My nephew absolutely loves apples. And who can blame him - especially this time of year when the orchards are full of ripe Honey Crisps?! He used to eat just about anything you put in front of him without much hesitation, but like many 6-year-olds, he is becoming pickier, showing his taste preferences by favoring some of the sweeter options including apples, apple juice, and applesauce while passing on the "icky" options.
It seems that the love for apples is common across the American population. In fact, a 2015 study showed that whole apples make up about 20% of the total fruit intake of children aged 2 to 19 years old, making it the most commonly consumed whole fruit.1 The second largest source of fruits, coming in at around 10%, was fruit juices including apple and citrus juices. This study highlights the fact that not only are fewer than 40% of children eating enough fruit on a daily basis, but when they do eat fruits it is generally only a couple varieties, with apples dominating. While the study was looking specifically at children, the results are definitely relevant to adults who also exhibit many of the same dietary behaviors.
The problem that we see when a person only eats a couple select types of fruit - including apples - is that each individual type of fruit contains a unique nutrient profile that might be high in some nutrients and low in others. One of the major benefits of a diverse diet is that it allows you to get a wide variety of essential nutrients so you get the whole spectrum of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that your body needs.
When a person predominantly consumes apples, they miss out on the beneficial nutrients found in grapes, berries, pineapple, bananas, tomatoes (yes they’re a fruit!), peaches, melons, etc. For example, apples do not contain the potent antioxidant trans-resveratrol that is found in grapes, or the antioxidants hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein found in olives (also a fruit). Apples do not contain lycopene, an antioxidant that promotes good eye health that is found in fruits like watermelon, tomatoes, papaya, and grapefruit. There are countless nutrients with proven health benefits found in fruits and vegetables that cannot be obtained from apples, and there are likely health promoting compounds found in apples that cannot be obtained from other food sources. The point is that we need a diverse selection of fruits and vegetables in our diet.
People eating more than five servings of fruits in a day might still have lower intake of some key nutrients compared to someone eating fewer servings.2 That is to say, someone that eats six apples every day would be consuming far less trans-resveratrol and Vitamin C than someone alternating between eating a handful of red grapes on some days and an orange on other days.
Even if you eat the daily-recommended intake of fruits and vegetables (studies indicate that most Americans do not) you still might be shorting yourself of key nutrients that your body needs if you do not have enough variety in your selections.2–4
It is understandable that some people might not have access to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, or their taste preference may limit what they eat. This is especially true in the case of children and other picky eaters, including my nephew, that just want to eat an apple and nothing else. It reminds me of the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I can give you all the produce in the world, but it doesn't matter if you're not going to eat it! This is when the use of well-designed dietary supplements can be extremely useful to improve the diversity of nutrients in the diet.3,5,6
Most dietitians and medical professionals will tell you that it is better to consume whole fruits/vegetables instead of juices. Juices made from 100% fruits and vegetables may provide a substantial amount of nutrients, but the juicing process leaves behind most of the beneficial fiber found in whole fruits and vegetables. Smoothies are perhaps a better choice because they usually incorporate the entire fruit, including all of the fiber and pulp. Juices (even 100% fruit juices) and smoothies both tend to contain a high amount of sugar, especially if they have been sweetened with natural sugars including honey and agave.
Juices are composed primarily of water and sugar, making them strikingly similar to soft drinks both in nutritional profile and potential health risks. This is concerning because approximately 30% of children’s fruit intake comes in the form of juice versus whole fruits.1 This could be one reason why fewer than 3% of Americans are getting adequate amounts of dietary fiber on a daily basis.6
If you and your family are using juices and smoothies, adding a soluble Prebiotic Fiber is a great way to bump up the nutritional value without anybody even knowing! Pinnaclife Prebiotic Fiber can easily be added to both juices and smoothies to increase the fiber content without changing the flavor profile. Prebiotic Fiber can also help to reduce some of the bitter tastes in juices and smoothies including those of some vegetables and natural zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia. This can make it easier to sneak in other healthy ingredients like kale and spinach. The digestion-resistant maltodextrin used in Pinnaclife Prebiotic Fiber has also been shown to help keep blood sugar levels lower after a meal - something that might be desirable considering the sugar content of some juices.7,8
Research has shown that eating a whole apple instead of processed forms such as apple juice and applesauce provides more “food satisfaction,” meaning it’s more enjoyable to eat and better at reducing feelings of hunger. They found that people eating one medium apple 15 minutes before a meal lowered the average calorie consumption by as much as 15%!9 The improved food satisfaction is likely due, in part, to the higher fiber content in the whole fruit, but also because it takes longer and requires more bites and chewing to eat a whole apple versus drinking a glass of apple juice or portion of applesauce. However, this effect is likely not just seen with apples. In fact, there have been similar findings from the addition of other healthy high fiber and high nutrient foods before a meal including green-leafy salads.10
One study looked at how the diversity of fruit and vegetable selection related to where a person lives, and how that impacted a person's overall nutrient intake. They found distinct differences in the levels of key dietary antioxidants based on the predominant fruits and vegetables being consumed within an area. That makes sense - if you live in Iowa like me, you can usually find oranges at the grocery store, but they aren't growing on trees the way apples are. I'm likely going to eat more apples than oranges because I have better access to affordable ripe apples compared to oranges. Head to Florida and you'll likely see people eating more oranges! Or head down to the Caribbean for some fresh pineapple and plantains!
Kyle Hilsabeck, PharmD., is the Vice President of Pharmaceutical Affairs at McCord Holdings and licensed by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy. He completed bachelors degrees in biology and biochemistry at Wartburg College before earning his Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy. Upon graduation, he completed a community pharmacy practice residency through the University of Iowa where he focused primarily on nutritional aspects of care including the use of vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements. He has taught courses for the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy on vitamins, minerals, herbs, and nutritional supplements and given many presentations on the subject as well. He has a passion for improving patient care specifically with regards to the safety and quality of the nutritional supplements and health information people use.
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