Does an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away?

Old Ben Franklin coined a lot of useful phrases, like: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But does it? Really?

There are a LOT of good things about apples:

  • Apples are a low calorie snack
  • Apples contain Vitamin C
  • Apples are high in fiber
  • Apples are a good source of antioxidants

If you are planning to snack on an apple, be sure to eat the skin — the skin contains up to five times more antioxidants than the flesh does! Don’t like the skin? You can try drying the peels and steeping them in boiling water for apple tea. Red Delicious apples are very high in antioxidants, according to a study by the American Chemical Society. (Lucky for me, Red Delicious are my favorite apples!) Applesauce and apple juice are okay alternatives, but the real health power is in the skin of the apple.

Recently, a food scientist (who has spent twenty years studying apples) discovered a nutrient in apples that may help protect brain cells from degenerative damage — the cognitive damage that comes with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and plain old aging. The nutrient is called quercetin, and it is an antioxidant flavonoid. Flavonoids are the chemical compounds that give plants their color. Antioxidant flavonoids help neutralize the byproducts left over when cells burn oxygen for energy.

An apple a day gives you plenty of quercetin! If you’re not an apple fan but want the same health benefits, you can find quercetin in onions, blueberries, cranberries, and black tea. I don’t think “an onion a day keeps the doctor away” has quite the same ring — and your breath might be the true source of the doctor repelling abilities.

One thing to keep in mind: apples back in Ben Franklin’s day weren’t treated with pesticides to keep the buggies away. If you want your apples (and other fruits and veggies) to be chemical-free, you can buy organic produce.