Pomegranate, acai, mangosteen, goji … Do these names sound familiar to you? Chances are, they do. These are the super fruits of the moment. Clever marketing has helped propel these foods into the super fruit ranks. But the definition of super fruit is arbitrary.

There is no standard way to define a fruit as super. Most nutrition and health experts agree that a fruit that offers a combination of excellent nutritional quality and good taste is a super fruit. By these criteria, more than just the exotic, heavily marketed fruits are super, none more so than the apple.

It’s true. The good, old sturdy apple, which has been a staple of the American diet for decades, may just be the original super fruit. The phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” wasn’t coined without good reason.

Apples do meet the definition of super fruit. They are nutritional powerhouses, particularly their peels. And they taste fantastic. Unlike many types of fruit, they are portable and convenient. Apples truly are the ultimate, grab-n-go, healthy snack.

Apples Beat Food Contamination

One unexpected place where apples may offer benefit is in the prevention of food borne illness (food poisoning). An independent, soon-to-be published study looked at using dried apple peel powder to reduce bacterial counts in meat 1.

For the research, frozen ground beef, turkey, and pork were purchased and stored for 10 days at refrigerator temperature. Half of the patties were mixed with apple peel powder and half were not. Apple peel powder reduced the aerobic bacterial count in beef patties by 74%, in pork patties by 53%, and in turkey patties by 17%.

These results support earlier research showing that nutrients from apple peels can significantly reduce the growth of bacteria that are known to cause human disease 2.

Apples Beat Chronic Disease

Apples’ potential health benefits go far beyond food safety. In the realm of chronic disease, the question should be, “What can’t apples do?” Apples are a well-studied fruit. And the research supports that the health benefits of apples are many.

Apples and Inflammation

Many of the health benefits of apples are attributed to their excellent anti-inflammatory properties 3-6. Most people are familiar with acute inflammation. Examples of acute inflammation include a fever or the swelling and pain of an injury. But there is also chronic, low-grade inflammation that can occur in the body everyday.

Consider that every cell in your body conducts ongoing conversations with the cells around it. When inflammation is in balance, these conversations are like a pleasant chat. When inflammation is out of control, cellular communication becomes more like a shouting match. It can lead to cellular “pushing and shoving.”

This is the chronic inflammation that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, arthritis, chronic pain, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.

Apples, their peels in particular, are loaded with a group of anti-inflammatory nutrients called polyphenols. A well-known polyphenol is quercetin (kwer-seh-tin). But you’d be making a mistake to pop a quercetin pill.

Nutrition experts have found that the way to best dampen inflammation in the body is with whole food. The thousands of polyphenols and other nutrients in whole foods work in synergy. Synergy is when two or more things work together so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual parts.

Apples and Heart Disease

Apples are known for their cholesterol lowering ability 7-10. This has an obvious benefit for lowering heart disease risk. Beyond this, apples and apple peels contain dozens of antioxidants, which limit oxidation.

To better understand oxidation, think about rusting. Rusting is oxidation in the environment. When metal rusts, it no longer functions as it should. This same process happens in the body. We don’t exactly rust, but we do experience the same type of oxidation damage.

This is important for heart disease. Fatty deposits called plaque can build up in our blood vessels. These deposits are composed of several things, including cholesterol. However, it’s not just garden-variety cholesterol in plaques. It is oxidized cholesterol 11.

When cholesterol becomes oxidized (damaged), it becomes stickier. Oxidized cholesterol is more likely to cling to blood vessel walls, leading to heart disease. Plus, oxidized cholesterol promotes further inflammation.

Apples and Cancer

Apples appear to have anti-cancer benefits, too 12-16. As with heart disease, inflammation and oxidation are linked to cancer risk. Apples’ ability to dampen inflammation and oxidation plays a role in how they reduce cancer risk.

But another interesting property of apples gives them an extra edge over cancer. Apples contain polyphenols that are anti-proliferative 15.

Anti-proliferative is a fancy way of saying, “stopping cells that are growing and dividing out of control.” By bringing order and control to cancer cells, apple polyphenols have anti-cancer effects.

Quality of Life: Apples Offer Multiple Benefits

Apples’ potential protection against heart disease and cancer is exciting. After all, these are the number one and two killers in the US. But what about other conditions? Apples are no slouch in this regard either.

Osteoarthritis results from the general wear and tear on aging joints. It is not life-threatening, but osteoarthritis can do a real number on our quality of life. Apples appear to offer benefits here, too.

Apples, especially the peels, are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. These nutrients appear to protect aging joints from the garden-variety damage that worsens osteoarthritis 17,18.

And you may just breathe a little easier with apples on the menu. From asthma to allergies, apples have you covered. Apple nutrients appear to work their magic reducing risk of these conditions too. It really is true: an apple (or two or three!) a day keeps the doctor away.

Author's Bio: 

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, is an internationally recognized expert in nutrition, chronic disease, cancer, health and wellness as well as the Executive Editor of Nutrition Intelligence Report, a free natural health and nutrition newsletter. For more information, past issues or to sign up for a free subscription, visit http://www.appleboost.com/.