Apple cider vinegar gets most of the glory as a health-promoting apple drink, but apple cider has its benefits, too.
This fermented beverage popular at pumpkin patches and apple orchards is full of gut-friendly bacteria, vitamins and polyphenols.
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What Is Apple Cider?
This flavorful beverage is made from crushed and cold-pressed apples, resulting in an ultra-sweet and thick liquid. Next, the juice undergoes fermentation for 2 to 4 days with yeasts and lactic acid bacteria naturally found in the apples.
For hard apple cider (an alcoholic beverage) the apple cider is left to ferment for over 10 days, per the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
Manufacturers may add sulfites to reduce apple juice oxidation and keep it fresh for longer. Depending on the degree of sweetness, the cider can be sweet, dry, semi-dry or extra dry. If it's left to ferment for several months, it will turn into apple cider vinegar, per a July 2017 article in Microorganisms.
While apple cider is nostalgic for bonfires, apple orchards and pumpkin patches, how healthy for you is this sweet and fruity drink?
Apple Cider Nutrition Facts
One 8-ounce cup of apple cider is equal to one serving. Eight ounces of apple cider has:
- Calories: 120
- Total fat: 0 g
- Saturated fat: 0 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 19.2 mg
- Total carbs: 31 g
- Dietary fiber: 1 g
- Sugars: 24 g
- Protein: 0 g
Apple Cider Macros
- Total fat: Eight ounces of apple cider has 0 grams of total fat, which includes 0 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat.
- Carbohydrates: Eight ounces of apple cider has 30 grams of carbs, which includes 1 gram of fiber and 24 grams of sugar.
- Protein: Eight ounces of apple cider has 0 grams of protein.
Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients
- Iron: 4% of your Daily Value (DV)
- Potassium: 4% DV
- Vitamin A: 3%
- Vitamin C: 1% DV
The Health Benefits of Apple Cider
Most researchers agree that apples and their products benefit overall health, but research on apple cider specifically is limited. Here's what we know about the health benefits of apple cider.
1. Apple Cider Is Rich in Antioxidants
Apples have high doses of polyphenols and other phytonutrients with heart-protective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, per a February 2021 article in the International Journal of Food Properties.
Once processed, apples' antioxidant content changes, but apple cider still has some of these beneficial antioxidants. Compared to apple juice, apple cider has significantly more polyphenols, specifically cholinergic acid, according to a February 2015 study in the Turkish Journal of Agriculture.
Cholinergic acid is an antioxidant known for its potential role in the prevention and treatment of diabetes, cancer, obesity and inflammation, according to an October 2017 article in the European Journal of Nutrition.
2. Apple Cider Can Support a Healthy Heart
Some of the plant compounds in apples and apple products like cider have been found to support a healthy heart and blood vessels.
Researchers found that apples are rich in flavonols, flavanols and other phenolic compounds that are linked to a reduced heart disease risk, per a May 2015 review in the journal Nutrients.
Around 90 percent of plant polyphenols reach the colon intact, according to the May 2015 review in Nutrients. These compounds cause positive changes in the gut flora, increasing "good" bacteria and minimizing the bad bacteria. As a result, they may improve the body's ability to break down and metabolize lipids, which might help lower cholesterol levels.
Apple polyphenols are also linked to decreased blood pressure and inflammation, although more human trials are needed to confirm these findings.
3. Apple Cider Promotes a Healthy Gut
While the polyphenols in apple cider can help influence the good bacteria in the gut, apple cider along with other fermented drinks, can help restore the gut flora and improve digestive function due to their probiotics.
Chilled fruit juices and fermented beverages, in general, support optimal health, per the July 2017 article in Microorganisms. Cider may also have anti-viral properties.
Just be cautious of your portion of apple cider. One cup has 24 grams of sugar, most of it being the natural sugar fructose. Fructose can cause the colon to absorb too much water, leading to diarrhea, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Small amounts of apple cider could be helpful if you have constipation or hard stools.
Risks of Apple Cider
Risk for Contamination
If your apple cider has not been pasteurized, there is a potential risk for contamination and illness. Children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems should not drink unpasteurized apple cider, per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
High Sugar Content
While apple cider is 100 percent juice from apples, it is high in sugar. With 24 grams of sugar and little to no fiber and protein in each cup, apple cider can lead to significant spikes in blood sugar for people who have diabetes.
Eating a whole apple with the skin would be a better choice for blood sugar management as the extra fiber in the apple can help slow down the sugar's effect on blood glucose levels.
Keep your apple cider to a smaller 1/2-cup portion at a time.
- Microorganisms: "Microorganisms in Fermented Apple Beverages: Current Knowledge and Future Directions"
- Nutrients: "Apples and Cardiovascular Health — Is the Gut Microbiota a Core Consideration?"
- Antioxidants: "Phenolic Compounds in Apple (Malus X Domestica Borkh.): Compounds Characterization and Stability During Postharvest and After Processing"
- University of Georgia Cooperative Extension: "Making Apple Cider"
- Turkish Journal of Agriculture: "Antioxidant Activity and Phenolic Content of Apple Cider"
- International Journal of Food Properties: "Phytochemicals and antioxidant activity of different apple cultivars grown in South Ethiopia: case of the wolayta zone"
- European Journal of Nutrition: "The potential effects of chlorogenic acid, the main phenolic components in coffee, on health: a comprehensive review of the literature"
- FDA: "Fruits, Veggies and Juices - Food Safety for Moms to Be"
- USDA: "Apple Cider"