Stress Reduction With Apple Nutrients

  • Dana Visnitchi  MSci, Neuroscience with Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

Nutrition and stress

Have you ever heard of the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Did you know that apples have many health benefits, including reducing stress? Apples contain some nutrients that help reduce oxidative stress, decrease cortisol levels, and boost the production of serotonin -the happiness hormone.1, 2

This fruit has many health benefits, but in this article, we will focus on exploring how apple nutrients play a role in stress relief and the best way to incorporate them into our diet for this specific occasion.

Stress and its impact on physical and mental health

Stress is considered a state of physical and emotional tension caused by an adverse situation. While everyone experiences stress to some degree, we deal with it differently, and that impacts our health. Increased stress levels hurt our physical and mental health, which could lead to serious health issues, including.3

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Debilitating the immune system
  • Alteration of the endocrine system
  • Affects memory 
  • Disrupts cognition and learning
  • Depression

 That is why we need to learn solutions to cope with it.

The role of nutrition in managing stress

A well-balanced diet is important to keep our body healthy and to decrease the risk of suffering from non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, or obesity. In addition, there is also a connection between diet and mental health. Research has shown that a low-fat diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, especially the Mediterranean diet, can lower the risk of suffering from mood disorders, as well as stress and anxiety symptoms.4 

Apple nutrients for stress reduction

Apples have several nutrients which have antioxidant properties that are involved in reducing oxidative stress. Furthermore, other nutritional components can regulate cortisollevels, also known as the stress hormone, stimulate serotonin production, and regulate inflammatory responses.1, 2 

While there might be several fruits and vegetables that could have a positive impact on mental health, this article will focus on apples and all their nutrients that have an effect in relieving stress. 

Nutritional components of apples

Apples have the following nutritional components1

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B6
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Nitrogen
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Fibre

Furthermore, this fruit contains phytonutrients, which are elements with antioxidant properties, including:

  • Flavonoids (quercetin is the primary type found)
  • Polyphenols 

Mechanisms of apple nutrients in stress reduction

Antioxidant properties and oxidative stress

Chronic stress can lead to increased oxidative stress. This is when there is a higher generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) than an antioxidant response. Consequently, this could result in neurological disease.5

Vitamins C and E, along with the  antioxidants from the apple discussed above, help decrease oxidative stress by contributing to different mechanism:1

  • Stimulating the production of enzymes that repress the excess formation of ROS.
  • Enhancing the activity of the previously mentioned enzymes.
  • Removing excessive ROS, hence, suppressing oxidative stress propagation.

A study observed that patients going through hemodialysis treatment presented better antioxidant responses after consuming 2 apples per day for 1 week.6

Role in regulating cortisol levels

In response to stress, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is activated, which leads to the activation of adrenal glands, and consequently, cortisol is released from them, and their levels rise. Normally, this glucocorticoid hormone helps regulate our bodies reaction to stress. However, excessive cortisol concentrations in our blood for a long time due to constant exposure to stressors can result in 2,7

  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes
  • Deposits of fat between the shoulder blades
  • Hypertension
  • Osteoporosis
  • Neurological impairment

Again, flavonoids not only have an antioxidative quality, but they can also lower cortisol levels. Quercetin, one of the flavonoids found in apples, inhibits the extra activity of the HPA axis during stress, thus reducing cortisol secretion.2 

Impact on neurotransmitters

Although neurotransmitters are also affected when we are stressed, quercetin has a positive impact on them, which is good because it can improve our mood. Research has found that quercetin stimulates the levels of serotonin. Not only that, but this antioxidant also regulates monoamine neurotransmitters, which in turn have antidepressant effects.2,8 

Anti-inflammatory effects

Among the many consequences of stress, one is the activation of inflammatory mechanisms. Nevertheless, these inflammatory responses are not the same as the ones observed in cases of injury or infection, meaning they are not limited to a point of the body, and they are of lower magnitude.9 Research has confirmed that Quercetin has anti-inflammatory effects.2 Furthermore, studies have also demonstrated that ingestion of apples reduces this problem.1

Further research

An Australian study confirmed that adults with a high intake of apples, along with other fruits and vegetables, were less likely to suffer from stress.10 In addition, there is plenty of research that demonstrates the effectiveness of apple nutrients in stress relief, especially studies that focus on Quercetin.1,2,5-9  Nonetheless, no studies are researching whether different types of apples have the same effect on lowering anxiety, and this might be an area worth exploring. 

Incorporating apples into the diet for stress reduction

Dietary recommendations and portion sizes

Different types of apples have slightly different nutritional values. Although they will all have a beneficial impact on your health, choosing a type will depend on your taste. However, keep in mind that fresh whole apples will have more nutrients. What is more, each person’s dietary needs vary, thus, it is up to you to decide your daily intake of the fruit. 

Benefits of whole apples vs. apple products 

Apples can be used in many different products such as juice, applesauce, jelly, and so much more. Even though these products might also have some benefits, generally, it is better to consume a whole apple, as it has all its nutrients.

Research has indicated that individuals who eat whole fruit absorb higher quantities of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals compared to those who intake apple-derived foods. Moreover, levels of added sugars are also more elevated in consumers of apple products.11  

In addition, dehydrated apples lose their vitamin C, and apple juice is filtered, so the fibre and flavonoids are extremely reduced.12  

Furthermore, whole apples are crunchy. Stress eaters tend to look for this property in foods because it helps them release the tension accumulated in their jaws. 

Something else to consider is that apples have the majority of antioxidants and vitamins in the skin. Therefore, the ideal way to eat them would be without peeling them.12 However, make sure to wash them properly before ingesting them, as some pesticide residue might still linger on them.

Creative ways to include apples in meals and snacks 

There are different ways you can enjoy apples

  • Combine apple slices with seed or nut butter
  • Cut slices and dip them into honey
  • Apple toast: Cut the apple in half, remove the seeds, and cut thick round, heart-shaped slices. Then add a spread you like (e.g., peanut butter, honey, almond cream, etc), and for an extra crunchy effect you can sprinkle granola on top
  • Breakfast bowl: Mix Greek yogurt with granola, seeds, small apple pieces, honey, and cinnamon
  • Apple chips:  Cut thin pieces, sprinkle them with cinnamon, and put them in the oven until they are crispy

Practical tips for stress reduction

To achieve a healthier lifestyle, free of stress, you must create a routine that you can stick with, as it facilitates adapting to healthy changes and recommendations.13 For instance

  • Start by adding an apple to your breakfast, using them in salads,  or integrating them in smoothies. 
  • Make sure you also balance apple consumption with other nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • Monitor your dietary habits, avoiding processed foods with high sugar content, and excessive saturated fats.14
  • Try and find relaxation techniques that work for you, such as yoga or meditation.
  • Exercising regularly can give you a boost of energy, improve your mood, and help you reduce anxiety.15 Note: adapt your exercise to your needs, take into consideration your limitations, and do not push yourself. 
  • Try to get between 7 hours to 9 hours of sleep, as it will help you be less stressed, function better, and be in a better mood.
  • Track your stress levels with health apps, or by going to your physician.
  • Seek professional help.


Stress can negatively impact both physical and mental health, leading to worse health complications. Apples are a holistic approach to treating stress, as their nutrients have many benefits in stress mechanisms. Their vitamins and antioxidants help reduce cortisol levels, execute their properties to control oxidative stress, regulate neurotransmitters, and execute anti-inflammatory responses. Consuming fresh whole apples with peel is recommended for all the nutrients to have their maximum effect. Furthermore, to properly relieve stress, apples should be combined with a nutritional diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in added sugars, and relaxation techniques should be integrated into daily routines as well. 


Are there any potential considerations or precautions when consuming apples for stress reduction? 

Yes, if you are allergic to apples, you should avoid consuming them.

How long does it take for apple nutrients to show an effect on stress levels?

That will vary from person to person. However, you should consider that incorporating apples into your diet to reduce stress is a long-term approach. Furthermore, other aspects will also influence your stress levels.

Are there different apple varieties that are better for stress reduction, or do they all have similar benefits?

Different varieties of apples have slightly different nutritional values, but overall, they will have a positive impact on your health. More research is needed to explore this topic.


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  • Chen S, Tang Y, Gao Y, Nie K, Wang H, Su H, et al. Antidepressant potential of quercetin and its glycoside derivatives: a comprehensive review and update. Front Pharmacol [Internet]. 2022 Apr 8 [cited 2023 Oct 9];13:865376. Available from:
  • Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J [Internet]. 2017 Jul 21 [cited 2023 Oct 9];16:1057–72. Available from:
  • Bremner JD, Moazzami K, Wittbrodt MT, Nye JA, Lima BB, Gillespie CF, et al. Diet, stress and mental health. Nutrients [Internet]. 2020 Aug [cited 2023 Oct 9];12(8):2428. Available from:
  • Schiavone S, Jaquet V, Trabace L, Krause KH. Severe life stress and oxidative stress in the brain: from animal models to human pathology. Antioxid Redox Signal [Internet]. 2013 Apr 20 [cited 2023 Oct 10];18(12):1475–90. Available from:
  • Giaretta AG, Schulz M, Silveira TT, de Oliveira MV, Patrício MJ, Gonzaga LV, et al. Apple intake improves antioxidant parameters in hemodialysis patients without affecting serum potassium levels. Nutrition Research [Internet]. 2019 Apr 1 [cited 2023 Oct 10];64:56–63. Available from:
  • Thau L, Gandhi J, Sharma S. Physiology, cortisol. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Oct 10]. Available from:
  • Kumar A, Rinwa P, Kaur G, Machawal L. Stress: Neurobiology, consequences and management. J Pharm Bioallied Sci [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2023 Oct 11];5(2):91–7. Available from:
  • Rohleder N. Stress and inflammation – The need to address the gap in the transition between acute and chronic stress effects. Psychoneuroendocrinology [Internet]. 2019 Jul [cited 2023 Oct 11];105:164–71. Available from:
  • Radavelli-Bagatini S, Sim M, Blekkenhorst LC, Bondonno NP, Bondonno CP, Woodman R, et al. Associations of specific types of fruit and vegetables with perceived stress in adults: the AusDiab study. Eur J Nutr [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Oct 11];61(6):2929–38. Available from:
  • Nicklas TA, O’Neil CE, Fulgoni VL. Consumption of various forms of apples is associated with a better nutrient intake and improved nutrient adequacy in diets of children: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2010. Food Nutr Res [Internet]. 2015 Oct 5 [cited 2023 Oct 12];59:10.3402/fnr.v59.25948. Available from:
  • Koutsos A, Tuohy KM, Lovegrove JA. Apples and cardiovascular health—is the gut microbiota a core consideration? Nutrients [Internet]. 2015 Jun [cited 2023 Oct 12];7(6):3959–98. Available from:
  • Arlinghaus KR, Johnston CA. The importance of creating habits and routine. Am J Lifestyle Med [Internet]. 2018 Dec 29 [cited 2023 Oct 12];13(2):142–4. Available from:
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  • Jackson EM. Stress relief: the role of exercise in stress management. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal [Internet]. 2013 Jun [cited 2023 Oct 12];17(3):14. Available from:
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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Dana Visnitchi

MSci, Neuroscience with Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

I’m an early career with a degree in Neuroscience with Psychology, who is passionate about mental health, and aims to promote it to a large audience without a scientific background. I’m also interested in skincare and cardiovascular health, and always keen to expand my knowledge. I have previous experience in literature search, creating content for different audiences, and making contributions to a published research paper about Gender Dysphoria. I’m currently focused on exploring medical communications to have a significant impact on the healthcare community.

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