08 July, 2011
Apples & Iron
An apple may not have been the fruit Eve supposedly used to tempt Adam -- some Biblical scholars maintain that it was the pomegranate -- but apples still have plenty of credibility with nutritionists, doctors and natural healers, who recommend them for their many health benefits. High in dietary fiber, low in fat and rich in vitamins and minerals, apples are a healthy dietary choice. Iron, an essential mineral, is necessary for the transport of oxygen in the body. Although apples contain only modest levels, they promote the absorption of iron from other foods.
Basics and Benefits
A medium-sized apple contains .47 g of protein, .31 g of fat, 25.13 g of carbohydrates, 4.4 g of fiber and 18.91 g of sugars, mostly in the form of fructose. Apples are low-fat, low-salt and free of cholesterol; their reasonable count of 95 calories apiece makes them a bargain for dieters. Pectin, a soluble fiber in apples, can help lower harmful LDL cholesterol. By slowing the absorption of fructose in the body, pectin helps to stabilize blood-sugar levels; it also helps create a feeling of fullness that may help ward off overeating. In addition, apples are rich in the antioxidants quercetin and ellagic acid, which scavenge destructive free radicals in the body.
Iron, an essential mineral, is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen through the body; it is also required for the growth and differentiation of cells. Dietary iron is divided into two types, with heme iron -- found in hemoglobin -- occurring in animal foods such as meat, poultry and fish. Nonheme iron occurs in plant foods such as lentils and beans. Certain substances in foods -- such as tannic acids in teas and phytates in grains -- can interfere with the absorption of iron. The World Health Organization reports that 80 percent of the world's population is deficient in iron, with women of childbearing age most at risk. The recommended daily allowance of iron for adults is 8 mg for men and 18 mg for women. After age 50, requirements for women drop to 8 mg a day. Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, weakness, difficulty maintaining body temperature and decreased immune system function.
Iron in Apples
With a mere .22 mg of iron in a medium-sized apple, apples are not iron-rich. However, apples' vitamin C content can help to absorb iron from other foods eaten at the same meal. Although apples are not a good source of iron, they are rich in other minerals, including potassium. A medium apple contains 195 mg of this essential mineral, which regulates electrolytes -- or salts -- in the body to maintain normal heart rate and blood pressure. Copper is also present, in the amount of .049 mg per medium apple. Copper is a trace mineral needed by the body to produce hemoglobin, collagen, myelin and melanin.
Scientific research has demonstrated that the vitamin C in apples and other fruits promotes the use of iron in the body by overcoming substances that inhibit absorption. "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" reports a 1991 clinical study involving 199 volunteers in which researchers found that 30 mg of ascorbic acid -- or vitamin C -- overpowered the inhibitory effects of maize-bran phytates on non-heme iron absorption. Ascorbic acid also worked to overcome the inhibitory effects of tannins, and the authors advise 50 mg of vitamin C with a meal as the optimum dose for absorption.
- USDA National Nutrient Database
- Daily Mail; How An Apple a Day Can Keep Illness At Bay; Luci Hoe
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron
- "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; Ascorbic Acid Prevents the Dose-Dependent Inhibitory Effects of Polyphenols and Phytates on Nonheme-Iron Absorption; D. Siegenberg, et al.; February 1991
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Copper; UMMC Staff; March 2009
- Korovin/iStock/Getty Images