An apple a day is credited with keeping the doctor away, and rumor has it that eating an apple in the morning may wake up you better than a steaming cup of java. There's no real research comparing the two directly, but if you're looking for a quick energy jolt, coffee is king.
That being said, the caffeine pick-me-up of coffee doesn't come without some potential downfalls. And while eating an apple may not provide the spike in energy you're looking for, there are other health benefits of reaching for an apple versus coffee first thing in the morning.
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An apple won't provide you with the same energy as a cup of coffee, but it can give you sustained energy throughout the day. Apples contain a natural sugar called fructose, which is a direct energy source for your body. They also have lots of fiber, which can help balance your blood sugar and give you sustained energy without blood sugar crashes.
How Coffee Gives You Energy
Lots of people reach for coffee first thing in the morning as a quick pick-me-up to get their day started. That's because the caffeine in that coffee (about 80 to 115 milligrams per brewed 8-ounce cup) hits you in about one hour or even more quickly if you're drinking coffee on an empty stomach, as many people do.
Caffeine is a stimulant that works on your brain and nervous system. That's why drinking coffee increases your blood pressure and breathing rate, which can also increase alertness and metabolism.
But while you may be drinking your coffee to wake you up, there are also other health benefits of having a cup of joe. According to Harvard Health Publishing, drinking coffee has been tied to a lower risk of developing several chronic diseases, including:
- Heart disease (heart attack, heart failure and stroke)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Parkinson's disease
- Certain types of cancer
- Cirrhosis (liver damage)
- Gout (a form of arthritis that often affects the big toe)
Coffee vs. Apples for Energy
Although coffee is good for you in some ways, it can also negatively affect you, especially if you're sensitive to caffeine. Drinking too much can make you feel jittery or anxious and interfere with your sleep. Having too much caffeine can cause nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, dehydration, upset stomach and fatigue, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
On the other hand, apples contain a natural sugar called fructose, which can serve as an important source of energy for your body, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation. The fructose doesn't give you the same jolt as coffee because it's not a stimulant, but it provides slow, sustained energy that also won't make you feel anxious or affect your sleep quality. If your blood sugar levels are low, eating an apple may help you wake up and feel more alert.
Apples are also rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber and lots of phytochemicals and vitamin C, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The Bottom Line
It's true that you won't get that same wake-up effect if you choose an apple over a cup of coffee. That said, doing so can help you avoid any of the negative side effects of caffeine, plus you'll get all the nutritional benefits, like more fiber and vitamin C.
If you're not willing to get rid of your coffee completely, you can compromise by eating an apple in the morning before anything else and then drinking your coffee about a half hour later. That way, you'll have something in your belly and the caffeine won't hit you as quickly, which can help minimize any side effects.