There's nothing like the crunch of a tart — or sweet! — apple. This fruit is ideal as a standalone snack, a touch of crunch in a salad, a sweet dessert or countless other users. Plus, they're good for you: Apples contain a variety of nutrients, but are most notable as a good source of fiber.
That's a good thing — but can also contribute to some digestive distress. Find out more about why eating apples may can lead to GI problems.
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Apples Are Full of Dietary Fiber
That's a good thing, since dietary fiber offers many benefits, including promoting healthy digestion and regular bowel movements, and helping lower levels of LDL (aka "bad") cholesterol, according to the Mayo Clinic. But ramping up your dietary fiber intake too quickly, or having a lot of fiber without upping your water intake, can lead to constipation and other digestive problems, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Here's a little refresher on dietary fiber — it's the parts of vegetables and fruits that your body cannot digest or metabolize into useful nutrients, according to the Mayo Clinic. There are two types of fiber:
- Soluble fiber, such as the pectin found in apples, berries and citrus fruits, dissolves in your intestines into a gel-like substance, according to the Mayo Clinic. This type of fiber helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, but it attracts water and "bulks up," which is helpful for digestion and also promoting regular bowel movements, per the Mayo Clinic.
Apples contain both types of fiber: the soluble fiber is found in the pulp, and the insoluble fiber is in the skin, according to the Cleveland Clinic. And while fiber is not digested, it does impact your digestion for both the better, and sometimes, the worse.
How Much Fiber Do You Need, Anyway?
You should take in between 21 to 38 grams of fiber every day, per the NLM. But most people in the United States aren't consuming that much — only 7 percent of adults have the recommended amount of fiber, according to the American Society of Nutritionists.
Eating one medium apple (defined as having a diameter of around 3 inches) will provide you with just over 4 grams of fiber, per the USDA. It's a good source of fiber; richer sources of fiber include legumes and grains, as well as other vegetables.
Digestive Problems That Can Occur Due to Apples
Apples are often a way to ease constipation. After all, they contain insoluble fiber, which can help "produce softer, bulkier stool," according to the Cleveland Clinic. That's a good thing if you're constipated.
But sometimes apples contribute to constipation, instead of solving the issue. This typically happens if you start eating a lot of fiber (think: several apples a day) abruptly, or if you're not balancing your fiber intake with water.
The fix: Drink more water — it's the combination of fiber and water that helps ease constipation, per the Cleveland Clinic. When you're bumping up your fiber intake, you should also aim for about 8 cups of water a day, according to the Cleveland Clinic. You can also try peeling apples to make them easier to digest, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Apples are high in fructose (aka fruit sugar), according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine. Consuming fructose can lead to bloating and stomach pain, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Bloating and gassiness occurs when food is slow to digest, and ferments within your digestive system, which leads togas production, bloating and abdominal pain, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Note: If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), limit apples, since fructose can cause discomfort, per the Cleveland Clinic.
The fix: Try cooking apples, which may make them easier to digest, per PIH Health. And, again, peeling the fruit might help. Also, don't overdo your consumption.
Health Benefits of Apples
While apples do have the potential to lead to constipation and bloating, in general, you can think of this fruit as beneficial to your digestive system and preventing constipation. As with any source of fiber, the key is moderation (one or some apples a day, not tons) and drinking water.
Apples have other health benefits beyond aiding your digestion.
They're also a good source of vitamin C, per the Mayo Clinic, which promotes iron absorption and healthy blood vessels. And, apples have phytochemicals, aka bioactive compounds found in many plants, including quercetin, which "has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects," according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Fiber"
- American Society of Nutritionists: "Most Americans are not getting enough fiber in our diets"
- USDA: "Apples, raw, with skin"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Improving Your Health With Fiber"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Constipation"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "5 Foods to Improve Your Digestion"
- Cleveland Clinic: "15 Foods That Can Cause Bloating"
- Cleveland Clinic: "The Best and Worst Foods for IBS"
- PIH Health: "Five Foods That Make You Bloat"
- Mayo Clinic: "10 great health foods"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Apples"