We all have that one friend who takes a big chomp out of an apple, consuming the core and all of its fibrous bits we usually toss out. Not only is their jaw getting some added exercise, but they may be getting more health benefits from their apple-a-day routine than you are.
While eating the whole apple will add more fiber to your diet, the core also provides 10 times more healthy bacteria, according to a July 2019 study published in Frontiers in Microbiology. Before you quit coring your fruit, know that while the bacteria in apples may be beneficial, the seeds also pose a potential risk.
Should You Eat Apple Seeds?
The majority of the apple's healthy bacteria is found in the seeds, located in the apple's core, the new findings show. An entire apple (core included) contains about 100 million bacteria whereas the flesh alone only supplies 10 million. That's a lot of bacteria to neglect!
Although bacteria is generally something you want to avoid, apples (the seeds, in particular) contain healthy bacteria that are an important source of gut microbes, according to the July 2019 study. Your gut microbiota help maintain your overall health by promoting nutrient metabolism and protecting against pathogens among other benefits, according to an August 2015 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.
While the seeds seem to carry the highest amount of healthy bacteria, there are some risks to consider before eating them. You may already be aware that the seeds or pits of some fruits contain a compound called amygdalin, which the body converts into cyanide (yes, that cyanide), according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
Luckily, there's no need to panic just yet! While apple seeds do contain amygdalin, the amount present in an apple is not likely to cause any real harm. A lethal oral dose of cyanide is one to two milligrams per kilogram of body weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One apple contains about five seeds — so you'd need way more than a few apples to reach that amount.
Nevertheless, the ATSDR advises that you spit your seeds out.
Although the new findings suggest the apple core boasts benefits, it's totally OK if you want to opt out of eating it, says Sarah Pflugradt, RD. While the seeds contain protein, fiber and oils, there's no conclusive evidence urging us eat the entire core, she says. And while the July 2019 study found that the core contains more healthy bacteria than the rest of the apple, researchers are still unsure whether the amount of the bacteria is more beneficial to our guts than the diversity of the bacteria.
Bottom line: Apple seeds provide millions of friendly bacteria but may provide a health risk if over-consumed. Be cautious before you consume.
Want Added Health Benefits? Go Organic
Not all apples provide the same notable health benefits. While the parts you eat may play a role, the type of apple you choose can also affect the beneficial bacteria you consume. After comparing conventional and organic apples, the researchers found that organic varieties boasted a significantly larger diversity of bacteria — which may be a good thing for your gut!
Plus, there may be some truth to the "organic tastes better" claim: The also study found that methylobacterium, the bacteria responsible for enhancing the flavor in strawberries, was present in higher doses in organic apples.
Not to mention, conventionally grown apples tend to carry more food-borne pathogens, the researchers found. You may also want to consider going organic to lower your exposure to pesticides. Conventionally grown apples are on the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list as one of the highest sprayed fruits.
Whether you choose to eat the apple core or not, Pflugradt recommends you mix this fruit into your daily routine. Stick with the old adage and eat at an apple a day — as it contains soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamins and water, she says. "You'll get a ton of nutrition with or without the core."
- Frontiers in Microbiology: "An Apple a Day: Which Bacteria Do We Eat With Organic and Conventional Apples?"
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: "Role of The Normal Gut Microbiota"
- Environmental Working Group: "EWG's 2019 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce"
- ATSDR: "Public Health Statement for Cyanide"
- CDC: "Cyanide"