Biting into a crisp apple coated with sugary caramel might be something that you really look forward to. Apples are a nutritious source of key nutrients, but dipping them in caramel adds several grams of added sugar as well as quite a few calories. While the occasional caramel apple won't harm your health, eat a plain apple instead to reap the many rewards the fruit has to offer.
A 2.5-ounce serving of caramels contains 271 calories and 5.75 grams of fat, of which 1.75 are saturated. Too much saturated fat decreases your quality of health by increasing your risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and weight gain. The same serving of caramel contains 46.5 grams of sugar, which is equal to about 12 teaspoons. This far exceeds the 6 teaspoons recommended as a daily upper limit for women and the 9 teaspoons men should limit themselves to each day. Diets high in sugar increase your risk of unhealthy weight gain, Type 2 diabetes and tooth decay. Caramel supplies small amounts of calcium, potassium and vitamin A as well.
Apples supply a significant amount of fiber, which can reduce your risk of digestive problems such as constipation. Fiber can help prevent hemorrhoids. One whole apple supplies 4.4 grams of fiber toward the 21 to 25 grams women need each day and the 30 to 38 grams men should get. A whole apple also supplies vitamin C for immunity, potassium for your heart and vitamin K to help clot your blood.
A 2004 study published in the "Nutrition Journal" reports that the phytochemicals in apples might protect you from heart disease, cancer and other chronic health conditions. Phytochemicals are protective compounds present in all plant foods, and apples contain a large concentration of them. Apples also supply quercetin, catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid, which are powerful antioxidants that help protect you from cell damage. Over time, cell damage increases your risk of cancer and heart disease. Apples retain these compounds even when they are coated with caramel, so caramel apples do have some benefits, though whole apples without the coating are more nutritious.
Eating Caramel Apples
Most caramel apples sold in stores, candy shops and at harvest fairs have a thick coating of caramel. Make your own caramel apples instead. Use a thin layer of caramel so that you get the flavor you want without going overboard with sugar and calories. Add more nutrients to your caramel apples by rolling them in crushed nuts, which adds protein, fiber and vitamin E to your treats. Split a caramel apple with a friend or family member as another way to enjoy the treat without consuming too much sugar and too many calories.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Candies, Caramels
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Apples, Raw, With Skin
- MayoClinic.com: Added Sugar: Don't Get Sabotaged by Sweeteners
- Nutrition Journal: Apple Phytochemicals and Their Health Benefits
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Fiber
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out With the Bad, In With the Good
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.