An Apple a Day:
The Health Benefits of the Apple

By R. Alan Clanton, Thursday Review editor

Once, many years ago, after an overnight visit to an aunt and uncle in Saluda, North Carolina (near Hendersonville), I woke up early and drove roughly northeast through the lush, mountain landscape on my way to the interstate highway and eventually to New York City—which was a very long drive.

Much of that day on the road was forgettable even then—and 17 years later I recall very little of it, save for the beauty of Virginia in late morning and the stunning colors of the Philadelphia skyline in early evening. Still, one fact of that long drive remains indelible and vivid: the brief period of back roads through vast apple orchards in North Carolina, the scent of which—in the clear, cool, misty mountain air was perhaps the sweetest smell I had ever encountered. Though I was pressed for time that day, I succumbed to the aroma and stopped my car at a small produce market along a narrow state highway. I bought two apples, one of which I ate in the car as I drove through North Carolina. The other I ate much later that day somewhere along the New Jersey turnpike.

I drove over 700 miles that day to reach my cousin’s home on Long Island, and I still remember the exuberant flavor of those two apples—which, by my own design perhaps—had saved me at least some of the negative effects of eating junk food while driving.

A single apple contains nearly 15% of the vitamin C an adult needs in a single day. Apples are also a surprisingly good source of fiber, with 4 grams per apple. And, for a sweet snack, the apple is surprisingly easy on the calorie intake, at about 95-to-100 calories for a medium-sized apple.

But that vitamin C alone may be worth the trouble of biting into a whole apple—or, if you prefer, dicing it, cubing it, or slicing it—for vitamin C is a reliable immune-system enhancer, and one of the few minerals and vitamins for which there is no overdose level. Your body rejects what it does not need and puts the rest to immediate use throughout the day.

Doctors and diet experts have long said that Americans do not eat enough fresh fruit or vegetables, but one medium-sized apple—equaling roughly one cup of fruit content—takes the average person halfway along their recommended requirement of two cups per day. And, as with other high fiber foods, researchers think that the soluble fiber content may go a long way toward reducing risk of stomach or colon cancer.

Apples, which are high in antioxidants, may have other benefits as well, including weight loss and reducing the markers for potential heart disease. Several major studies in the U.S. and in other countries seem to indicate that a higher-than-average intake of apples measurably lowers a person’s risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems—a benefit the researchers believe derives from the antioxidants.

There is also evidence that apples may reduce the risk of kidney-stones, and, to add to the list of benefits, some studies have suggested that an intake of at least five apples per week greatly reduces symptoms of some respiratory problems—such as asthma and outdoor allergies. Who would have thought that?

Your grandmother was right, though she may have misquoted the original 19th Century expression: eat an apple when time for bed—you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.

Related Thursday Review articles:

The Sweet News About Peaches; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review.

The Tiny, Incredible, Edible Blueberry; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; September 9, 2015.