Apples deserve to be called a nutritional powerhouse due to their vitamin C, fiber and phytonutrients, according to Medical News Today. Along with all of the nutritional benefits, apples are also excellent sources of carbohydrates. While they have very little starch, apples provide natural sugar for the energy your body needs, as well as soluble and insoluble fiber for gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health.
The recommended dietary allowance for total carbohydrates -- 130 grams daily -- includes sugars and starches, which provide the primary source of fuel for your body. The Institute of Medicine established this requirement based on the minimum amount of glucose needed to fuel your brain because it’s the only carbohydrate-dependent organ in your body, according to the USDA National Agricultural Library. One medium-sized apple with the skin contains 25 grams of total carbohydrates, or 19 percent of your RDA. If you don’t eat the skin, you'll get 21 grams of total carbs.
Soluble and Insoluble Fiber
Some types of fiber, including the pectin in apples, ferment in your intestines and produce a small amount of energy, but most fiber passes through your body undigested. The soluble fiber in apples lowers levels of cholesterol in your blood. It’s also good for weight management because it absorbs water and makes you feel full. Their insoluble fiber keeps wastes moving through your intestine to prevent constipation. If you eat one medium apple with the skin intact, you’ll get 4 grams of total fiber, or 16 percent of women’s and 11 percent of men’s recommended daily intake. You’ll lose half the total fiber when you remove the skin.
One medium apple contains 19 grams of natural sugar, with only 3 grams in the skin. This is a fair amount of sugar, considering that 19 grams of granulated sugar equals 4.5 teaspoons. But the natural sugar in an apple has a different health effect than the added sugar found in sweetened foods and beverages. Even though natural and added sugars consist of the same simple sugars, natural sugars in a whole apple come together with nutrients and fiber, which prevents the sugar from boosting your blood sugar. By comparison, added sugars represent pure calories, no nutritional benefits and they have a big impact on blood sugar.
One good way to determine whether the sugar in any food is healthy -- or not -- is to look at its glycemic index score. The glycemic index assigns a number to carbohydrate-containing foods that indicates how much they raise your blood sugar compared to pure glucose, which has a score of 100. While each food has its own score, the glycemic index numbers are grouped into three categories: low, moderate and high. Apples have a glycemic index rating of 39, which puts them firmly in the low group. Even though they’re high in sugar, they do not cause a spike in blood sugar.
- Medical News Today: What are the Health Benefits of Apples?
- USDA Nutrient Database: Apples, Raw, With Skin
- USDA Nutrient Database: Apples, Raw, Without Skin
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- USDA National Agricultural Library: Dietary Carbohydrates: Sugars and Starches
- Iowa State University: Role of Carbohydrates
- University of Illinois at Chicago: Getting Enough Fiber in Your Diet Does not Have to be Like This
- American Heart Association: Sugars and Carbohydrates
- Harvard Health Publications: Use Glycemic Index to Help Control Blood Sugar
- Harvard Health Publications: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods