Research shows apples provide many health benefits, such as reducing the risk of diabetes.
But can eating apples also help you lose weight, or are they fattening?
This article explores the effects apples have on your weight, backed by scientific research.
Apples Have a Low Calorie Density
Apples contain a lot of water.
In fact, one medium-sized apple consists of about 85% water. Water-rich foods are quite filling, which often leads to reduced calorie intake.
Not only is water filling, it also lowers the energy density of foods.
Energy density is defined as the number of calories in a particular weight of food. It is often described as the number of calories in a gram of the food in question. Energy density is measured in units of kcal/g.
The energy density of water is 0 kcal/g, so it does not add calories to food. However, it does increase the weight or volume of the food.
Foods with low energy density tend to be high in water and fiber. This holds true with apples. A medium apple has only 95 calories, but plenty of water and fiber.
Several studies have shown that foods with low energy densities promote fullness, reduced calorie intake and weight loss.
One study compared the effects of eating apples with the effects of eating oat cookies. The cookies had a higher energy density, but similar calorie and fiber content.
In this study, eating the apples caused reduced calorie intake and weight loss.
Bottom Line: Apples are high in water, low in energy density and low in calories overall, all properties that have been shown to aid weight loss.
Apples Are High in Weight Loss Friendly Fiber
A medium-sized apple contains 4 grams of fiber.
This is 16% of the recommended fiber intake for women and 11% for men.
The fiber content is extremely high given the low calorie content of apples, making them an excellent food to help you reach your daily fiber recommendations.
Although this does depend on the type of fiber, many studies show that eating more fiber overall is linked to a lower body weight and a significantly reduced risk of obesity.
Eating fiber may slow the digestion of food and make you feel more full with fewer calories. For this reason, foods high in fiber may help you eat fewer total calories overall, which helps you lose weight.
Fiber may also improve your digestive health and feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, which can also have benefits for metabolic health and weight control.
Bottom Line: Apples are rich in fiber, which may promote fullness and appetite reduction — and therefore weight control.
Apples Are Very Filling
The combination of water and fiber in apples makes them an incredibly filling food.
In one study, whole apples were found to be significantly more filling than applesauce or apple juice when eaten before a meal.
Furthermore, apples take significantly longer to eat when compared to lower-volume foods that don’t contain fiber. How long a food takes to eat is another factor that contributes to fullness.
For example, a study of 10 individuals found that juice could be consumed 11 times faster than whole apples.
The filling effects of apples may reduce appetite and lead to weight reduction.
Bottom Line: Apples contain several properties that increase feelings of fullness, which may aid weight loss by reducing overall calorie intake.
In a Few Studies, Eating Apples Regularly Resulted in Weight Loss
Researchers have proposed that including apples in an otherwise healthy and balanced diet may encourage weight loss.
Apple intake has been associated with weight loss in studies of overweight women who also follow a low-calorie or weight-reduction diet.
In one of these studies, weight loss was measured in those who ingested apples, pears or oat cookies on a regular basis for 12 weeks.
The fruit group lost 2.7 lbs (1.22 kg) after 12 weeks, whereas the oat group showed no significant weight loss.
Another similar study examined 50 participants who were randomly assigned to add three apples, three pears or three oat cookies to their diets for 10 weeks. The three types of food had similar fiber and calorie contents.
After the 10-week period, weight was unchanged in the oat group, but those who ate apples had lost 2 lbs (0.93 kg).
Additionally, the apple group reduced overall calorie intake by 25 calories per day, while the oat group ending up consuming slightly more calories.
In both studies, reduced calorie intake and weight reduction were attributed to the fruit’s low energy density and glycemic index.
Research has also been conducted with observational studies to examine the effect that fruit intake has on weight loss over time.
In a study of 124,086 men and women, increased intake of fiber and antioxidant-rich fruits, such as apples, was associated with weight loss.
Individuals in the study who consumed apples lost an average of 1.24 lb (0.56 kg) over a four-year period.
Not only do apples appear to be weight loss friendly for adults, they may also improve overall diet quality and reduce the risk of obesity in children.
Bottom Line: Research suggests that including apples in a healthy diet may promote weight loss and better overall health.
Apples Also Have Other Health Benefits
Apples have several other benefits in addition to promoting weight loss.
Apples contain small amounts of many vitamins and minerals. They are well known for their vitamin C and potassium content, providing more than 5% of the RDI for both.
Other important nutrients found in apples include vitamin K, vitamin B6, manganese and copper.
Additionally, apple peels are particularly high in plant compounds that may lower disease risk and provide many other health benefits.
Low Glycemic Index
Apples have a low glycemic index, which is a measure of how much blood sugar levels rise after eating.
Low-glycemic-index foods may be useful for blood sugar control and weight management since they help keep blood sugar levels balanced rather than spiking them.
There is increasing evidence that a low-glycemic-index diet may help prevent diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
The combination of nutrients, antioxidants and fiber in apples may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Apples have been shown to reduce cholesterol and inflammation levels in the body, both key factors for heart disease prevention.
Other studies have found that eating foods rich in antioxidants, such as apples, may lower the risk of death from heart disease. Some of the associations are weak, but promising nevertheless.
The antioxidant activity of apples may help prevent certain types of cancer.
Several studies in men and women have found an association between apple intake and lung cancer prevention.
Furthermore, consuming at least one apple a day has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of mouth, throat, breast, ovarian and colon cancer.
According to animal studies, consuming apple juice may help prevent mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
In one study on mice, apple juice reduced mental decline by decreasing the amount of harmful reactive oxygen species in brain tissue.
Apple juice has also been found to preserve neurotransmitters that are important for optimal brain function and Alzheimer’s disease prevention.
Bottom Line: Apples have several healthy characteristics that work together to benefit blood sugar control, heart health, cancer risk and brain function.
Take Home Message
Apples are a good source of antioxidants, fiber, water and several nutrients.
The many healthy components of apples may contribute to fullness and reduced calorie intake.
Including apples in an already healthy and well-balanced diet may indeed be useful for weight loss.