A Dietitian Explains Why Apples Are Good for You (to a 6-Year-Old)

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

In Explain It Like I’m 6, a dietician answers the burning health questions from Associate Food Editor Meghan Splawn‘s daughter, Ella.

We’ve all heard that old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but have you ever questioned why this is the case? What, exactly, makes apples so good for us? Meghan’s daughter, Ella, also wants some answers on this front, so we decided to consult an expert. Here’s Sally Kuzemchak of Real Mom Nutrition with the answer.

(Image credit: Sally Kuzemchak )

Sally Kuzemchak is the author of The 101 Healthiest Foods for Kids and the founder of RealMomNutrition.com, a no-judgments zone about feeding a family. We asked Sally to answer five of Ella’s questions about health and wellness in the easiest way possible.

First, although apples may be a symbol of healthy eating, there are lots of other fruits and vegetables that could represent. Just pointing that out! But apples are indeed super nutritious and the number-two most popular fruit in the United States (bananas are number one).

Apples are a good source of vitamin C. That’s the same vitamin found in oranges that a lot of people think about when they’re trying not to get sick (or to get better faster if they’re already sick). The body has special ways of fighting off things like colds and the flu, and vitamin C helps make that system work.

They’ve also got a mineral in them called potassium. Ever heard that too much salt is bad for you? That’s because salt can make it harder for your heart to pump blood around your body. But when you eat foods like apples, that potassium takes some of the power away from sodium. Fruits and vegetables are packed with potassium, but since most people don’t eat enough of those, most people also don’t get enough potassium.

Another excellent thing about apples is that they fill you up. That’s because apples have a lot of fiber and water in them, two things that make you feel satisfied. In fact, when scientists rated a bunch of foods on how well they made people’s hunger go away, apples were very high on the list — higher than bananas, grapes, crackers, and yogurt. They’ll do an even better job at keeping you full if you eat them with a food high in protein, like peanut butter or cheese. (Apple juice isn’t the same thing as whole apples, since the peel and a lot of the flesh are taken away, so it doesn’t make you feel as full.)

Apples are good for your gut, too — that’s the tube where food travels through your body, from one end to the other. It’s also where a lot of bacteria live. Some bacteria are bad and can make us sick, but some are actually good for us and can keep us healthy. Apples have something in them called pectin that becomes food for healthy bacteria. Keeping healthy bacteria fed and happy makes less room for bad bacteria in the gut.

Even though apples seem like a fall food, they grow in orchards all year, so you can always find them in stores. Try different kinds to see what you like best, since they all taste a little different. But whatever kind you choose to eat, just don’t peel off the nutritious skin!