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Apples May Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer

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Updated February 04, 2014

apple and leaves

Eating apples might help keep you healthy.

Gjenero

Apples are a good source of vitamin C and fiber, while being low in calories (one average-sized apple has about 80 calories). They also contain large amounts of phytochemicals called flavonoids and phenolic acids that work as antioxidants to protect the cells in your body from free-radical damage.

People who eat apples every day may be at a lower risk for developing certain types of cancer, including mouth, throat and esophageal cancer. This may be due to the assortment of phytochemicals, or it may happen because people who eat lots of apples tend to eat plenty of additional fruits and vegetables.

Population studies suggest eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of some types of cancer. The flavonoids in apples, especially quercetin, have been shown to slow the growth of cancerous cells in laboratory studies. Quercetin has been isolated in the laboratory, and is sometimes sold as a dietary supplement.

However, while laboratory studies show quercetin may have some anti-cancer activity in test tubes and lab animals, there isn't any research to support the idea that taking quercetin supplements will help to prevent cancer in humans.

The flavonoids in apples may also help to prevent cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol and by improving the function of your blood vessels. In one large study, post-menopausal women who had the highest levels of flavonoids in their blood were least likely to die from cardiovascular disease. Apples were among the individual flavonoid-rich foods that showed a significant correlation.

Apples may also help to prevent cancer and cardiovascular by helping you cut calories. They're nutrient-dense without being energy-dense, so they can help you maintain a healthy weight while satisfying your sweet tooth.

Apples are inexpensive and easy to find in every grocery store. There are varieties of apples that range from bright green to deep red. Some apples are sweet and perfect for snacking, while other apples are more tart and better for cooking. The easiest and healthiest way to enjoy an apple is to simply grab it from a fruit bowl, give it a good rinse and eat it. Or take one with you -- they're not as delicate as most other fruits so you can easily pack an apple in your lunch.

Apples can also be used as ingredients in many healthy dishes, but avoid recipes that call for large amounts of sugar. Here are some examples of healthy recipes that call for apples:

Sources

American Cancer Society. "Phytochemicals in Apples May Fight Off Cancer." Accessed April 8, 2009. http://www.cancer.org/docroot/NWS/content/NWS_1_1x_Phytochemicals_in_Apples_May_Fight_Off_Cancer.asp."

Boyer J, Liu RH."Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits." Nutr J. 2004 May 12;3:5.

Gallus S, Talamini R, Giacosa A, Montella M, Ramazzotti V, Franceschi S, Negri E, La Vecchia C. "Does an apple a day keep the oncologist away?"Ann Oncol. 2005 Nov;16(11):1841-4.

Garcia V, Arts IC, Sterne JA, Thompson RL, Shaheen SO. "Dietary intake of flavonoids and asthma in adults." Eur Respir J. 2005 Sep;26(3):449-52.

Loke WM, Hodgson JM, Proudfoot JM, McKinley AJ, Puddey IB, Croft KD. "Pure dietary flavonoids quercetin and (-)-epicatechin augment nitric oxide products and reduce endothelin-1 acutely in healthy men." Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Feb;89(2):652; author reply 652-3.

Mink PJ, Scrafford CG, Barraj LM, Harnack L, Hong CP, Nettleton JA, Jacobs DR Jr. "Flavonoid intake and cardiovascular disease mortality: a prospective study in postmenopausal women." Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Mar;85(3):895-909.

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