How about them apples?

The adage ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ has been around for a long time (apparently since the 1800s!), but what’s the skinny today on the health benefits of apples, especially with so many varieties available? Baylor College of Medicine dietitian Sarah Mahlke dishes up some tips.

What’s in an apple?

Many shining red apples placed close togetherApples are rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber but it’s the soluble fiber that is beneficial in reducing LDL, or bad, cholesterol and may also help reduce constipation. Apples contain carbohydrates that promote gut health. Apples also are beneficial for immunity since gut health and immunity are closely related.

Rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, apples should be eaten with the skin on, because that is where those nutrients are found, along with most of the insoluble fiber.

“Without the skin, you’ll lose nutrients, including the antioxidant compounds that keep free radicals from causing cellular damage that is linked to heart disease, cancer and other diseases,” said Mahlke, a registered dietitian and bariatric surgery program manager in the Department of Surgery at Baylor.

Don’t think that because of the carbs that apples are off limits to people with diabetes. In fact, research has shown that consumption of apples may lead to a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Some studies suggest eating an apple before a meal may improve glycemic response.

Plus, apples may be beneficial for weight control since the fiber keeps you full so you’re not snacking all day.

How to eat an apple

Red or green does not matter, Mahlke said. “Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith – they contain similar nutrients as long as the skin is on,” she said.

Many people cook apples in ways that involve plenty of added sugar, like apple pies and apple sauce, so that is something to be mindful of, she said. Dehydrated apples also lose some of their beneficial nutrients.

“You can’t go wrong with fresh skin-on apples. I love a Honeycrisp apple – they are a perfect blend of sweet and tart.”

Also be sure to always wash apples and other produce before eating, she said.

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