An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

By Parul Kharod

We all have heard this saying! Is it really true? What do apples have that is so special? Fall is the season for apples. Let's learn more about this versatile nutritious fruit.

Origin of the phrase: Interestingly, this adage, thought to have originated from a Welsh proverb, was first printed in 1866 in an English magazine. Many variations of the phrase were in circulation around the turn of the 20th century. It was published in 1913 in the book Rustic Speech and Folklore by Elizabeth Wright in an old English dialect version, “Ait a happle avore gwain to bed, An' you'll make the doctor beg his bread".

Apples have several health benefits:

Antioxidants: Apples contain a variety of phytochemicals, including quercetin, catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid, all of which are strong antioxidants. Several studies have found an association between apple consumption and reduced risk of cancer, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. These flavonoids help inhibit inflammation and prevent plaque from forming on your artery walls. Apples also contain polyphenol epicatechin, which may lower blood pressure. The various polyphenols present in apples have been associated with lowering risk of cancer as they inhibit cancer cell proliferation and remove free radicals. Eating apples is also linked to a lower risk of diabetes, possibly due to their polyphenol antioxidant content.

Prebiotic Fiber: The fibers present in apples have been shown to help regulate blood sugars and thus lower risk of diabetes. The fiber present in apples also helps remove excess cholesterol and improve heart health. The soluble fiber pectin, present in apples helps improve gut health. Pectin is also fermented by beneficial bacteria in the colon, which produces short chain fatty acids that may play a role in the prevention of chronic diseases, including certain cancers and bowel disorders. The fibers can bind with toxins in the body and eliminate them from your system. Pectin can also provide relief from both constipation and diarrhea, depending on the body's needs.

Low Glycemic Index: Apples have low glycemic index. This combined with their high flavonoid content may help to improve insulin sensitivity which may help in preventing diabetes.

Apples have been shown to reduce risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Additionally, may help regulate immune responses and protect against asthma. A large study in more than 68,000 women found that those who ate the most apples had the lowest risk of asthma. Apples may also be good for the bones! Research shows that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in apples may help with bone density and strength. The plant compounds in apples, namely chlorogenic acid and catechin, may also protect the stomach lining. Apples may preserve neurotransmitters that may prevent memory loss, and thus help protect brain health.

Negative aspects

Apples & GI symptoms: Apples are very high in fructose, and may not be well tolerated by people with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Since people with IBS lack the enzyme to digest fructose, eating apples may cause GI issues such as burping, bloating, and gas.

Pesticides: Every year, the Environmental Working Group creates a list of the top 12 contaminated foods called the Dirty Dozen. Apples have been at the top of that list for the past several years. Commercially grown apples contain high levels of pesticide residues. Therefore, it is recommended to get organic apples if possible. If you do not have organic apples, then it may be a good idea to wash the apples either with a commercial fruit/vegetable wash solution, or with a baking soda solution.

Apples are extremely healthy and nutritious, and should be part of your diet, unless you have IBS. Apples are very versatile. They can be added to breakfast, or added to a salad, or cooked into a bread, muffin, or dessert.

Here's an easy recipe for a healthy breakfast:

Spiced Apple Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup water
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 medium apples, cored and diced
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. dried ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. salt


Grease the Instant Pot with non-stick spray. Combine all the ingredients. Close and lock the lid. Seal vent. Select Manual function; set timer for 5 minutes. Allow 10 to 15 minutes for pressure to build. Release pressure using the natural-release method. Stir and serve.

Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist and works as a Clinical Dietitian with Outpatient Nutrition Services at WakeMed Hospital in Cary and Raleigh. She can be reached at