Will an apple a day keep the doctor away?

Are apples the secret to a long life?

If it's between an apple and six doughnuts, pick the apple.
If it's between an apple and six doughnuts, pick the apple.
Plush Studios/Getty Images

An apple a day can reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and many types of cancer. But would you be able to avoid the doctor entirely just by eating a bunch of the forbidden fruit? Not likely. Various studies show health benefits when participants eat an apple between three and five times a week, but all ailments cannot be cured by diet alone.

Are other fruits just as good for you as apples? Sure. All fruits are loaded with nutrients that are building blocks to good health. Bananas are loaded with potassium, which is important for a healthy heart and proper muscle function. Blackberries are loaded with fiber, and strawberries contain vitamin C and fiber.

Like cranberries, blueberries help prevent and fight urinary tract infections. They're also a bit tastier than cranberries, which most people only enjoy when combined with plenty of added sugar. Apricots, fresh or dried, are high in beta-carotene.

When choosing drinks, apple juice barely makes the top 10. Pomegranate juice, wine and purple grape juice are high in antioxidants, with apple juice in the tenth spot, right behind tea. One of the things that makes apples so incredibly healthy is the amount of fiber they contain, but that's lost during juicing.

If all fruits are nutritional powerhouses, why are apples the only one to be included in the folklore? At the time the adage emerged, apples were easy to grow (and still are). Once harvested, they could remain in storage for nearly a year. Recent studies have shown that, unlike many fruits and vegetables, the nutritional benefits of apples remain relatively stable as long as 200 days after harvest [source: Boyer and Liu].

While an apple a day will go a long way toward keeping the doctor away, most nutritionists recommend a varied diet. In addition to apples, fill your shopping cart with citrus fruits, tropical treats like mangos, and a variety of berries, which pack a nutritional punch. Eating several servings of a varied selection of fruits each day is truly the best way to keep the doctor away.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Boyer, Jeanelle and Rui Hai Lui. "Apple Phytochemicals and their Health Benefits." Nutrition Journal. May 12, 2004. (July 13, 2009) http://www.nutritionj.com/content/3/1/5
  • CBS News. "Pomegranate Ranked Healthiest Fruit Juice." July 5, 2008. (July 13, 2009) http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/07/05/earlyshow/health/main4234811.shtml
  • Goldstein, Laura. "Try Nature's Toothbrush." Prevention. Oct. 1, 2004. (July 13, 2009) http://www.prevention.com/cda/article/try-nature-s-toothbrush/81cb88dc78803110VgnVCM10000013281eac____/health/conditions.treatments/oral.health
  • Huber, Lia. "We Love Apples." Prevention. 2007. (July 13, 2009). http://www.prevention.com/cda/article/we-love-apples/a1c155d0c5045110VgnVCM10000013281eac____/nutrition.recipes/cook
  • MayoClinic. "10 Great Health Foods for Eating Well." Feb. 22, 2008. (July 13, 2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/health-foods/NU00632