Apples have been associated with good health and keeping doctors away for many generations. While apples are good sources of some nutrients such as vitamin C, their fiber content is likely an important part of why they are considered such a healthy fruit. The soluble fiber in apples helps keep blood cholesterol and sugar levels in check, whereas the insoluble fiber promotes regular bowel movements.
Regular Bowel Movements
Bowel movements are not supposed to be discussed in “polite company,” but they are an essential part of good health. Moving waste through your intestines and eliminating it at regular intervals is important, mainly in order to avoid toxicity. Much like the waste under your kitchen sink, the waste in your large intestine starts to rot fairly quickly and produce toxic compounds and unwanted bacterial colonies. Your large intestine absorbs these toxins, which essentially poisons the blood and negatively affects all your cells to some extent. Furthermore, excessive amounts of bacteria in your intestines may lead to inflammation and dysfunction. Consequently, regular bowel movements, ranging from a couple per day to one every other day, prevent toxicity and promote efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Importance of Fiber
Dietary fiber is classified as either water-soluble or water-insoluble. Water-soluble fiber, such as the pectin in apples, becomes sticky in your intestines, allowing it to grab on to unwanted debris, potential toxins and bile, which is rich in cholesterol. Insoluble fiber such as cellulose doesn’t dissolve in water, but it attracts water in your large intestine, which results in bulked-up stool. Soft and bulky stool helps to clean out your large intestine, and it stimulates intestinal contractions and regular bowel movements. Furthermore, soft stool that’s expanded with water is much more comfortable to pass. Daily fiber recommendations range from about 20 to 25 grams for women depending on body weight, although most Americans consume less than half of that.
Apples are good sources of dietary fiber, but not as good as many veggies, legumes and grains. Regardless, a small apple weighing 185 grams contains about 4.5 grams of fiber, with about 90 percent of it insoluble. This means that eating five small apples would satisfy your daily fiber quota, although it may be a little less monotonous if you included other high-fiber foods in your diet such as carrots, broccoli, beans and whole-grain cereals. The skin and core of the apple contain the highest concentrations of fiber, so don’t throw those parts away.
Eating high-fiber food such as apples is effective for preventing constipation, but only if you drink plenty of water. Insoluble fiber absorbs lots of water, which can dry out mucus membranes and actually trigger reduced intestinal motility, constipation and bloating if you’re not well-hydrated. Aim for about eight 8-ounce glasses of purified water per day and you should be OK on a high-fiber diet. Some people don’t like eating the fiber-rich apple skins or cores, so blending the entire apple in a blender as part of a smoothie is probably the easiest and tastiest way to get all its goodness. Just make sure to take out and discard the seeds first.
- Human Metabolism: Functional Diversity and Integration; J. Ramsey Bronk
- Public Health Nutrition: From Principles to Practice; Mark Lawrence and Tony Worsley
- The Nutribase Complete Book of Food Counts; Art Ulene
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.