Apples contain a variety of nutrients, but they are most notable as a good source of fiber. Dietary fiber usually promotes healthy digestion and regular bowel movements, and it can reduce the levels of potentially harmful cholesterol. However, too much dietary fiber combined with not enough water intake can lead to constipation and other digestive problems. Certain diseases that affect the intestines can lead to additional difficulty with digesting fiber-rich fruits such as apples. Consult with your doctor if you develop digestive problems after eating apples.
Apples are one of the more popular and widespread fruits in North America. According to the “Textbook of Nutritional Medicine," many health benefits are linked to the consumption of apples, including improved cardiovascular health, reduced free radical production due to antioxidant activity, lower LDL cholesterol levels, better blood glucose regulation, and improved digestion in terms of less constipation and more-regular bowel movements. The dietary fiber is primarily responsible for the impact of apples on digestion.
Dietary fiber includes the parts of vegetables and fruits that your body cannot digest or metabolize into useful nutrients. There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, such as the pectin found in apples, berries and citrus fruits, dissolves in your intestines into a gel-like substance that is able to stick to cholesterol and remove it from your body. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, but it attracts water and “bulks up,” which is helpful for cleaning the large intestine and promoting regular bowel movements. Apples contain both types of fiber; the soluble fiber is found primarily in the pulp, and the insoluble fiber is mainly in the skin. In short, fiber is not digested, but it impacts your digestion.
The daily fiber requirements are 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, according to “Public Health Nutrition: From Principles to Practice.” For those over 50, daily fiber recommendations are sometimes less, despite a higher incidence of constipation and other digestive complaints in elderly people. Apples are good sources of dietary fiber, with most medium-sized varieties containing about four grams. Richer sources of fiber include wheat germ, oats, multigrain bread, brown rice, broccoli, beans and carrots.
Possible Digestive Problems
Apples are often eaten to prevent digestive problems, although sometimes they can contribute to constipation. If you don’t drink enough water, dietary fiber will absorb all the moisture in your large intestine and become temporarily immobile. Reduced intestinal motility, which is common in the elderly, can further compound this problem. Like all fruit, apples contain fructose, and too much of this sugar at a time provides your intestinal bacteria with a substrate in which to ferment, which leads to gas production, bloating and abdominal pain. Apples are a healthy addition to any diet, but too many can lead to digestive issues. Eating them in moderation is the key.
- Textbook of Nutritional Medicine; Melvyn Werbach and Jeffery Moss
- Public Health Nutrition: From Principles to Practice; Mark Lawrence and Tony Worsley
- The Nutribase Complete Book of Food Counts; Art Ulene