We’ve all heard the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” about a million times growing up. But a new study published in Frontiers in Microbiology has us rethinking our apple-buying habits—and which part of the apples we’re eating is the healthiest.
The study, performed by a group of scientists from Graz University of Technology in Austria, analyzed the bacterial composition of common types of apples. The results showed that all apples had similar amounts of bacteria—about 100 million bacteria per 140 grams of apple to be exact—and that most of those bacteria colonized in the apple seeds and the pulp.
The researchers also wanted to know whether or not there was a difference between the types of bacteria found in homegrown organic apples versus common store-bought apples, which are more likely to be exposed to chemicals. As it turns out, the answer was yes. There are some very obvious differences.
As the study’s senior author Professor Gabriele Berg told Medical News Today, “Freshly harvested, organically managed apples harbor a significantly more diverse, more even and distinct bacterial community, compared to conventional ones.” This increased diversity provides some important benefits, such as limiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria. For example, the potentially harmful bacteria Escherichia–Shigella was found on all of the store-bought apples but none of the homegrown ones. The organic apples also had higher levels of beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus.
So what does this mean for the future of apple-eating? Since there are so many healthy bacteria in the flesh, we might want to rethink the commonly held idea that the skin is the healthiest part of the apple. With this study, we also learned that opting for organic or locally grown apples is about more than just avoiding pesticides; it’s about protecting your gut by colonizing your body with good bacteria and avoiding the bad ones.
The authors of the study plan to analyze other fruits and vegetables in the same way. As one of the students involved in the study, Birgit Wasserman, also explained, “The microbiome and antioxidant profiles of fresh produce may one day become standard nutritional information, displayed alongside macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals to guide consumers.” And that kind of specificity is something we can definitely get behind.