Which is healthier peeled or unpeeled apples?


An age-old debate in the world of nutrition is whether apples are healthier eaten peeled or unpeeled. On one hand, the skin of an apple contains beneficial nutrients and fiber. On the other hand, there are concerns over pesticide residues in the skin. So which is truly better for you – peeled or unpeeled apples?

Apples are an iconic fruit packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They make a nutritious snack and can be incorporated into many recipes. But before taking a bite, you’re faced with a choice – to peel or not to peel.

This article will explore the pros and cons of eating apples with and without the skin. We’ll look at the nutritional differences, pesticide concerns, and overall health impacts. After reviewing the evidence, you can decide for yourself which option is optimal for health and enjoyment.

Nutritional Comparison

First, let’s examine how the nutrition profile differs between peeled and unpeeled apples.


One of the biggest nutritional advantages of unpeeled apples is their high fiber content. The skin contains much of the fruit’s insoluble fiber, a type of indigestible carb with many health benefits.

Fiber plays several important roles, including:

  • Promoting digestive health
  • Supporting heart health by reducing LDL “bad” cholesterol
  • Controlling blood sugar levels
  • Aiding weight maintenance by increasing satiety

According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one medium apple with the skin provides 4.4 grams of fiber. If peeled, that apple only contains 2.1 grams of fiber1.

So eating the peel more than doubles the fiber intake! For those looking to increase dietary fiber, unpeeled apples are clearly the superior choice.

Vitamins and Minerals

In addition to fiber, apple skins provide small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Although peel and flesh both contain vitamin C, the skin boasts more – about 5.7 mg vs 4.6 mg per medium fruit1.

The skin also slightly edges out the flesh in certain minerals, with higher quantities of potassium, calcium, and magnesium1.

However, in the context of total nutrient needs, the bump from eating the peel is relatively minor. The flesh alone still supplies 100% of vitamin C, 2% of calcium, 2% of magnesium, and 3% of potassium recommended daily1.

So for these micronutrients, while the peel provides a nice bonus, the flesh delivers the majority.


Apple peels, especially those of red varieties, are rich sources of polyphenol antioxidants like quercetin.

Research shows polyphenols have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and blood pressure lowering effects in the body2. They also support microbiome diversity and offer neuroprotective benefits3.

Since most polyphenols are concentrated in the skin, peeled apples contain far less. By opting for peel-on apples, you’ll gain more of these beneficial plant compounds.

Summary of Nutrients

To summarize the nutritional pros and cons:

Nutrient Highest in Peel or Flesh?
Fiber Peel
Vitamin C Peel (slightly)
Minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium Peel (slightly)
Polyphenols Peel

Pesticide Residues

Having covered the nutrition, we need to address the elephant in the room regarding apple peels – pesticide residues. This concern often deters people from eating the skin.

Unfortunately, apples rank among the most pesticide-contaminated produce. In fact, 98% of apple samples tested by the USDA in 2020 contained pesticide residues4.

The skin tends to harbor more pesticides than the fruit flesh. So yes, chomping into a whole apple exposes you to higher levels of chemicals.

However, this doesn’t mean you should automatically shun the peel. Proper washing can go a long way, removing up to 80% of surface pesticides5. Peeling non-organic apples also reduces residues.

Interestingly, organic apples have lower overall pesticide levels than conventional ones. And residues detected on organic produce mostly come from approved natural pesticides, rather than synthetic versions6.

So for those wanting to play it safe, opting for organic apples (peel on or off) is a smart bet. But even conventional apple peels can be enjoyed in moderation after thorough washing.

Health Benefits

Beyond nutrition, eating apples peel-on or peel-off may impact health in other ways. Let’s review the evidence.

Weight Management

Due to their high fiber and water content, whole unpeeled apples are filling. In one study, women who ate apples with the skin took in 187 fewer calories at a meal than those served peeled, cored apples7.

The peel’s fiber and bulk can help curb overeating and promote weight maintenance. So including it may provide appetite-suppressing benefits.

Blood Sugar Control

Some research indicates apple peels, more so than flesh, may support blood sugar regulation. Extracts have reduced glucose production and absorption in cells and diabetic mice8,9.

The polyphenols in the skin likely play a role. More human data is needed, but eating unpeeled apples could aid glycemic control.

Gut Health

Via their fiber and polyphenol content, apple peels act as prebiotics for your gut microbiome3.

Prebiotics are non-digestible compounds that nourish beneficial bacteria. They enhance immune function and digestive health.

So to maximize prebiotic potential, eating your apples unpeeled is ideal. However, even peeled apples provide some prebiotic benefit.

Disease Prevention

Certain studies link apple intake with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and asthma10. Unfortunately most don’t specify eating with or without the peel.

But based on the skin’s perks – more fiber, antioxidants, polyphenols – it’s reasonable to expect eating unpeeled apples may confer greater preventive effects. Their compounds likely contribute to lowering disease risk.

However, even flesh-only apples provide benefits, thanks to ample fiber, vitamin C, and polyphenols. Don’t shy away from peeled apples if preferred.

Downsides of Peels

Despite their many boons, apple skins do come with a few cautions:

  • May contain higher pesticide residues if conventional/not washed.
  • Can cause dental enamel erosion due to acidity, if not thoroughly chewed.
  • Adds more gritty texture than peeled apples.
  • Potential choking hazard for young kids if not cut/cooked well.

However, these concerns all have solutions: choosing organic, practicing proper oral hygiene, cooking skins when needed, and dicing/mashing for youngsters.

So none are compelling reasons to universally avoid the peel. With some care, the benefits clearly seem to outweigh potential issues.

Bottom Line

To summarize key takeaways:

  • Apple peels offer more fiber, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals than flesh alone.
  • But apple flesh still supplies ample amounts of most nutrients (except for fiber).
  • The skin contains more pesticide residues, but washing helps. Organic is ideal.
  • Unpeeled apples may promote better weight control, blood sugar regulation, gut health, and disease prevention.
  • However, peeled apples are still very healthy and provide most of the same perks.

Overall, while apple peels edge out flesh nutritionally, both are healthy options. If possible, eating the peel is encouraged for maximum benefit. But peeling doesn’t make apples “bad”.

The most important factors are eating apples regularly, and choosing organic when you can. An apple a day, peel or no peel, still keeps the doctor away.


1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, FoodData Central. Apples, raw, with skin. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171688/nutrients

2. Boyer J, Liu RH. Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Nutr J. 2004;3:5.

3. Wolfe KL, Liu RH. Apple peels as a value-added food ingredient. J Agric Food Chem. 2003;51(6):1676-1683.

4. EWG’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

5. Zhang ZY, Liu XJ, Hong XY, Xiao HW. Surface pesticide residues dissipate following washing with water. Environ Pollut. 2016;216:622-627.

6. Smith-Spangler C, Brandeau ML, Hunter GE, Bavinger JC, Pearson M, Eschbach PJ, Sundaram V, Liu H, Schirmer P, Stave C, Olkin I, Bravata DM. Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives? A systematic review. Ann Intern Med. 2012;157:348-366.

7. Flood JE, Rolls BJ. Soup preloads in a variety of forms reduce meal energy intake. Appetite. 2007;49(3):626-34.

8. Yang M, Koo SI, Song WO, Chun OK. Food matrix affecting anthocyanin bioavailability: review. Curr Med Chem. 2013;20(2):291-300.

9. Jeong Y, Jung UJ, Park YB, et al. Apple Polyphenol Phloretin Potentiates the Anti-diabetic Actions of Metformin in C57BL/KsJ-db/db Mice via Upregulation of GLUT4 and Reduction of Hepatic Gluconeogenesis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:3203909.

10. Hyson DA. A comprehensive review of apples and apple components and their relationship to human health. Adv Nutr. 2011;2(5):408-20.

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