny apples, but completely different apples.
Apple allergy: Old apple varieties are often tolerated
The polyphenols mentioned in the previous paragraph, which characterize old apple varieties and have been bred from modern apple varieties, protect against allergies, so that people with apple allergies often tolerate the old apple varieties well, e.g. B. Roter Boskoop, Goldparmäne, Reinetten, Ontario, Santana, Danziger Kantapfel, Kaiser Wilhelm, etc. However, since every allergy sufferer reacts differently, tolerance must be tested very carefully.
Eliminate apple allergy with apple therapy
70 percent of those allergic to birch pollen are also allergic to apples, so the apple allergy can also represent a cross-allergy. Because the birch pollen allergen (Betv1) has a similar structure to the apple allergen (Mald1).
However, in 2020, the Limburg research center in Bozen/South Tyrol was able to identify apple varieties that showed little or no allergic potential. To this end, various apple varieties were tested on allergic volunteers in clinics in Bolzano and Innsbruck. The study was so successful that it was even possible to develop the so-called apple therapy.
In this therapy, apple allergy sufferers eat apples with a low allergy potential, such as apples, for three months. B. Red Moon – a red-fleshed apple variety that is brand new but has a high polyphenol content. Anthocyanins, which are among the polyphenols, color the flesh of these apples red, not just the skin. Anthocyanins also turn red cabbage red or the skin of aubergines dark purple.
Then apples with a medium allergy potential are eaten for three months, e.g. B.Pink Lady. Finally, apples with a high allergy potential, such as apples, are eaten for at least nine months. B. Golden Delicious or Gala.
After this therapy, the participants were suddenly able to tolerate apples very well without developing any allergic symptoms. They were now able to tolerate other fruits, apples, and vegetables to which they had previously been allergic due to cross allergies. Yes, they even showed a lot fewer hay fever symptoms in the spring than in previous years, so the apple therapy can apparently also treat the underlying birch pollen allergy.
How do you eat apples – whole or as juice? With or without a shell?
When eating apples, it is important that you always buy crunchy fruits from organic cultivation. Experience has shown that dull apples are fresher and tastier than fruits with shiny skin.
Always eat apples with the skin, because the skin contains most of the polyphenols, flavonoids, vitamins, and fiber. Only vitamin C is found in larger amounts in the flesh than in the peel.
Of course, for the same reason, eating the fruit whole or blending it into the smoothie is better than drinking juice. Because when juicing, many of the valuable ingredients are lost. As mentioned above, it is best to always eat apples raw, i.e. do not overcook them into mush or compote.
If you choose the juice, then it should definitely be unfiltered, i.e. naturally cloudy apple juice. Juice from concentrate is out of the question. Instead, choose an organic not-from-concentrate juice, as this has been processed and treated as little as possible and therefore has a significantly higher active ingredient content.
Of course, it would be even better if you always made your apple juice fresh at home. Then it is not pasteurized, which is always the case with store-bought juices – whether direct juice or not.
Apple juice – homemade
With a high-quality juicer (not a centrifugal juicer), you can easily press your apple juice yourself, e.g. like this:
Apple Ginger Juice
- 2 large or 3 small apples
- ½ beetroot
- 1 small piece of ginger
- 1 slice of organic lemon with peel
Core the apples and – just like the beetroot – cut them into manageable pieces to fit in the juicer. Put everything (including ginger and lemon) in the juicer and enjoy the refreshing and extremely healthy apple juice.