Most nutrients in fruits and vegetables, such as apples, are found in the skin or peel. If you have been taking the peel off the apple before you eat it, you might not be getting the most value out of the apple's nutrition. While it is tempting to peel your apples, you may want to reconsider.
An apple's nutrition content and crunchy taste have made them the second most consumed fruit in the United States. Apples are one of the top three fruits produced around the world today, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
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Sometimes you might choose to peel the skin off of your apple. However, an apple's skin makes it more nutritious. Discarding the skin takes away some of the apple's fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidant properties.
Apples with and without the skin provide essential vitamins and minerals. However, apples with the skin have more nutrients than peeled apples.
Apple Nutrition Facts
Fresh apples are abundant in vitamins and minerals. According to the USDA, a large apple with the skin contains the following nutrition facts:
- 116 calories
- 30.8 grams of carbohydrates
- 0.38 grams of fat
- 0.58 grams of protein
The amount of fiber in apples with skin is 5.4 grams. Apple nutrition also includes an array of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium and vitamin C.
Per the USDA, the apple's nutritional value of vitamins and minerals is reduced when the apple is peeled or the skin is removed. A large apple without skin contains:
- 104 calories
- 27.6 grams of carbohydrates
- 0.28 grams of fat
- 0.58 grams of protein
Even without the skin, apples still contain an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals. However, the quantities are less than apples with their peels. Noticeably, the fiber is reduced to only 2.8 grams, just a little over half of the fiber found in apple with skin.
A June 2017 study published in NPJ Precision Oncology found that ursolic acid, which is found in apple peels, can inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells. The researchers found that ursolic acid, the waxy compound in an apple's skin, has anticancer properties. They are currently testing the combination of ursolic acid with other antioxidant compounds found in plants, such as curcumin, and its role in reducing prostate cancer activity.
Health Benefits of Apples
In an October 2015 study published in Food and Nutrition Research, researchers found that children who consume high apple products have a higher intake of fiber, magnesium and potassium. In general, they have lower intake of added sugars compared to children who do not consume a high number of apples.
Apples are rich in the antioxidant quercetin and pectin, a soluble fiber. Quercetin is a flavonoid found in fruits and vegetables that may have anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties according to a March 2016 study published in Nutrients.
Pectin, a fiber in apples, can help lower the "bad" LDL cholesterol that increases the risk of coronary heart disease. It is also suggested that because pectin is fermented by short chain fatty acids it can play a crucial role in chronic disease prevention including bowel disorders.
The flavonoids in apples can help reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, women who eat one or more apples a day have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Both the phytonutrients and fiber found in apples play a key role in protection from free radical damage and reducing cancer risk. Studies have shown that apples can protect the body from oxidative stress. In particular, there has been evidence to suggest a decreased risk of lung, colorectal, breast and digestive tract cancers.
A February 2017 study published in Nutrients found that apples can also benefit the human gut microbiota. In particular, researchers found apples can increase the diversity of bacteria strains in the gut microbiome. In particular, researchers studied three apple varieties: Reneta Canada, Golden Delicious and Pink Lady. Of the three, Renetta Canada had the most significant impact on the gut microbiota. The benefits of a healthy gut can't be overstated.
Is the Apple Skin Safe?
The apple's skin is often waxed and sprayed to protect the fruit. Some consumers may be concerned with the amount of pesticides sprayed on apples and choose to peel the skin instead.
Every year, apples make it to the top of the Dirty Dozen list created by the Environmental Working Group. On average, non-organic apples contain a moderate to high amount of pesticide residues. In particular, they contain a high concentration of diphenylamine, a chemical used to prevent the skin of apples from bruising during transport. Some experts consider apples to be one of the foods to always purchase organic.
However, if you are trying to avoid pesticides altogether, researchers are searching for a better way. In an October 2017 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, two common pesticides, thiabendazole and phosmet, were found to penetrate into the apple skin wax. After comparing tap water, baking soda and an EPA-approved commercial bleach solution, researchers found baking soda was the most effective. They found that after 12 to 15 minutes of using baking soda, 80 percent of thiabendazole and 96 percent of phosmet were removed.
According to a July 2019 study published in Frontiers in Microbiology, eating a whole apple with the skin provides you with extra fiber, flavonoids and nutrients, as well as good bacteria for the gut. However, whether it is a good thing depends on how the apples were grown. This study in particular looked at the fungi in the stem, peel, flesh, seeds and calyx of an apple. Organic apples have a significant number of good bacteria and fungi when compared to store-bought non-organic apples.
When consuming an organic apple, you don't have to worry about the pesticides used. However, when consuming a non-organic apple, consider washing it thoroughly with baking soda or peeling the apple skin wax off.
Eat Organic Apple Skins
When choosing whether or not to peel an apple's skin, consider whether it is organic or non-organic. Conventional store-bought apples contain more pesticide residues on the apple skin wax and have fewer good bacteria for the gut. However, the fiber in apples — regardless if they are organic or conventional — is associated with many health benefits.
Eating an apple's skin will give you the most amount of nutrients including fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. If you're afraid to eat an apple's skin, choose to wash it with baking soda to get rid of most of the pesticides usually found. Choosing not to peel your apples gives you the most apple nutrition.
- NPJ Precision Oncology: "Combinatorial treatment with natural compounds in prostate cancer inhibits prostate tumor growth and leads to key modulations of cancer cell metabolism”
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Apples”
- Nutrients: “Quercetin, Inflammation and Immunity”
- Food and Nutrition Research: “Consumption of various forms of apples is associated with a better nutrient intake and improved nutrient adequacy in diets of children: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2010”
- Nutrients: “Effects of Commercial Apple Varieties on Human Gut Microbiota Composition and Metabolic Output Using an In Vitro Colonic Model”
- EWG: “Apples Doused with Chemicals After Harvest”:
- Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry: “Effectiveness of Commercial and Homemade Washing Agents in Removing Pesticide Residues on and in Apples”
- USDA FoodData Central: "Apples, Raw, Without Skin"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Apples, Raw, With Skin"