• Cook apples with the skin on to take advantage of the nutrients in the peel. (Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images)Source: Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images
Whether you eat an apple with its skin on or off could impact the amount of nutritional benefits you reap from the fruit.
Yasmin Noone

11 Sep 2018 - 2:24 PM  UPDATED 12 Sep 2018 - 9:08 AM

One of the most universal, ancient and easily recognised fruits eaten by people of all ages across the world is the apple.

The fruit of temptation has been depicted in art, featured in religious stories and formed the centerpiece of many a cultural dish, from the French tarte Tatin to the Cypriot dish, brandy poached apples (Firikia Glyko) and apple empanadas in Argentina.

Apples are also full of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals, and are great for our teeth.

But throughout all this global apple worshiping, there’s one question left to ask: are we eating them the right way in order to reap maximum nutrition from the fruit?

Nutrition scientist, Dr Joanna McMillan, says we should be eating and cooking with apples that have the skin on to take advantage of the nutrients in the peel.

“So crunching on a juicy apple, skin and all, could actually be the healthiest way to eat this super fruit.”

Apple polyphenols – a large group of natural, plant chemicals – are found in both the white flesh and the skin of apples. But Dr McMillan says they are more concentrated in an apple’s peel. She estimates there are two and a half times as many antioxidants, including polyphenols, in the apple skin.

“Apples are full of nutritional goodness, and apple polyhenols are becoming the stand-out compound that holds the key to many of the fruit’s health benefits,” says Dr McMillan.

“So crunching on a juicy apple, skin and all, could actually be the healthiest way to eat this super fruit.”

Although people who snack on whole apples will receive the polyhenols contained in both the skin and flesh, those who peel their fruit before cooking might not.

“If you’re making an apple crumble, apple pie or apple sauce, don’t peel the apple: include it in the recipe.

“Lots of parents also slice and peel the fruit to give to their children. But they don’t need to do that. Kids need to eat the skin as well.”

“If you’re making an apple crumble, apple pie or apple sauce, don’t peel the apple: include it in the recipe."

Dr McMillan tells SBS she recently conducted a literature review for Aussie Apples to examine findings about the health benefits of apples, skin and all.

An Italian study from 2017, included in her review, found that apple polyphenols stopped the growth of breast cancer cells in the lab. 

Annurca apples, a southern Italian variety, were used in the study as they are particularly high in polyphenols. When applied in the lab to human breast cancer cells, the apple polyphenol extract was highly effective in stopping cell growth and killing cancer cells.

Another study in 2010 evaluated whether apple peel extract could reduce cancer tumour growth. The study used organic Gala apples and saw a reduction in a variety of cancer cell lines. Of note was a significant reduction of breast and prostate cancer cells.

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“Our data suggested that apple peel extract possesses strong antiproliferative [anti-tumour growing] effects against cancer cells, and apple peels should not be discarded from the diet,” the study reads.

Also included in her research overview was a Chinese study, published earlier this year, comparing the polyphenolic extracts of apple peels and fleshes on blood pressure, lipid metabolism and insulin resistance in mice. The study demonstrated that apple polyphenols, especially those in the peel, may protect the body against cardiovascular disease. More research is needed in this area to confirm the affect on humans.

“The research has reminded me that health foods don’t have to be something fancy and flown in from an exotic location,” says Dr McMillan. “Apples are a very common fruit but research is showing just how powerful they really are.

“There’s a lot of confusion out there about the sugar content of fruit but fruits are good for us.

“The bottom line is there is no negative, side effect or ill effect of having an apple with the skin on every day, so it’s a pretty safe recommendation.

“This is an important message as it’s an affordable and easy to get fruit.”

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