Monday 8 July 2024

Apples vs. oranges: Which of these fruits is 'better' for you?

 An apple a day may proverbially keep the doctor away — but does an orange support your health just as well?

"While both fruits offer immune and heart-boosting nutrients, such as vitamin C in oranges and quercetin in apples, understanding their distinct nutritional profiles can help us make informed choices for our heart health and overall well-being," said Michelle Routhenstein, a New York-based preventive cardiology dietitian at

Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian nutritionist and CEO of Vandana Sheth Inc. in California, added that when wondering if oranges or apples are better for you, it's important to recognize that each fruit contributes uniquely to your health.

"They both have different tastes and textures. And, the key to a healthy diet is to ensure diversity," she said.

The good news is, both apples and oranges are affordable and widely accessible. 

Ahead, a deep dive into the nutritional breakdowns and potential benefits of apples and oranges.

As Routhenstein highlights, a medium-sized apple, weighing about 182 grams, contains approximately 25 grams of carbohydrates, 4.4 grams of fiber, 95 calories, less than 1 gram each of protein and fat, and provides about 14% of the daily value (DV) of vitamin C.

Quercetin is a nutrient of particular interest for team apple eaters. 

"Apples contain a very high level of quercetin which contributes to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, potentially offering benefits for heart health, immune function, and overall well-being," said Routhenstein. 

She said apples offer small amounts of other essential nutrients such as vitamin A, potassium and various B vitamins.

Jennifer Hernandez, a registered dietitian with in Kentucky, said, "Apples are a great source of vitamin C, which, as an antioxidant, protects your body’s cells from free radical damage that can cause heart disease and other conditions."

Hernandez said some of her favorite ways to enjoy apples is to turn them into apple sauce or pair one with a handful of nuts to take along as a snack on busy days. 

Thanks to the nutrition profile of apples, science indicates some encouraging potential health benefits of eating this fruit. 

"Research suggests that incorporating apples into your diet may lower the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease," said Sheth. 

"Also, apples may contribute to weight loss and promote gut and brain health."

Routhenstein also pointed to apples as being good for your heart.

"Several studies have indicated that eating apples may have a protective effect on heart health," she said. 

"The two types of fiber (insoluble and soluble fiber), antioxidants, and phytochemicals, particularly quercetin, found in apples are thought to contribute to this benefit by lowering levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, reducing inflammation and improving overall cardiovascular function." 

In particular, Routhenstein referenced a 2020 randomized controlled crossover research study, in which people with slightly high cholesterol ate two apples daily and their "bad" LDL cholesterol levels dropped, plus their blood vessels improved.

Like apples, oranges pack an impressive nutrient punch. 

"One orange provides 66 calories, 86% water content, 1.3 grams of protein, 14.8 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of sugar, 2.8 grams of fiber, 0.2 grams of fat and provides approximately 92% [daily value, or DV] of vitamin C, 9% DV of folate, and 5% DV each of calcium and potassium," said Sheth. 

Echoing that, Routhenstein noted that oranges are renowned for their "abundant vitamin C" content.

An orange provides roughly 100% of your daily value of vitamin C per serving; plus, oranges contain vitamin A. 

Along with their vitamin C content and "other vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds such as flavonoids and carotenoids," research suggests that incorporating citrus fruits like oranges into your diet regularly may contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering blood pressure, and support the immune system, said Sheth.

Routhenstein further singled out a compound called hesperidin, a flavonoid primarily found in citrus fruits, particularly in the peel and inner white pulp. 

"Hesperidin has garnered attention for its potential health benefits, particularly in relation to heart health," she said. 

"Research suggests that hesperidin may help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, improve blood vessel function, and protect against oxidative stress — all of which are important factors in maintaining cardiovascular health."

Apples and oranges are both healthy in their own ways. Each is a solid staple in any nutrient-dense diet.

Sheth argued that instead of choosing one over the other, you should enjoy both apples and oranges for health promotion and disease prevention. 

Similarly, Hernandez appreciated that both of these fruits with natural sugars have low phosphorus, which is important especially for kidney health. As Routhenstein expanded on this, the specific nutritional content and health-promoting compounds may vary between the two fruits, with apples containing more quercetin and oranges providing more vitamin C. 

"Ultimately, incorporating a variety of fruits, including both apples and oranges, into your diet is the best approach to reap the diverse array of nutrients and heart health benefits they offer," she said.  

That said, there might be one advantage to apples, even if it’s not from a nutritional perspective: For those on the move, apples are certainly easier to consume. "Apples work great for eating on the go as they are portable and once washed you can enjoy them with the peel for maximum benefit," said Sheth, noting that while oranges can also be a good option, they tend to be juicy and hard to eat on the go. 

If you love oranges, don’t hesitate to throw them into your lunch bag — though be sure to pack extra napkins.

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