Apples are America’s favorite fruit. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, we average about 16 pounds of fresh apples per person each year, along with 28 pounds of processed apples in the forms of apple juice, applesauce, frozen apples and dried apples.

Apples are America’s favorite fruit. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, we average about 16 pounds of fresh apples per person each year, along with 28 pounds of processed apples in the forms of apple juice, applesauce, frozen apples and dried apples.

Apples are a nutrient-dense food primarily composed of water (84%) and carbohydrates (14%). With less than 100 calories in a medium apple, no sodium and no fat, an apple makes a good choice for a snack. They are also rich in several vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber.

Scientists give apples credit for many health benefits including:

Improving lung health. Eating apples may improve pulmonary function due to their antioxidants and phytonutrient content.

Helping with weight loss. Because apples are primarily water and fiber, eating them helps fill you up. Increasing fruits and vegetables in our daily diet to replace higher fat or sugary foods means fewer calories, more fiber and subsequent weight loss.

Easing symptoms of age-related memory loss. Antioxidants in apples help reduce oxidative stress and protect the brain.

Boosting the immune system. Vitamin C is essential to our immune function. One apple has 14 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.

Improving gut health. The insoluble fiber found in apple skin helps regulate the digestive system by increasing stool bulk and speeding transit time through the bowels. Pectin, a soluble fiber found in the apple’s cell walls and membranes, helps good bacteria break down food and improves absorption of nutrients.

Lowering cardiovascular disease risk. The soluble fiber, especially the pectin, in apples binds to bile acids in the intestines, which helps to lower cholesterol. Eating more fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Reducing risk of diabetes. A diet high in soluble fiber can help control diabetes because it slows gastric emptying, slows the rise of blood sugar and promotes fullness. There’s no need to fret about the sugar content in apples. True, an apple has roughly 25 grams of carbohydrates, but the high fiber content slows these carbs’ absorption, preventing a rapid rise in blood sugar.

Helping to fight cancer. Apples are a good source of antioxidants, which reduce cell damage. Polyphenols in apples may decrease the rate at which cancer cells increase.

Eating the whole fruit — skin and all — provides the most health benefits. Juicing strips away the fiber and removes some of the important phytochemicals. Apples are available year-round, but peak season is September and October. When buying apples, look for ones that are firm and heavy with a smooth skin and rich color. Store apples in the refrigerator, and they will keep for months.

You should wash apples well to remove any pesticide residue. It’s perfectly fine to eat the whole apple, core and all. Although apple seeds contain chemicals that can turn to cyanide, you’d have to crush and eat several hundred seeds for it to be a problem.

Here are some yummy ways to work more apples into your diet:

Eat them plain or with some peanut butter or cheese.

Dice them into oatmeal, cold cereal or pancakes.

Bake diced apples or applesauce into muffins.

Blend fresh or frozen apple slices into smoothies.

Add fresh or dried apples to salads or sandwiches.

Bake them along with sweet potatoes or squash.

Bake whole apples, and sprinkle them with cinnamon for dessert.

Poach an apple in cider, and serve with vanilla yogurt.

Grate them to add to coleslaw.

Add dried apples to trail mix, granola and cereals.

Top pancakes or waffles with sliced cooked apples.

Pair apples with proteins, such as chicken and pork.