The average American eats more apples per capita than any other fruit—more than 25 per person per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. It’s not surprising: Apples can be a quick and portable snack, but they also make delicious juice and applesauce, and popular desserts like pies. What’s more, they pack healthy ingredients like fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.
This month offers a chance to celebrate apples, especially the third Saturday of September (Sept. 17 this year) for International Eat an Apple Day.
Health benefits of apples for older adults
- They help lower blood sugar. “Apples are a great way for someone with diabetes to satisfy their sweet tooth without raising their blood sugar,” she said. Apples are low on the glycemic index scale, which measures how much food raises blood sugar. Apples come in at about 36, and foods with an index of 55 and lower are considered to have a low glycemic index. Wong noted one caveat, however: “This is for unpeeled apples. The skin holds most of the fiber that helps to slow down blood sugar spikes.”
- They help with bowel movements. Many older adults don’t take in enough fiber and fluids to keep bowel movements regular. “A medium apple with the skin on provides a whopping 4.4 grams, or 17% of the daily value for fiber,” Wong said. “This includes insoluble fiber—the kind that’s known to help with constipation. The fluid from the apple’s juices helps with overall fluid intake, too.”
- They help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The soluble fiber in apples, Wong said, helps keep cholesterol levels low. “Cholesterol is typically recycled, but soluble fiber binds to cholesterol and causes it to be excreted in waste instead of being reused—lowering cholesterol levels.”
You may wonder if these benefits are present in all apple varieties, and the answer is yes. There are just a few differences in nutritional value for the different varieties, Wong said. She pointed out that Granny Smith apples are lower in natural sugar than many other types. Red Delicious apples may be higher in antioxidants because of their bright red skin and also in calcium, which is essential for senior citizens and offers many health benefits.
There are 7,500 varieties of apples grown internationally, and 2,500 grown in the United States. Here’s a rundown on some of the most popular varieties:
- Honeycrisp: This popular variety is sweet and fragrant—perfect as a snack or in a sauce or salad.
- Granny Smith: This uniquely tart green variety has a crisp texture that works well in pies, sauces and salads.
- Gala: This sweet, crisp red variety is perfect for snacking and salads.
- Red Delicious: This popular sweet, red and crisp variety is perfect for snacking or adding color and texture to salads.
- Fuji: These are sweet, spicy and crisp. They’re usually both yellow and red in color and make excellent additions to salads and bases for pies.
- Pink Lady: This tangy-tart apple has a unique hot-pink skin. It’s very good for salads, pies and sauces or for baking whole.
- McIntosh: This tart, tender red apple is very good in sauces.
- Empire: A cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh apples, this variety is sweet with a subtle tartness. It’s also resistant to bruising, so it’s great for carrying as a portable snack or lunch side.
- Golden Delicious: This sweet, tender pale-yellow apple is great for pies and sauces. Its flesh resists browning, so it’s great for salads and other recipes topped with raw apple slices.
- Jonagold: This unique sweet-and-tart-tasting specimen is good for pies and sauces or for baking whole.
- Enterprise: This glossy-red, disease-resistant variety is great for baking, where its tart flavor shines.
- Cosmic Crisp: A cross between Empire and Enterprise apples, this variety is so firm that it almost snaps when you bite into it. Sweet and tart, Cosmic Crisp apples are great all-purpose apples for snacking and baking.
Incorporating apples into your diet
While most people think of apples simply as stand-alone snacks, you can also slice them up and pair them with other foods to create some great flavor combinations:
- Peanut butter delight: Slice up an apple and spread some peanut butter or another nut butter on it. This is a great way to add some protein to the snack.
- Cheesy snack: Apples and cheese go well together. Slice up some apples to eat alongside cheese cubes or cheese sticks.
- Apple oatmeal: Dice up some apples to place atop oatmeal in the morning. This is a double whammy when it comes to cholesterol-lowering properties.
- Apple yogurt: Dip sliced apples into yogurt for breakfast or a snack, or dice them up and create a yogurt parfait with apples and granola.
- Microwave baked apple: Create a delicious snack that can also serve as dessert.
- Apple goat cheese bruschetta: Choose a tart apple for this sweet and savory appetizer.
Whenever possible, keep the skin on to get the most nutritional value out of apples.
Apples can also play a star role in meals. Salads and other dishes benefit from the sweet, tart and crisp taste of apples. Try these:
- Green apple butternut squash salad: Enjoy this delicious anti-inflammatory dish for lunch or dinner. Add some chicken strips or shrimp for a little more protein.
- Balsamic glazed tofu and veggie bowl: Get some grains with your veggies in this flavorful bowl.
- Apple carrot soup: Warm up and reap the health benefits of ginger, apples and carrots at the same time.
- Rosemary roasted chicken with apples and potatoes: Make a great Sunday dinner using whatever apples you have in the house, plus chicken and potatoes.
Dessert is another great place to add apples into your diet. You can enjoy something sweet while knowing you’re giving your body powerful nutrients. Here are some ideas:
- Apple pie: There’s nothing more American than apple pie. Add a slice of melted cheese if you dare.
- Fried apples: You don’t even need a recipe for this one. Just peel and slice some apples, and cook them in a pan with a little butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. This goes well with pork chops, too!
- Apple blueberry crisp: This is an easy one to bake up as a treat. Bonus: it’s loaded with antioxidants.
- Carmel apple pie bars: Much like portable pieces of pie, these bars have a shortbread cookie crust and a delicious crumbly topping.
More about apples
Did you know apples float because they’re 25% air? How about that apple trees come from the same family as rose bushes? Learn more fun apple facts before enjoying Eat an Apple Day on Sept. 17.