You can have your acai berries, maca and other exotic South American superfoods. In my opinion, apples are the best “superfood”.
Apples top my list because they are readily available, affordable and portable. No packaging required! Although the health benefits of apples are a mile long in this article, I’m focusing on how good they are for digestive health.
Apples have a high level of health enhancing antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids and fibre. These all contribute to overall good health and digestion, but it is the soluble fibre, pectin that has received the most attention in the research.
Your gut bugs love apples
Pectin is found in many foods, but it is particularly high in apples. This soluble fibre gets fermented by bacteria in your colon which then produces substances called short chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA are an important food source for your digestive and immune cells in your gut. Yep, a large proportion of your immune system is in your digestive tract! A healthy amount of SCFA reduces your risk of colon cancer 1.
We are increasingly learning how important a diverse range of healthy gut bacteria is to our health and studies have shown that eating whole apples regularly helps to alter your bacterial population to favour the good bugs over the bad 2! This contributes to improved digestion, immunity and nervous system health – thanks to what we know about the gut-brain connection. The fibre also helps bulk up the stool to improve bowel motions and binds excess cholesterol and toxins 3.
What form of apple is best?
Although the fresh juice does contain some vitamins and minerals, you need to eat the whole apple (raw or stewed) to get the benefits of the fibre. Many people like to peel the apples, but a lot of the nutrients are found in the skin, so I recommend eating the whole thing – seeds and core optional! Apples are a high FODMAP food so may not be suitable for people with some digestive conditions such as SIBO.
An apple a day really does keep the doctor away!
Gut loving stewed apples
(To assist with regular bowel motions, reduce inflammation and support good gut bacteria)
- 4 apples (any variety), cored and cut into small cubes, leave skin on
- 1/3 cup of water
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)
- 2 cloves (optional)
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil and simmer for 10mins until apple is soft.
Leave to cool and either freeze or refrigerate until needed.
Have 2 tablespoons per day either on its own or as a topping on porridge or natural yoghurt.
Grated apples for diarrhoea
A well-known home remedy to treat uncomplicated diarrhoea (especially in children) is to grate an apple, skin included, mix with a little honey and leave to go brown. The pectin provides soluble fibre to bulk stools up, and the honey helps restores minerals and electrolytes lost via diarrhoea.
- If diarrhoea continues for more than 48hrs or blood is present seek medical attention especially in young children.
- Omit the honey for children younger than 2 years old.
Norelle Hentschel is a degree qualified Naturopath and operates a clinic in Crows Nest, North Sydney. She enjoys helping people feel better and can assist with a broad range of health conditions or general health maintenance.
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- Licht TR, Hansen M, Bergström A, et al. Effects of apples and specific apple components on the cecal environment of conventional rats : role of apple pectin. BMC Microbiol. 2010;10(13):1-11.
- Jiang T, Gao X, Wu C, Tian F, Lei Q, Bi J. Apple-Derived Pectin Modulates Gut Microbiotia, Improves Gut Barrier Function, and attenuates Metabollic Endotoxemia in Rats with Diet-Induced Obesity. Nutrients. 2016;8:1-20. doi:10.3390/nu8030126.
- Ash M. Stewed Healing Apples and Immune Cofactors. Clin Educ. 2011;April:1-9.