Have We Really Been Eating Apples Wrong This Whole Time?

Photo: Getty Images / Westend61
I have a friend who eats lemon slices whole—as in, rind and all. I tease her relentlessly for it, but she might actually get the last laugh when it comes to whole-fruit consumption. According to a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, the amount of beneficial bacteria you ingest when deciding how to eat an apple increases significantly when you don't stop short of the core and seeds.

Researchers at the Graz University of Technology in Austria analyzed the bacteria content in both organic and store-bought apples and came back with some unexpected (at least, to me?) findings. For starters, both types of apples contained approximately the same amount of bacteria content; however, organic apples had more diverse and more beneficial microbes as compared to store-bought varieties.

Perhaps more intriguing is the team's finding that in both apple types, the bulk of the good bacteria were found in an apple's seeds. This means that if you skip them, you miss out on some major digestive help. In fact, researchers concluded that tossing an apple core reduces the amount of microbes consumed from more than 100 million to a measly 10 million.

And while most modern-day humans can benefit from a little bacteria boost, there are certain signs that you in particular want to emulate Johnny Appleseed. Microbiome health affects everything from immunity to weight to depression (and beyond), and yours could be in bad shape if you're experiencing symptoms ranging from bloating and gas to skin issues, depression, and fatigue. The type of bacteria most commonly found in (organic) apples is called lactobacillus, which might be familiar to probiotic junkies given that it's found in most formulas. "Lactobacillus produces lactate which helps maintain a healthy PH in the gut," explains Sarah Greenfield, RD, of Hum Nutrition. "Certain strains have been linked to increasing skin cell turnover and also up-regulating GABA receptors that help calm the body." Pretty impressive CV for a piece of trash, right?

Speaking of garbage, there's another reason to consume the core of your next apple, too. Not eating them wastes 20-30 percent of the fruit, says zero waste expert Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers. "The same is true for a lot of veggie tops, stems, and leaves, all of which are edible," she says. "Not eating all parts of a fruit or vegetable leads to billions of dollars of loss for something that is perfectly edible and a lot of methane released because those end up in landfill—methane is more dangerous than CO2 from a short term perspective, so it's super bad for climate change."

If you're so inclined to eat the core, take your first bite from the bottom of the apple and work your way toward the stem. (I'm told that you'll barely notice a difference in texture or taste.) But if you still feel weird about consuming cores (it me!), Singer suggests juicing. "Also, making stock is a great way to get a lot out of things that are otherwise considered waste in America—stems, cores, pits, leaves, and stalks," she says. "Pickling is also a great trick to make those bits more desirable."

Before you go HAM with seed harvesting, however, it's worth noting that ingesting too many of the little guys can have ill effects on health. Consuming an apple core or two (or 10, honestly) a day, however, isn't going to do any harm. Plus, it might just keep the digestive doctor—and the impending climate apocalypse?!—away.

So, you've totally been eating apples all wrong, but are you #epicfailing on your avocado consumption, too? Plus, find out if you're among those who should avoid eating raw kale

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