Fresh apples (Malus domestica) are rich in phytonutrients, which have many health benefits. Phytonutrients are not only found in apple flesh, but also in the core and peel. Apple peel contains a concentration of phytonutrients that is up to five times higher than the flesh.
A crisp, juicy apple is an ideal snack; it is robust, refreshing, provides energy, and can be taken anywhere. Fresh apples are one of the most popular fruits in the world. They can be eaten in so many different ways: juiced, dried, blended in a smoothie, pureed into applesauce, chopped up and added to fruit salads or savory salads, and made into desserts.
Apples are ideal for home canning as they have a high pectin content, which acts as a natural preservative and gelling agent. Apple compote, apple puree, and apple jelly are typical examples of how apples can be preserved after boiling. Apples are also a popular ingredient in soups and go well with pumpkin. And they are a key ingredient of many baking recipes, going particularly well with cinnamon. Popular baked goods with apples include apple tart, sunken apple cake, apple pie, apple tart, apple crumble, and of course apple strudel.4
In vegan cooking, apple puree is a welcome substitute for eggs and a natural sweetener for cakes and pastries, especially for muffins and cakes that are made from a moist batter. You can replace one egg with 80 g of applesauce. The apple flavor almost completely disappears when cooked.
The German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety shows that apples are at most only slightly contaminated with toxic chemicals and often do not contain any harmful substances. Washing apples with warm water and wiping them thoroughly with a cloth before eating is nonetheless recommended. This ensures that any chemical residues are removed. You can also avoid synthetic pesticide residue by buying certified organic apples.1
Tangy, young leaves from apple trees can be harvested in April while the leaf stalks are still soft. They can be added to chopped herb mixtures and sauces, as well as used dried as tea. From April to May (Northern Hemisphere), apple blossoms make for great decorations, as well as for flavoring food and tea.2
Apples are an ingredient in the gluten-free, raw vegan Erb Muesli. The muesli not only contains bananas, vitamin C-rich citrus fruits, and berries with antioxidants, it also calls for pseudograins, seeds, and golden millet. You can also try Erb Muesli with Rolled Oats.
First dissolve a cube of fresh yeast in 100 mL lukewarm oat milk (sweetened with 1 teaspoon of sugar) and leave to stand for about a quarter of an hour. To make the dough, melt 100 g margarine in 150 mL oat milk on the stove and knead in a mixing bowl with 500 g whole wheat flour, 60 g sugar, a pinch of salt, and the yeast until it forms a smooth dough. While the dough rises, toast 150 g chopped walnuts in a pan (without oil or fat), add 1–2 grated apples, some sugar, and cinnamon, and fry until some of the apple juice has evaporated. Roll out the yeast dough and cut into 10 x 10 cm squares, fill each with 1 tablespoon of the apple and walnut mixture and fold at the corners. Bake at 200 °C for about 20–25 minutes.
Cut 450 g cored apples, 50 g beets, and a quarter of a lemon into small pieces and puree. Season the fruit puree with 1 tablespoon maple syrup, a little cinnamon, and a pinch of salt, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves. Spread the fruit puree evenly on a baking tray lined with baking paper and sprinkle with coconut flakes. Leave the fruit puree to dry for at least half a day at about 50 °C with the oven door slightly open. The fruit leather is ready when it can be removed from the tray in one piece. You can cut it into strips and roll it up, cut it out into decorative shapes, or even leave it longer until it is dry enough to be broken up into chips.
To make a large cup of apple tea, pour 300 mL of boiling water over 1–2 tablespoons of dried apple pieces and dried apple peel. Leave to stand for 10 minutes. If you would like your tea to taste even fruitier, add chopped rosehips. For an intense, tart apple flavor, you can add young apple leaves or apple blossoms harvested in spring. Apple tea can also be refined with lemon, ginger, and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and star anise.
Apples can be found year-round at all major supermarkets including Walmart, Whole Foods Markets, Kroger, and Safeway (United States); Extra Foods, Metro, and Freshmart (Canada); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, and Lidl (Great Britain); Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, and Harris Farm (Australia). There are approximately 5,700 varieties of apples in the world; however, there are far fewer commercially available varieties, with 5–6 varieties dominating markets and supermarkets worldwide. In Europe, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, and Red Delicious apples account for almost 70 % of the European apple market. Other popular apples include Royal Gala, Granny Smith, Elstar, Cox’s Orange Pippin, and Belle de Boskoop apples. Some apples have a registered trademark and may only be cultivated and marketed by licensed bodies, for example, Pink Lady apples.3
You may be able to find locally grown apples and rare apple varieties at health food shops, organic supermarkets, and fresh food markets. Or you can buy apples directly from farmers as well as through fruit and vegetable subscription boxes and online.
When buying apples, you should check that they have not exposed to blazing sunlight because this reduces their vitamin content and they age faster. Look out for dried stalks and slightly wrinkled skin— these are indications that the apples might be old. Overripe apples will smell strong, sweet, and slightly chemically. This smell comes from the rise in ester as the apple becomes too ripe. You can tell that an apple is fresh and high quality by its skin, which should be smooth, undamaged, and free of spots and signs of rotting. A good apple will be crisp and firm.1,3
Good quality apples are available year-round thanks to special storing techniques and the fact that apples are grown in both hemispheres and traded across the world. In the southern hemisphere, for example, countries that grow and trade apples include Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and Argentina.
When apples are stored in a controlled atmosphere, their natural ripening gas can be inhibited from forming, allowing the apples to stay fresh for a long time. In some countries, methylcyclopropene, commercially known as SmartFresh, is used to block the apple receptors that react to internal and external sources of ethylene.3
Apples are climacteric fruits, meaning that they ripen after being harvested. Apples release the plant hormone ethylene during the ripening process. If a ripening apple is placed next to other unripe fruit, the ethylene being emitted from the apple can help the other fruit to ripen more quickly.3 This works particularly well if the fruit is covered or placed in a paper bag. Fruits and vegetables that are particularly sensitive to ethylene include pears, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, and tomatoes, while vegetables insensitive to ethylene include mushrooms, leeks, and leafy vegetables.1
To store apples, a sealable plastic bag with small air holes is ideal. This protects the apples from drying out and it allows the carbon dioxide that the apples emit to accumulate, reducing the oxygen content in the bag and thereby slowing down the process of ripening and ageing.1 Whole apples have a natural wax coating, meaning that they dry out more slowly and can be stored for longer.3
In contrast, cutting apples causes enzymatic browning and turns the flesh brown. The speed and intensity of this browning depends on the variety of apple and its content of vitamin C. To slow down this process, cover the cut surface of the apple and store it in the fridge.3
What nutrients can be found in apples? Apples contain a lot of water and relatively small amounts of vitamins and minerals. The primary nutritional component of apples is carbohydrates; apples contain practically no fat or protein.4 Of the 14 g/100 g carbohydrates that apples contain, 10 g are simple sugars: fructose and glucose.5,6
At2.4 g/100 g, a large apple (200–250 g) contains a significant amount of dietary fiber (including water-soluble pectin). However, other foods provide far more fiber, such as wheat bran (42.8 g/100 g), hemp seeds (27.6 g/100 g), dried kidney beans (24.9 g/100 g), and wheat berries (12.5 g/100 g).4
The amount of vitamin C that an apple contains varies greatly depending on the variety of apple; Gloster 5–10 mg/100 g, Elstar 10–15 mg/100 g, Belle de Boskoop 15–20 mg/100 g, Jonagold 0–28 mg/100 g, and Braeburn 30–35 mg/100 g.5
Apples contain a lot of phytonutrients, notably phenolic acids (chlorogenic acid) and flavonoids including quercetin, epicatechin, catechin, procyanidins, and anthocyanins. However, the amount of phytonutrients that apples contain varies depending on the variety of apple. Canadian scientists have shown that this content may vary by up to 60%. How apples are stored has barely any effect on an apple’s phytonutrient content; however, processing can have a strong influence.
You should eat apples with their peel as it contains a higher concentration of phytonutrients. For example, apple peel contains about five times as many polyphenols as apple flesh. Certain phytonutrients are also found in the apple core. Apples are one of the primary sources of phenolic compounds worldwide.1,7,8,9,10 To find out what nutrients peeled apples contain, read our article on peeled apples.
An apple’s flavor is mainly determined by the amount of sugar it contains and its fruit acid content. Apples are a pome fruit, a subtribe of the Rosaceae family. Pome fruit contains plenty of malic acid.6
Detailed nutritional information can be found in the tables below the text. These tables show the recommended daily intake of various nutrients.
Why are apples so healthy? Apples can have astringent, slightly laxative, and soothing effects on the stomach.2 They may also kill germs (in the stomach).
Apples contain pectin, which is a water-soluble dietary fiber that is a good food source for intestinal bacteria. Pectin can stimulate the intestinal activity and increase the stool weight. It can swell considerably when it comes into contact with liquids, and can therefore absorb and excrete microbial toxins in the intestine.6 If you have diarrhea, eating grated apple can help you to prevent further loss of fluids and minerals. The pectins swell in the intestine, binding liquid and making your stool firmer.1
Laboratory tests have shown that phytonutrients found in apples have strong antioxidant activity. Antioxidants can disarm free radicals. Free radicals are a reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can damage DNA (genetic information), cause the denaturation of proteins, inactivate enzymes, and oxidize blood lipids. Free radicals are associated with acute chronic illnesses and aging processes.8,10
Antioxidants inhibit the "growing" of cancer cells, have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, and protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation.8,6 In addition, antioxidants can prevent the development of atherosclerosis at a very early stage. Oxidized LDL cholesterol is now known as a major risk factor for arteriosclerosis.11
Consuming apples regularly as a part of a healthy diet and lifestyle can protect against numerous chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases, asthma, and cancer. Scientists estimate that eating more fruit, vegetables, and whole foods could prevent about one-third of all cancer deaths. You can reduce the risk of cancer by eating one or more medium-size apple (166 g) per day. A significant reduction in risk was found for the following cancers: mouth and throat cancer (reduced risk by 18 %), Esophageal cancer (22 %), colon cancer (30 %), throat cancer (41 %), breast cancer (24 %), ovarian cancer (24 %), and prostate cancer (7 %). Researchers also found that whole apples and apple extract are often more effective than synthetic compounds.7
Current evidence shows that eating an apple a day can also prevent or have a positive effect on the following functions, metabolic disorders, and diseases: cognitive decline in the process of aging, weight management, osteoporosis, maintaining lung health, diabetes, and protecting the gastrointestinal tract against the effects of drugs. Further clinical studies are needed to establish cause and effect.7
Although the term superfood is overridingly used for marketing, apples are at least as deserving as chia seeds and goji berries to be called a superfood. On top of their various health benefits, apples are environmentally friendly thanks to local cultivation throughout the world.
Apple seeds contain a negligible amount of amygdalin (the precursor of prussic acid). Other foods containing very small amounts of amygdalin include almonds, orange seeds, and lemon seeds. Eating foods that contains small quantities of amygdalin is generally harmless. However, you should consider the fact that eating amygdalin in isolation is different from eating it in its natural form. You should not, for example, regularly eat 100 g of apple cores. Heating apple seeds in a saucepan without a lid or crushing and drying ground apple seeds largely destroys the enzyme that activates prussic acid when consumed.2,12
In Central Europe, apples are one of the most common food allergens, particularly for people who suffer from pollen allergies. Current scientific knowledge suggests that the allergic risks associated with apples only arise from eating fresh apples, and the allergic effects of apples strongly depend on the variety of apple. Apples that tend to be more associated with allergic reactions include Braeburn, Elstar, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Jonagold, while Alkmene, Berlepsch, Belle de Boskoop, Idared, and Rubinette are on average less associated with allergic reactions. The allergic potential of fresh apples can be removed through heating and processing. This means that people who suffer from allergies may tolerate a variety of heated and processed foods made from apples including apple juice, apple sauce, and dried apples.1,13
Apples contain malic acid, a compound which erodes tooth enamel. To prevent erosion, rinse your mouth with water after eating apples. This dilutes the acid and accelerates the replacement of the dissolved minerals in your mouth. You should wait 30 minutes after eating or drinking acidic foods to clean your teeth; otherwise, the outer layers of your teeth will wear down.14 Consuming a particularly high amount of acidic fruit, as well as sugar and soft drinks, can in the worst case dissolve the teeth’s chewing surfaces. You should try to avoid swishing acidic drinks like apple juice around in your mouth or sipping them too much, as this extensively exposes the teeth to the acid.15,16
Saliva is the best protection for your teeth: it rinses, remineralizes, and neutralizes your mouth. To stimulate saliva production, you can use chewing gum containing xylitol (without carcinogenic sweeteners). Through evaporating sugar alcohols, this type of gum increase salivary flow, prevents the development of cavities, and counteracts plaque formation.15,16
Why should you not eat too many apples? You should avoid regularly eating more than 4 apples per day because of the sugar that apples contain. One hundred grams of apple contains 7.2 g of fructose.17 If you consume large amounts of fructose (more than 35 g per hour), you may exceed your intestinal absorption capacity, even for healthy people. Eating several apples a day is far less of a problem than consuming large amounts of sweetened drinks, concentrated fruit products such as juices and smoothies, and processed foods that contain added fructose.18
The apple has long been seen as a life-prolonging remedy throughout the world.3 This is reflected in the well-known saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away. There are numerous studies that show the positive health effects of eating apples regularly.
Where do apples come from? Central Asia is considered to be where apples originate from; however, apple ancestry has not been clearly established. Cultivated apples originate from crosses between the European crab apple (Malus sylvestris) and Malus praecox or Malus dasyphylla, or are derived from the Asian wild apple Malus sieversii, which has been crossed with Malus orientalis or Malus baccata.3
Apples probably arrived in Central Europe via trade routes, with wild boars and horses probably also contributing to its spread by seed. The oldest documented variety of cultivated apple is almost certainly the Borsdorf apple, which the Cistercian monks mentioned in 1170.3
Apple trees are frost resistant and hardy, requiring moderately nutrient-rich, moist but water-permeable soil, and lots of sunlight. If you are not familiar with root and crown grafting, it is best to buy a young grafted apple tree from a specialist nursery.3
Apple seeds can only germinate thanks to the effects of the cold and fermentation processes. However, as apple seedlings never grow from one pure variety, grafting is performed to maintain and breed apple varieties. To graft an apple tree, the desired apple varieties are grafted onto rootstock that is growing well. This provides the shoot with water and nutrients and also has an influence on the characteristics of the apple variety that you are growing.3,19
Apple trees are deciduous, growing to heights of 8–15 m in the open air with a wide crown. However, growing apples like this is rare because apple rootstocks are influential in determining the size and appearance of apple trees. Apple trees can be grown in several forms: a spindlebush, which grows on a weak base; a bush, which is grown on a short trunk of less than one meter; a standard tree, with a trunk of two meters or taller.3
According to figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, 83.1 million tons of apples were harvested worldwide in 2017.
Apple blossoms are pollinated by a variety of insects including wild bees and bumblebees, and pollen beetles. Apple blossoms are a valuable food source for these insects, primarily in April to May (spring). Bees collect nectar, pollen, and honeydew. Cross-pollination is necessary for apple trees to bear fruit; 5 % of the blossoms need to be pollinated for a full harvest.3,20,21
Apple blossoms are dark pink on the outside and white to light pink on the inside, and contain a lot of nectar and pollen. Nectar has a sugar content between 9 and 87 % and one flower contains up to 1.37 mg sugar per day. Nectar and pollen content serve as a guideline for planting and gardening decisions, as it relates to how nutritious particular flowers are for insects.20,21
The domestic apple (Malus domestica Borkh., Syn. Pyrus malus L.) is one of 42 to 55 apple species of the Malus genus. Apples are pome fruits (Pyrinae) and belong to the rose family (Rosaceae).3,22
According to Wikipedia, there are more than 7,600 official varieties of apples, with over 5,700 varieties of domesticated apples being listed, and more than 2,900 pictures. Domestic apples (Malus domestica) are the most famous and economically important species of apple in the world.3,22
Other types of apples include the Japanese apple (Malus floribunda), which originates from East Asia, the cherry apple (Malus baccata), and the Malus × zumi. These apple varieties produce fruits the size of cherries and are popular as ornamental shrubs and trees in temperate climates. Pomegranates (Punica granatum), however, are not closely related to apples.22
Apples have very few alternative names.
Apple pomace, the solid residue that remains from pressing apples for juice, can be used as animal feed. In times of emergency, it can be also used to feed game.23