Apple’s Role in Brain Health

  • Charlotte Sutherland Master of Science – MSc Translational Neuroscience, Imperial College London
  • Samreen Noman Masters in Biomedical Sciences from Univerity of of Applied Sciences Bonn-Rhein-Sieg, Germany

Among the numerous dietary choices and supplements claiming to improve cognitive well-being, apples may not always be the first food that comes to mind. Yet, these familiar fruits offer a range of nutritional benefits that can significantly contribute to brain health. This article explores the various ways apple consumption can positively impact cognitive function and offers advice for how to include this tasty snack as a cornerstone in your brain-healthy diet.


Every child knows the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”; however, apples might have a more important role in keeping you healthy than previously thought. Apples are believed to not only reduce the risk of physical diseases, such as heart disease and cancer but also to enhance brain health.1 Brain health can be thought of as how an individual’s brain functions over different domains – such as cognition, emotions, and sensory and motor function. As apples are a widely available and popular snack, it is important to explore how you can take advantage of the potential benefits of including apples in your daily diet.

Nutritional composition of apples

Apples are not just delicious; they're also a nutritional powerhouse. Here's a brief overview of some of the key nutrients found in apples and how they contribute to brain health:

NutrientsPer large apple% NRV per apple
Dietary Fibre1.8 g6%
Vitamin A3 mcg<1%
Vitamin B10.06 mcg5%
Vitamin B20.06 mcg4%
Vitamin C9 mg11%
Vitamin E0.14 mcg1%
Vitamin K8.5 mcg11%
Potassium152 mg8%
Calcium8 mg1%
Magnesium6 mg2%
Phosphorus12 mg2%
Iron0.1 mg<1%

                        NRV: Nutrient Reference Value

A. Dietary fibre

Apples are an excellent source of dietary fibre, specifically a soluble fibre known as pectin. Soluble fibre can affect the gut microbiome to improve both body and brain health.2 Additionally, pectin has been found to lower cholesterol3 and blood pressure2 in healthy volunteers, both of which can affect brain health.

B. Vitamins

Apples contain many essential vitamins, the most notable of which is Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant which can help to protect cells in the brain from oxidative damage - a harmful process involved in ageing and many diseases. In fact, the average fresh apple has an antioxidant activity equivalent to taking 1,500mg of vitamin C supplements.4

  C. Minerals

Apples also contain many important minerals, such as potassium - an important mineral in regulating blood pressure.5 By promoting general health, this can improve general brain health.

Apples and cognitive function

Eating apples can have a positive impact on cognitive function - one aspect of brain health that involves all the higher functions of the brain, such as learning, memory, problem-solving, and planning.6 

Oxidative stress contributes to cognitive decline during normal ageing and in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, the antioxidants found in apples have been shown to combat this oxidative stress in the body and potentially slow cognitive decline. Eating fresh apples daily for one month has been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes and decrease harmful oxidation reactions in elderly participants,7 and this has been shown to reduce oxidative damage to the brain and cognitive impairments.8

Apples also contain another important type of nutrient called flavonoids. These compounds are found naturally in many plant products and, although these phytonutrients are not normally listed on the label apple products, they offer a range of health benefits through their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.9 Quercetin is an abundant flavonoid found in apple peel and has been shown to promote the growth of new cells in the brains of mice, ultimately improving learning and memory.10 This evidence overall points to eating apples as an easy way to boost your cognitive function through a range of beneficial nutrients and compounds. 

Apples and neuroprotective effects

Apples can also have neuroprotective effects, which means they might be able to protect against some of the processes going on inside the brain that contribute to cognitive decline and neurological diseases. For example, apples have been shown to protect against injury to brain cells commonly found in many neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.1,11

On top of the beneficial antioxidant properties, the flavonoids in apples also possess protective anti-inflammatory mechanisms, which may contribute to this neuroprotection.9 As we age, chronic low-level inflammation can drive damage to the body and brain, elevating the risk of developing age-related illnesses and chronic diseases. Anti-inflammatory agents can therefore protect against such detrimental effects by calming this harmful inflammatory response.12 

While this doesn’t mean that apples can cure diseases by themselves, they have been shown to reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.1 By eating apples in combination with living a healthy lifestyle - eating healthy, regularly exercising, stopping smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation - you can reduce the risk of developing certain diseases and protect your brain health. 

Apples and the gut-brain connection

Apples may also contribute to brain health and mental well-being indirectly through promoting gut health. A gut-brain connection is becoming increasingly evident, with researchers showing that a healthy gut can promote brain health.13 Apples are rich in prebiotic fibre, such as pectin, which is soluble dietary fibre digested by microflora in the gut to promote a healthy microbiome. This promotes the growth of good colonic bacteria like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. These health-promoting bacteria help fight off harmful bacteria that can cause disease, as well as generally promote health by reducing inflammation. Research has linked a balanced gut microbiome with improved mood and reduced anxiety, highlighting the intricate connection between gut health and mental well-being.13 So eating healthy can make your brain healthy too!

How to include apples in your brain-healthy diet

Experts suggest that at least one apple a day should be consumed to achieve these potential cognitive benefits.7 Apples can be eaten as one of your five-a-day to maintain a balanced diet, alongside other brain-boosting foods like oily fish, leafy greens, and nuts. 

Importantly, cooking or baking apples doesn’t diminish their beneficial effects, so you can enjoy apples in any way you want! Here are some recipe ideas and tips on how to incorporate apples into your daily diet to improve brain health:

  • Eat them by themselves: Eating raw apples is one of the easiest and quickest ways to include apples in your diet. 
  • Add them to a salad: Apples can easily be sliced and added to a fruit salad with other fruits like grapes and pineapple to make a delicious and healthy summer dessert. Or they can even be added to leafy salads with extras like feta cheese and walnuts to make a nutritious lunch or side dish.
  • Eat them dried as a snack: Crispy dried apples can be made at home by sprinkling with cinnamon and cooking in the oven to make a delicious and healthy snack.
  • Drink as a juice: Apples can be crushed and pressed to create fresh apple juice or mixed with other fruits to give a tasty tropical juice. This makes a great addition to breakfast as juice maximises the hydrating quality of apples while still retaining most of the health benefits. 
  • Bake them in a crumble: Homemade apple crumble is a delicious dessert staple which is easy to make using cooking apples and a few other cupboard essentials. 
  • Add to meals as a chutney: Apples can be made into classic chutneys to accompany your favourite meals; for example, apple and cranberry chutney make a great addition to a cheeseboard.

TIP: It is important to also eat the skin of the apple, not just the flesh, as most of the important fibre and vitamins which boost brain health are contained within the skin.3

Potential considerations and limitations

While apples may offer many advantages, as discussed, it is also essential to be aware of potential problems or adverse effects. Some individuals may be allergic to apples or sensitive to certain compounds (e.g., salicylates) found in apples. It is important to seek medical attention if you believe you are having an adverse reaction to apples.

Another consideration is that apples contain natural sugars. Although these sugars are not the same as the free sugars found in many processed foods, they could still have potentially adverse effects if consumed in excess. Further, many apple products, such as apple juices or dried apples, often contain added sugar, making moderation important. This is especially important for individuals with conditions like diabetes, and blood sugar levels should be carefully monitored.


Apples are more than just a tasty snack; they can also be a cornerstone of a brain-healthy diet. With their nutritional richness, potential cognitive and neuroprotective benefits, and role in gut-brain health, apples deserve a spot at your table. As we navigate the complexities of everyday life, maintaining brain health through simple and easy diet changes could be crucial. So why not start with something as simple and delicious as a crisp and juicy apple? Incorporating apples into your daily routine may contribute to better brain health and general well-being, one bite at a time.

Remember the age-old saying: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.


This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Charlotte Sutherland

Master of Science – MSc Translational Neuroscience, Imperial College London

Charlotte is a recent MSc Translational Neuroscience graduate from Imperial College London where she undertook research investigating antidepressants and Alzheimer’s disease. She has a strong interest in translational research and is aiming to pursue a PhD in the field of neurodegenerative diseases.

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