There are plenty of common cliches that we use in our everyday conversations, but “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a lesson that has been passed down for generations. It’s a saying that seems to come with little to no explanation as to how eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away other than it just does. Apples are packed with nutrients perfect for maintaining a healthy diet, but does adding one apple to your meal plan every day truly curb doctor visits? Yes and no.
The first known example of the use of the saying comes from a 19th-century magazine published in Wales. It was originally phrased, “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” Over the next century, it evolved to “an apple a day, no doctor pay” and “an apple a day sends the doctor away.” It wasn’t until 1922 that the saying we know and love today was first documented. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a good proverb, but only when not taken literally.
Apples have a substantial amount of health benefits. They contain pectin, a prebiotic that feeds probiotics, the healthy bacteria in your stomach that breaks down food and kills threatening organisms. During pesky flu season when it feels like a cold or worse is always on the brink of hitting you, an apple is a great snack because it contains vitamin C, an immune system booster. And, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the phytochemicals found in each bite of an apple help in the fight against cancer. So, while eating an apple a day shouldn’t stop you from visiting your doctor for check-ups, its nutrients do help prevent medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and contribute to a healthy diet. A healthy diet likely means fewer trips to the doc.
Researchers at the University of Michigan and Dartmouth actually put the question to the test. After surveying adults who eat an apple a day compared to those who don’t, they found that people who consume more apples had other healthy habits, however, there’s no significant relationship between eating an apple and fewer doctor visits. Instead, researchers concluded that eating an apple a day “keeps the pharmacist away:” Apple eaters use fewer medical prescriptions.
Apples are a great snack for the entire family. And when you’re tired at the job or looking for crunchy food to munch on, they are a nutritious replacement for junk food. An apple a day might not keep the doctor away, but its nutrients will help improve your overall health. Just don’t let being an apple eater prevent you from neglecting other aspects of your health, like ignoring the early signs you might be getting sick.