We’ve all heard that old saying about an apple a day keeping the doctor away so often that it hardly registers anymore. But have you ever stopped to wonder how exactly apples might work their magic?
Science is beginning to reveal that the prebiotic fiber in apples plays a huge role in keeping us healthy—and that eating more fiber rich foods like apples can take your wellness to a whole new level.
What Are Prebiotics?
The probiotic good guys in your gut microbial community that work tirelessly to maintain your wellness are actually living entities—and like anything alive, they need to eat in order to thrive, multiply, and do their jobs properly.
So how can you feed your friendly flora? (Hint: No microscopic spoons required!) It turns out that the fiber found in most plant foods already contains the perfect nutrition for probiotics, so when you eat these foods, you’re also nourishing your probiotic friends. Foods that are rich in this fiber are known as prebiotics. And when it comes to prebiotic foods, apples are downright superheroes!
Apples and Your Gut
Hardly a day goes by without new news about the health benefits of yet another superfood. And while it’s exciting that there are so many natural, health-promoting fruits and veggies out there, the ones that get the most attention are often exotic, and well—a bit pricey.
Meanwhile, the humble, everyday apple is doing just as much (if not more!) good for microbial and overall health, without demanding any of the glory. Apples are rich in pectin and other important prebiotics, including polyphenols. This high prebiotic content makes apples a top gut balancing food—and when your gut is balanced, your entire body benefits!
Here’s what the latest research is telling us about the direct connection between apples and microbial makeup:
• While all types of apples are truly great for microbial health, if one superstar had to be named, it would be the tart, bright green Granny Smith variety, which contains the greatest amount of prebiotics among apples.2
Unlike many other superfoods, apples are easy to find just about anywhere—and they’re not only delicious, but very affordable as well! Keep in mind though that it’s the prebiotic fiber in apples that earns them their superfood status. This means that to reap the full benefits of apples, you need to eat the whole fruit rather than just down a glass of apple juice. If you prefer to drink your apples, you might want to try blending them into a smoothie, so none of the prebiotic power of this amazing wonderfood is lost.
Apple Health Benefits From Head to Toe
Because of their unique properties, apples have been found to encourage glowing, whole body wellness through both microbial and nutritional channels. Every time you eat an apple, all these parts of your body and mind will thank you:
• Heart: Eating apples improves the gut microbial community in a way that supports heart health, leaving you less likely to develop issues as you get older.3
• Blood vessels: The polyphenols and pectin in apples help keep blood flowing smoothly through all your arteries.4
• Breasts: Apple consumption encourages healthy breast tissue all the way down to the cellular level.5,6,7
• Stomach and intestines: Prebiotic apples give friendly flora the nutritional support they need to crowd out the types of bacteria you don’t want around. One of the unfriendly strains apples and apple peels have been shown to lower is H. pylori, which is associated with all kinds of unpleasant stomach issues.8 Apples also contain antioxidant compounds like procyanidin, which help keep your digestive tract cells behaving as they should, while soothing temporary inflammation and discomfort.9,10
• Brain: Antioxidant apples (and even apple juice!) have a protective effect on the brain to help maintain memory, cognition, and healthy brain tissue in later years.11,12,13
• Gums: Apples contain quercetin, which helps keep undesirable microbial strains under control for a balanced oral microbiome and strong, healthy gums.14,15
• Hair: The procyanidin found in apples encourages hair growth for full, healthy looking locks.16
There are countless yummy ways to elevate your wellness with apples! Slice them into salads, chop them into oatmeal, blend them in smoothies, oven bake them with cinnamon and grass fed butter, dip them in almond butter or natural yogurt, or add them to healthy cake, pie, muffin, or waffle recipes. And of course you can always just grab a whole apple and bite into its crisp goodness any time day or night.
Even with the best diet though, it can often be difficult to get all the prebiotics your microbial good guys are craving. So in addition to enjoying lots of apples and other fresh, healthy plant foods, you may want to also consider supplementing with an organic prebiotic powder.
When shopping for apples, look for varieties that are non-GMO and organic, since both chemical pesticides and GMOs harm your microbiome—counteracting some of the prebiotic and nutritional benefits you’d get otherwise. Since GMO apples won’t likely be labeled as such, here are some other ways to spot the new GMO varieties on your supermarket shelf:
• They may be labeled “Arctic” or “non-browning” apples.
• They may have PLU barcodes that begin with the number 8.
• Pre-sliced apples that aren’t turning brown are likely GMO.
Since organic produce can’t legally contain GMOs, your safest bet is simply to go with organic apples. And if in doubt on the source of your apple, your best bet is to peel it so you limit your consumption of unwanted pesticides.
Whether you like them red, pink, yellow, or green, if you’re ready to look and feel absolutely wonderful—without spending a fortune or making dramatic life changes—simply reach for an apple every day. Better yet, make that two or three!
1. Shinohara, K., Ohashi, Y., Kawasumi, K., Terada, A., & Fujisawa, T. (2010). Effect of apple intake on fecal microbiota and metabolites in humans. Anaerobe, 16(5), 510-515. doi:10.1016/j.anaerobe.2010.03.005
2. Condezo-Hoyos, L., Mohanty, I. P., & Noratto, G. D. (2014). Assessing non-digestible compounds in apple cultivars and their potential as modulators of obese faecal microbiota in vitro. Food Chemistry, 161, 208-215. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.03.122
3. Koutsos, A., Tuohy, K., & Lovegrove, J. (2015). Apples and Cardiovascular Health—Is the Gut Microbiota a Core Consideration? Nutrients, 7(6), 3959-3998. doi:10.3390/nu7063959
4. Auclair, S., Silberberg, M., Gueux, E., Morand, C., Mazur, A., Milenkovic, D., & Scalbert, A. (2008). Apple Polyphenols and Fibers Attenuate Atherosclerosis in Apolipoprotein E-Deficient Mice. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56(14), 5558-5563. doi:10.1021/jf800419s
5. Liu, R. H., Liu, J., & Chen, B. (2005). Apples Prevent Mammary Tumors in Rats. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 53(6), 2341-2343. doi:10.1021/jf058010c
6. Yang, S., Zhang, H., Yang, X., Zhu, Y., & Zhang, M. (2015). Evaluation of antioxidative and antitumor activities of extracted flavonoids from Pink Lady apples in human colon and breast cancer cell lines. Food & Function, 6(12), 3789-3798. doi:10.1039/c5fo00570a
7. Liu, J., Dong, H., Chen, B., Zhao, P., & Liu, R. H. (2009). Fresh Apples Suppress Mammary Carcinogenesis and Proliferative Activity and Induce Apoptosis in Mammary Tumors of the Sprague−Dawley Rat. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 57(1), 297-304. doi:10.1021/jf801826w
8. Pastene, E., Speisky, H., Troncoso, M., Alarcón, J., & Figueroa, G. (2009). In Vitro Inhibitory Effect of Apple Peel Extract on the Growth ofHelicobacter pyloriand Respiratory Burst Induced on Human Neutrophils. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 57(17), 7743-7749. doi:10.1021/jf9006592
9. Hibasami, H., Shohji, T., Shibuya, I., Higo, K., & Kanda, T. (2004). Induction of apoptosis by three types of procyanidin isolated from apple (Rosaceae Malus pumila) in human stomach cancer KATO III cells. International Journal of Molecular Medicine. doi:10.3892/ijmm.13.6.795
10. Denis, M., Roy, D., Yeganeh, P. R., Desjardins, Y., Varin, T., Haddad, N., … Levy, E. (2016). Apple peel polyphenols: a key player in the prevention and treatment of experimental inflammatory bowel disease. Clinical Science, 130(23), 2217-2237. doi:10.1042/cs20160524
11. Chan, A., & Shea, T. B. (2009). Dietary Supplementation with Apple Juice Decreases Endogenous Amyloid-β Levels in Murine Brain. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 16(1), 167-171. doi:10.3233/jad-2009-0959
12. Chan, A., Graves, V., & Shea, T. B. (2006). Apple juice concentrate maintains acetylcholine levels following dietary compromise. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 9(3), 287-291. doi:10.3233/jad-2006-9308
13. Tchantchou, F., Chan, A., Kifle, L., Ortiz, D., & Shea, T. B. (2005). Apple juice concentrate prevents oxidative damage and impaired maze performance in aged mice. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 8(3), 283-287. doi:10.3233/jad-2005-8306
14. Inaba, H., Tagashira, M., Kanda, T., Ohno, T., Kawai, S., & Amano, A. (2005). Apple- and Hop-Polyphenols Protect Periodontal Ligament Cells Stimulated With Enamel Matrix Derivative From Porphyromonas gingivalis. Journal of Periodontology, 76(12), 2223-2229. doi:10.1902/jop.2005.76.12.2223
15. Geoghegan, F., Wong, R., & Rabie, A. (2009). Inhibitory effect of quercetin on periodontal pathogensin vitro. Phytotherapy Research, n/a-n/a. doi:10.1002/ptr.3014
16. Kamimura, A., & Takahashi, T. (2002). Procyanidin B-2, extracted from apples, promotes hair growth: a laboratory study. British Journal of Dermatology, 146(1), 41-51. doi:10.1046/j.0007-0963.2001.04558.x
17. Conceição de Oliveira, M., Sichieri, R., & Sanchez Moura, A. (2003). Weight Loss Associated With a Daily Intake of Three Apples or Three Pears Among Overweight Women. Nutrition, 19(3), 253-256. doi:10.1016/s0899-9007(02)00850-x
18. Green, R. H. (1947). INHIBITION BY CERTAIN POLYSACCHARIDES OF HEMAGGLUTINATION AND OF MULTIPLICATION OF INFLUENZA VIRUS. Journal of Experimental Medicine, 86(1), 55-64. doi:10.1084/jem.86.1.55
19. Fluer, F.S., Men’shikov, D.D., Lazareva, E.B., Prokhorov, V., Vesnin, A.V. (2007) [Influence of various pectins on production of staphylococcal enterotoxins types A and B]. Zh Mikrobiol Epidemiol Immunobiol, (6):11-6
Roberta Pescow is a writer at Hyperbiotics and proud mom of two amazing and unique young men. Natural wellness is a subject she’s passionate about, so she loves sharing information that helps others discover all the ways probiotics support glowing health and well-being. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.