Does ‘An Apple A Day Keep The Doctor Away’ – Myth or Truth?

“An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”?

What do you think – truth or myth?

I’m sure somewhere, sometime in your like, you have heard the expression “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” It is a common English-language proverb of Welsh origin according to Wikipedia.The proverbial advice to eat an apple a day first appeared in print in 1866. It was was based on the original Wales rhyming proverb: “Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread,” 

Today I was having coffee at my usual spot with my daughter and I overheard a mom talking to her son.

He of course wanted the tempting chocolate chip cookie sitting at eye level in the display case, but his mom wanted him to buy the apple slices. Hmmm….you can probably visualize the scenario.

One of the things she said to him to convince him to choose the apple slices was – “Tommy (not his real name)… Grandma always told me to choose an apple for a snack because ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’”.

This got me to thinking….

  • Can an apple a day really keep the doctor away? Truth or Myth?
  • Where did the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” come from? 
  • How healthy is an apple?
  • How can you turn healthy choices into healthy habits?

How many times do we hear health-related phrases like these. Is there any truth to them? Or have they been repeated as fact and passed down through generations so that people now see them as truths. With the wide use of technology, ‘clickbait’ articles have also made it easy for people to take these expressions at face value and to believe them to be true as they often sound like good advice.

So let’s look at the expression “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and decide …

Truth or Myth?

What is an apple?

History of the Apple

I think the history of the apple is important when we look into why people use the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” It appears that the concept of an ‘apple a day’ is quite old. Ancient Romans and Anglo-Saxons appear to have known about the healthful properties of apples.

The fruit also pops up in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, and mythology dating back about 1,500 years.

The apple was first deemed the ‘king of fruits’ according to an article published in the 1938 issue of the Canadian Geographical Journal and written by an M. B. Davis and R. L. Wheeler.

Wikipedia defines “An apple is a sweet, edible fruit produced by an apple tree (Malus pumila). Apple trees are cultivated worldwide and are the most widely grown species in the genus Malus…

Apples have religious and mythological significance in many cultures, including Norse, Greek and European Christian traditions… They appear in many religious traditions, often as a mystical or forbidden fruit.”

Wow, if you would like to learn more about the apple’s history check out the above links in Wikipedia…I find the history fascinating! Who knew that apples had been around for such a long, long time….and so has the proverb….

SO…Let’s look at the question – how healthy is an apple?


Let’s continue to investigate!

I don’t know about you, but I am a believer in an apple a day. I don’t always eat an apple a day, but I always have a big wire basket of the ‘apple’ that is currently in season on my kitchen counter. This week, I have my basket full of Gala apples.

If we look at the nutritional value of an apple. It could be considered a nutritional powersource for your body. You might even say you could nickname it the “Mighty Apple”.  

Did you know that the apple is high in fiber? “There is good data to show that this soluble fiber can help you prevent the building up of cholesterol on arterial walls.

The ‘mighty apple’ is a good source of potassium, which may be able to help you control your blood pressure. Apples also contain vitamin B6, C, A , and smaller amounts of phosphorus, iron, and calcium.

An apple has only 50-80 calories and has no fat or sodium.

Should you choose Organic or Non-Organic Apples?

We have all been told that fruits and vegetables are nutritious, ‘good for you’, and can help us fight off cancer and disease. According to the Canada Food Guide, plant- based foods should take up half of your plate. Check out my article here.

Eating plant based foods each day has been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. 

According to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40 % of Americans eat fruit less than one time a day showing that majority of people are not consuming enough plant-based foods.

One other thing to consider when eating plant-based fruits and vegetables is whether they need to be organic.

There is much debate and controversy as whether you need to buy organic.

Some concerns that come up as I did my research:

  1. Every country has its own rules on amounts and types pesticides growers are allowed to use.  
  2. Even though the organic farm may say they don’t use pesticides or chemicals they may be located beside a highway, factory, oil refinery…
  3. Some people suggest you watch out for chemicals and pesticides that might be on the skin of fruits and vegetables. You have probably heard of the “Dirty Dozen”. Typically there are two lists – the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”.

The Dirty Dozen, is a list of the twelve types of produce that may absorb the most pesticides. The Clean Fifteen produce absorbs less. These lists can be confusing, you really need to be aware of where and who is growing your produce. As a farm growing apples may not use pesticides and may be getting a bad rap as all apples are lumped into the list.

I was hesitant on listing these foods here as I believe that eating fruits and veggies is more important than worrying if they are organic. If it comes down to not being able to afford the organic version and going without I would rather buy what I can afford and do my best to clean the produce (see below).

Here is a look at the list of the foods on the Dirty Dozen 2018 list with the most pesticide residues: (*please note that some ‘farms’ do not use pesticides or chemicals – check out where and who is growing your produce) – – Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples,Grapes, Peaches, Cherries, Pears,Tomatoes, Celery, Potatoes, Sweet bell peppers

For 2018, the Clean Fifteen – – produce items that tend to have the least pesticide residues: Avocados, Sweet corn, Pineapples, Cabbage, Onions, Sweet frozen peas, Papayas, Asparagus, Mangos, Eggplant, Honeydew melon, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Broccoli

As I final thought on Organic vs Non-Organic, The Alliance for Food and Farming is telling consumers to be cautious about the EWG’s (Enviromental Working Group) annual list. It suggests the rankings are misleading, discredited by scientists and dissuades low-income consumers from buying fresh food altogether.

So should you buy organic?

I think it should be your individual choice as to whether you buy organic or not. If you can afford to and you want to, then I say go for it.  One thing that I think you should take into consideration is that the majority of us are not eating enough plant-based products. I think rather than focussing on organic or non organic – dirty or clean – we need to try to eat more fruits and veggies.

Now if you want to be a more sustainable produce consumer, there are things you can do – reduce the distance food travels or you travel to buy your food. I also try to buy local, and in-season. My local food store has a section on in-season locally grown produce that are usually reasonable priced.

What else can you do to help reduce the amounts of pesticides and chemicals we are exposed to?

It is suggested one should wash all produce and, if possible, choose food grown locally without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. These pesticides and chemicals have been shown through various studies to increase your risk of cancer.

Choosing organic apples may help reduce your exposure to pesticide residues, but don’t avoid healthy foods like fruits and vegetables just because they’re not organic. The benefit of eating fruits and veggies outweighs the potential risks of minimal pesticide exposure.

There are a few things you can do to ensure your produce is as safe as possible to eat:

  • Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking
  • Rinse your hard skinned fruit and veggies in a bit of apple cider vinegar
  • Scrub hard skinned apples, fruits, veggies such as potatoes with a clean produce brush
  • Rub dry your apples (fruits and veggies) with a clean cloth or paper towel. This can help to get rid of any pesticide residue that may still be on your produce after rinsing.

Should You Peel or Not Peel?

Did you know that apples carry most of their nutrients in the skin? Are you wondering since the skin could be absorbing pesticides and chemicals if you should peel it or if it is safe to eat the skin? According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one medium unpeeled apple has almost double the fiber, 25% more potassium and 40% more vitamin C than an apple that has been peeled. Apple peel also contain polyphenols, pectins, acids, and antioxidants that are also good for your body.

Facts to Chew On:

Although I couldn’t find any scientific evidence specifically support eating an apple keeping the doctor away, a 2015 study concluded that a small number of Americans who ate apples daily reported needing fewer prescription medications. (Perhaps the proverb should be ‘an apple a day keeps the pharmacist away.’)

Some dentists also suggest that eating an apples can act as a “nature’s toothbrush” in a pinch if you do not have a toothbrush handy. Apparently apples are mildly acidic and stimulate saliva which helps ‘rinse’ your teeth of excess food and may kill bacteria.’ (unfortunately this is controversial)

Replacing sugary drinks or processed food with an apple may help you reduce your sugar cravings and lead you on your way to healthier eating habits. (again controversial)

However, this doesn’t mean you should be drinking apple juice instead of water. The Canada Food guide suggests drinking water instead of fruit juice if you are thirsty. (They also suggest if you do want to drink juice to water it down.)

There is some controversy regarding whether apple juice is as good for you as the whole apple? What does seem to be agreed upon is that drinking apple juice is not the same as eating an apple because it lacks the fiber of the fruit and a large portion of nutrients which are in the skin.

There you have it…. It is not the actual ‘apple’ that keeps the doctor away but ‘the mighty apple” does help provide your body with some of the vitamins and minerals it needs to stay healthy.

In conclusion….does ‘an apple a day keep the doctor away’? 

No, but possibly the pharmacist…LOL

Technically the “mighty apple” does not keep the doctor away, so why is this common expression so popular? Is it because it’s a catchy rhyming phrase; Is it because of its simplicity? Perhaps it is because the proverb has been around for a very long time. I think it is because apples are good for you.

My final thought…Perhaps the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is reminding us, in a fun, light-hearted way to eat more fruits and veggies! You can’t go wrong if you follow a plant-based diet – mostly fresh vegetables with small servings of fruit each day which is now backed up by the Canada Food Guide. Adding more plant-based foods to your meals each day can lead to healthy habits that will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Recipe: Sliced Apples & Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip


  • 1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt (or Coconut Yogurt)
  • 1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter (or other nut butter)
  • 1 teaspoon honey (or to taste – I actually prefer it without sweetner)
  • 1 Table spoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon


  • Mix all the ingredients
  • Slice apples
  • Dip sliced apples in dip 

Optional: Core apple and keep it whole. Slice so that you have donut shaped rings. Spread with Dip and sprinkle with sunflower, pumpkin, chia seeds… etc.

Quote: “Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread,”  Old English Proverb

Affirmation:”I am eating healthy foods every day”

If you enjoyed reading my article, I would be honored if you shared it with your family or friends or on social media. 

Until next time,



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