Ever wonder how apple cider juice benefits your health? This fermented beverage is chock-full of gut-friendly bacteria, vitamins and polyphenols. The key is to enjoy it in moderation, as it's quite high in sugar and calories.
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What Is Apple Cider?
Apple cider vinegar is prized for its ability to lower blood sugar, facilitate weight loss and improve blood lipids. Not to mention apples, which are loaded with fiber, copper, potassium and vitamin C. The cider produced from these fruits is just as good for your health and wellbeing.
This flavorful beverage is made from raw apple juice. The fruits are crushed and cold-pressed, which results in a thick liquid. Next, the juice undergoes fermentation with yeasts and lactic acid bacteria for up to three weeks and then left to mature for several months. Manufacturers may add sulfites to reduce apple juice oxidation. Depending on the degree of sweetness, the cider can be sweet, dry, semi-dry or extra dry. If it's left to ferment, it will result in apple cider vinegar.
A July 2017 review published in the journal Microorganisms describes this process in detail. As the researchers note, several apple cider varieties exist. In general, "cider" is considered a fermented alcoholic beverage. However, it may also refer to raw unfermented apple juice in some parts of the world, such as Australia and North America.
Most stores offer both alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties. What they have in common is their high content of LAB, or lactic acid bacteria, such as Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus casei, Leuconostoc mesenteroides and Oenococcus oeni. Their bacterial composition depends on picking techniques, harvest methods, storage conditions and other factors.
Apple Cider Juice Nutrition Facts
In general, Americans use the term "cider" or "soft cider" for an unfiltered, non-alcoholic beverage made from crushed apples. The alcoholic version is referred to as "hard cider." Some manufacturers use the terms "apple juice" and "apple cider" interchangeably. Martinelli's, for example, states that its apple juice and cider are the same. The company uses the word "cider" on the label solely for marketing purposes.
Considering these facts, it's pretty obvious that apple juice and non-alcoholic apple cider have a similar nutritional value. The latter, though, is a more "mature" version of the juice. One cup of apple juice provides 114 calories along with the following nutrients:
- 28 grams of carbs, including 23.9 grams of sugars
- 0.2 grams of protein
- 0.3 grams of fat
- 5 percent of the DV (daily value) of potassium
- 3 percent of the DV of magnesium
- 3 percent of the DV of copper
- 8 percent of the DV of manganese
- 2 percent of the DV of vitamin C
- 4 percent of the DV of thiamin
- 39.7 micrograms of lutein and zeaxanthin
Depending on the brand, pure apple cider has approximately 120 calories and 28.9 grams of carbs, including 28 grams of sugars per cup. It delivers similar amounts of calcium and vitamin C as does apple juice.
Beware that alcoholic cider is higher in calories and carbs. Each gram of alcohol has 7 calories. Additionally, most manufacturers add sugar to hard cider for extra flavor, so the calories can add up quickly.
Read more: 9 Scary Side Effects of Social Drinking
Is Apple Cider Healthy?
Pure apple cider's health benefits are many. Like apple juice, it's rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, especially polyphenolic compounds. A review published in the May 2015 edition of the journal Nutrients assessed the effects of apple polyphenols on cardiovascular health. As the scientists point out, these fruits are rich in flavonols, flavanols and other phenolic compounds that may reduce heart disease risk.
According to the above review, about 90 percent of plant polyphenols reach the colon intact. These nutrients cause positive changes in the gut flora, increasing "good" bacteria and suppressing pathogens. As a result, they may improve the body's ability to break down and metabolize lipids, leading to reduced cholesterol levels. Several studies suggest that apple polyphenols may decrease blood pressure and inflammation, although more human trials are needed to confirm these findings.
Apple juice, though, tends to have lower antioxidant levels compared to the whole fruit, as reported in a September 2013 review featured in the journal Antioxidants. Researchers found that storing this beverage for nine months reduces its total content of quercetin and procyanidins by 60 percent. Apple cider undergoes further processing, which may affect its antioxidant power.
The research paper published in Microorganisms, though, states that chilled fruit juices and fermented beverages, in general, support optimal health. Fermented drinks, such as apple cider, may help restore the gut flora and improve digestive function due to their probiotic content. Cider may also possess anti-viral properties.
Another review, which was posted in the EXCLI Journal in September 2016, analyzed several studies on the effects of consuming apples and their products. This fruit has been shown to induce cancer cell death, improve diet quality and prevent obesity.
Additionally, it may improve blood lipids and blood sugar levels, protect against diabetes and lower all-cause mortality risk. It appears to be particularly effective in the prevention of colorectal cancer. These potential health benefits are largely due to its high antioxidant content.
The research on apple cider is limited. However, most researchers agree that apple and its products benefit overall health. This fruit boasts high doses of polyphenols and other phytonutrients with cardioprotective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Ideally, eat whole apples rather than drinking cider or juice. Whole fruits are higher in fiber, which reduces sugar absorption into the bloodstream.
- The University of Chicago Medicine: "Debunking the Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Apples"
- Microorganisms: "Microorganisms in Fermented Apple Beverages: Current Knowledge and Future Directions"
- Martinelli’s: "Frequently Asked Questions"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Apple Juice"
- USDA: "Apple Cider"
- NIH: "Calories in Alcohol"
- 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"
- EXCLI Journal: "Apple as a Source of Dietary Phytonutrients: An Update on the Potential Health Benefits of Apple"
- Joslin Diabetes Center: "How Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?"