When it comes to the best fruits for you, apples seem to be the gold standard. I mean you've heard it before—an apple a day…yeah yeah, you know the rest. But how many calories, exactly, are in an apple—and is that staple your mom packed in your school lunch really that great for you?
Well, it turns apples really do live up to the hype. Can you hear your mom saying, "I told you so?" When it comes to healthy snacks, it doesn’t get much better than apples. They’re loaded with vitamins, have a pretty long shelf life compared to other produce, and are super easy to pop into your bag on the go. “Apples are the second most consumed fruit, behind bananas, for a reason," says Alex Caspero, registered dietitian and author at Delish Knowledge. "They are generally inexpensive, portable, healthy, and delicious.”
Plus, since apples come in a ton of different varieties—way beyond the Red Delicious and Granny Smith kinds you ate as a kid—you'll probably find something your taste buds will totally love. The flavor profiles of apples range from tart and crisp, to sweet with a little crunch, to tangy, and then some.
Whichever you're preference, though, it's typically healthiest to eat your apples in their purest form—as a fruit, says registered dietitan Erin Palinski-Wade. "Eating raw apples is a great way to take advantage of their full nutrient benefits and fiber. Although eating apples in dessert form, such as apple pie, can still provide nutritional value, it also incorporates a large amount of added sugar which can be damaging to health." That doesn't mean you can't have those apple turnovers you love, but it's best to have them in moderation.
So before you set your next apple-picking date (at the farm or supermarket), here's what you should know about the treasured fruit.
How many calories are in an apple?
As far as calories go, you'll find 95 in a medium apple, according to the USDA. But the fruit has a lot of other things going on for you nutritionally, too. Here's how a medium apple stacks up with the skin on:
Fat: 0 g
Carbohydrates: 25 g
Sugars: 19 g
Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 0 g
If that sugar count makes you do a double take, consider this: The sugar you'd get in an apple is not the same as, say, the 21 grams of sugar you'd get in a Kit Kat bar, says Caspero.
“Fiber is nature's way of controlling blood sugar levels, which is why it's found in fruits and vegetables,” says Caspero. “Fiber helps to slow down digestion, which prevents blood sugar spikes like you would get from an equal amount of the sugar in candy.”
To regulate those blood sugar spikes even more, Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, offers a sneaky—and delicious—strategy: “Provide what I call ‘competition for digestion’ by pairing your apple with a fat or protein. A perfect example is an apple with no-added-sugar peanut butter.” This clever pairing helps your body process the sugar slower to give you sustained energy and fuel. Bonus: The vitamin C in apples helps you better absorb the iron in nut butters, helping you get the most out of your snack.
What else do I need to know about the nutrition in an apple?
Eating just one medium apple will earn you 14 percent of your daily value of vitamin A, and 11 percent of your daily value of vitamin C (not shabby). Antioxidants (like vitamins C and A) in apples help prevent excessive free radical damage, says Caspero. Staving off these free radicals (a.k.a. unstable atoms in your body) can help reduce aging and risk of illness.
Apples come in a range of stunning hues, and if you tend to gravitate toward the darker ones, you’re in for an antioxidant-rich treat, according to Kirkpatrick. Deep-pigmented peels on fruits like apples contain anthocyanins, a form of antioxidants that slow down oxidative stress and ward against disease. Keep in mind that you’ll only reap the majority of these benefits if you keep the skin on, so avoid peeling your mid-afternoon snack.
What’s more, the high fiber content in apples means they serve up a healthy dose of prebiotics (undigestible fiber that the "good" bacteria in your gut eat). "Prebiotics may improve gastrointestinal health as well as potentially enhance calcium absorption,” says Caspero.
What are the health benefits of eating apples?
1) They help manage weight.
Because apples are full of fiber that can help you feel fuller for longer, they're a great fruit to help keep your weight steady. A study from the Journal of Functional Foods found that regular apple consumption has been linked to lower lipid levels and a reduced risk of obesity. Caspero explains that “Eating high-fiber snacks [like apples] has been shown to aid in satiation and therefore can decrease overall calorie consumption during the day." Both of these factors mean that they can help contribute to weight management.
2) They keep your heart healthy.
According to Palinski-Wade, “apples are rich in the compound quercetin, which has been shown to reduce inflammation while fighting against heart disease and hypertension.”
3) They do keep the doctor away.
It turns out there’s some truth to the old adage. In a large study from JAMA Internal Medicine, participants who ate at least one small apple per day required fewer doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription medications than those who didn’t eat apples.
How much should you eat?
If you're all for their satisfying crunch and sweetness, you might be tempted to have an apple or two everyday, and in most cases that's fine.
But if you’re diabetic, you should take precautions with apples, as you would any other high-sugar fruit. “In my diabetic patients, I often limit fruit to no more than three to four servings a day,” says Kirkpatrick, adding that a serving is equal to a handful of produce, or half of a large apple or a whole small apple.
In general though, Kirkpatrick says to avoid getting “bogged down with the numbers,” since she advises her patients to freely reach for high-quality fruits for a snack or dessert, no matter the type. “After all, fruit consumption has been linked to better overall health, including mental health,” she says.
How to incorporate apples into your diet.
This super-versatile fruit works wonders in every dish, no matter the time of day. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa
Oatmeal fatigue is a real thing, so switch it up with some hearty quinoa topped with juicy apple slices.
Per serving: 316 calories, 8 g fat (1 g saturated), 53 g carbs, 35 mg sodium, 20 g sugar, 6 g fiber, 9 g protein
Lunch: Quick Spiralized Apple Kimchi Salad With Beef
It only looks complicated because of the pretty ribbons of fresh apple and cucumber. If you don’t have a spiralizer, they taste great shredded or julienned, too.
Per serving: 305 calories, 11 g fat (4 g saturated), 29 g carbs, 400 mg sodium, 11 g sugar, 6 g fiber, 23 g protein
Snack: Slow-Cooker Skinny Apple Sauce
There’s no need to wait for chili night to whip out the slow-cooker. With a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, the slow-cooker brings any apple variety to life.
Per serving: 89 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 23 g carbs, 2 mg sodium, 17 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 0 g protein
Dinner: Broiled Wild Salmon with Cherry Apple Chutney
The fat-soluble vitamins in apples pair perfectly with unsaturated fat-rich salmon. Hello, heart health.
Per serving: 235 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated), 17 g carbs, 242 mg sodium, 15 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 30 g protein
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