By now, winter may seem endless. But you can capture some warmth and sunshine (and all the nutrition that goes with it) by eating plenty of fresh fruits. In fact, one common fruit might actually help you accomplish one of those New Year’s resolutions you may or may not be struggling to keep up with by now.
New research suggests apples may help you lose weight.1
How? Well, most foods found in nature have constituents that are not digestible. Fiber, for instance. But that doesn’t mean these ingredients don’t play a role in nutrition and health. Researchers have found that the non-digestible compounds in apples can improve the health of your gastrointestinal tract—which helps fight obesity.
The researchers analyzed the contents of Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, McIntosh, and Red Delicious apples. They found the non-digestible fiber, polyphenols, and other compounds in Granny Smith apples influenced the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. These compounds were actually able to alter the microbiome of obese lab animals to be similar to those of lean animals.
Researchers have already discovered that gut bacteria in obese people is different than that of lean people. And now this research shows something as simple as an apple can, in essence, help you fight obesity from the inside out.
The scientists believe there are two main reasons why Granny Smith apples were the most effective of all of the apple varieties at altering the microbiome: The tart, green apples have a high content of non-digestible compounds, along with a low content of digestible carbohydrates.
Don’t be afraid of fruit sugar
These observations provide another example of the intricate influences apples and other fruits have on human health. But what about the concern that eating fruit—and the fructose sugar it contains—contributes to metabolic disorders like diabetes?
As I noted in the July 2013 Daily Dispatch “Sweet news about fructose,” this fear is most likely misplaced. Research shows the fructose found in fruits appears to be digested and metabolized differently than the sucrose found in table sugar (sugarcane).
Botanists believe sugarcane originated in New Guinea. Due to the human propensity for a “sweet tooth,” it rapidly spread throughout the world—first through Chinese and Indian traders in the 16th century, and then by Europeans.
Growers in the western hemisphere also began cultivating their own sugarcane, bringing in foreign workers to harvest this labor-intensive crop. (Of course, this “advancement” contributed to some terrible conditions other than diabetes—namely, slavery and diseases like malaria and yellow fever.)
By contrast, fruits are widespread in nature and were available to most humans long before sugarcane. Which means our bodies are more adept at processing the natural sugar they contain. And unlike sugarcane, fruits provide a natural matrix of other healthy nutrients.
But it is important to opt for organic versions of fruits in which you eat the skin—like the mighty, obesity-fighting apple.
1Condezo-Hoyos L, et al. “Assessing non-digestible compounds in apple cultivars and their potential as modulators of obese faecal microbiota in vitro.” Food Chemistry 2014; 161: 208-215