Ask Our Nutritionist
Q. Is it true that apples may help lower cholesterol?
Yes, it is true that apples have been found to lower cholesterol. When researchers study what people eat and relate this to their health, they have often found those who eat more apples have a lower risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease so a logical next step was to see if eating apples could improve blood cholesterol levels. In particular, scientists concentrated on researching the phytonutrients know as polyphenols, many of which act as antioxidants, and are thought to be responsible for the health benefits of apples. The research found that people who consumed apple polyphenols (the equivalent of three apples a day) had lower cholesterol compared to those who didn’t.
Q. Are apples low in GI?
The GI of apples range from 28-44, well within the low GI range. This makes apples a great snack or meal time choice for a healthy low GI diet.
Low glycemic index (GI) foods provide sustained energy to keep blood glucose levels steady and hunger at bay. Eating a diet containing more low GI foods has been shown to lower risk for type 2 diabetes, assist in maintaining a healthy body weight and protect the heart.
Q. How many apples do I need to eat for good health?
For good health, we all should aim to eat at least two pieces of fruit each day (along with five serves of vegetables). Human research on apples and blood cholesterol have shown that apple antioxidants in daily amounts equivalent to what would come from three whole apples can lower blood cholesterol levels (see Is it true that apples may help lower cholesterol? above for details). But, other health benefits such as hunger control, protection from type 2 diabetes and healthier lungs may all be achieved by just one apple a day according to research surveys.
The important thing to remember when eating apples is to make sure you keep the skin on because this is where apples keep most of their health protective plant compounds.
Q: Is it only the apple antioxidants that provides health benefits?
Apple phytonutrients known as antioxidants are thought to be responsible for many of the health effects of apples. However the pectin in apples, a soluble type of fibre, is thought to aid digestion and gastrointestinal health. An apple’s low GI, low kilojoules and slow to eat crunchy texture are believed to keep hunger at bay and kilojoules down, and so help with weight control.
Q: What’s the best way to eat an apple for the most health benefits?
Apples are best eaten fresh with their skin on. Research shows apples eaten this way can keep you fuller for longer – likely due to their filling but slow to eat crunchy texture. Plus measurements of antioxidant content reveal apple peel can have up to three times the antioxidant content of apple flesh alone. It’s these important antioxidant compounds that scientists think are the reason for the healthy benefits enjoyed by regular apple eaters. So don’t let them go to waste; eat your apples peel and all.
Q: Are apples good to include in my diet if I am looking to lose weight?
When you need to control your weight, balance between diet and exercise is crucial. Ensuring you get your two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables is a good start to getting your diet in better shape. Apples are an inexpensive, low kilojoule, fibre rich, low GI food that has the science to back up its benefits.
Apples have been shown to reduce kilojoule intake when eaten before a meal, extend the time it takes you to feel hungry when eaten as a snack and assist with greater weight loss when eaten three times a day as part of a weight loss diet compared with an oat based snack of equivalent energy value.
Q: Do apples retain their nutrients during storage?
The nutritional value of all fresh produce falls the moment it is picked. However, correct storage can delay and even halt this decline in nutrition – that’s why Australian apples are placed in refrigerated storage as soon as they are harvested.
Recent research on the effects of storage on antioxidants in apples tells us that apples stored correctly can retain or even increase in antioxidant capacity.
To keep your apples fresh and maintain their nutritional value, we recommend you buy your fruit from suppliers that return their produce to the cool store each night. When you bring your apples home, store them in the fridge, removing just a few each day for eating if you prefer them at room temperature.
Q: What is the best variety of apple in terms of antioxidants?
All apples are good sources of antioxidants, especially if you eat them fresh with the skin on. Eating the skin is important as this is where the bulk of the apple’s antioxidants can be found.
Antioxidants are often associated with the colour pigments of fruit and vegetables – beta carotene is the yellow of carrots and pumpkins, lycopene is the red in tomatoes and watermelon and anthocyanin is the purple in berries. Research suggests apples that are darker, redder and bluer will have a more antioxidant rich, nutritious peel. However, as all apples are rich in antioxidants, the variety you enjoy and are most likely to eat, is really the best one for you.
Q. Does cooking affect the antioxidant content?
As the bulk of the antioxidants in apples are found in the skin, if you need to peel your fruit before you cook it, the antioxidant losses will be significant.
There is little specific research on apple antioxidants and cooking, but research on a range of fresh produce shows that antioxidant content is best preserved with cooking methods that don’t involve the use of large amounts of water. This is because many antioxidants will dissolve into water and are then lost, if the water is not part of what you ultimately consume. So, fresh will always be best but if you have to cook your apples try to keep the skin on and use minimal water if possible. Perhaps opt for cooking by microwaving, steaming, baking or grilling.
Karen loves good food and has a passion for fresh produce. A dietitian for more than 16 years - and a nutrition consultant and freelance nutrition writer for the past ten - Karen strives to share her knowledge to help others enjoy the healthy benefits of great tasting food that can bring pleasure and wellbeing to life.
As a busy working mum of two, Karen also understands the challenges of preparing healthy food for a family and believes that with a little knowledge, you can walk the fine line between convenience and good nutrition.
Karen’s spokesperson role with Aussie Apples is one that draws on her food passions and personal experience. An affordable fruit, apples are a staple that has always featured highly on Karen’s shopping list, with family favourites covering everything from Grannies to Galas.
Karen consults to the food industry and is the author of the healthy cookbooks Eat Well Live Well With - Growing Children and Eat Well Live Well With - High Cholesterol (Murdoch Books). Karen was also the consulting nutrition expert to best seller Baby & Toddler Food (Murdoch Books) and nutrition features writer for Practical Parenting Magazine.