Apple Cider: Are There Health Benefits?

It doesn’t get much better than going to an apple orchard to handpick apples, except maybe enjoying a cup of fresh-squeezed apple cider.

You often hear people referring to apple cider as apple juice and vice versa. While both products contain juice squeezed from apples, the process is a bit different. Apple cider is juiced apples. It still has some pulp, as well as more vitamins and minerals. It may or may not be pasteurized, which is the process of heating the liquid to a certain temperature to kill bacteria. Apple juice, on the other hand, is filtered juice that’s been heated to 190 F during processing.

Cider in the U.S. is different from cider in other countries. While it typically refers to fresh-squeezed, unfiltered apple juice in the states, “cider” in other parts of the world refers to an alcoholic beverage that most Americans know as “hard cider”

Apple cider has many of the same nutrients as fresh apples. As it’s only the juice, the amounts are smaller. Still, cider does have some amazing health benefits.

Nutrition Information

In 1 cup (8 ounces) of apple cider, you’ll find:

Apple cider also has several other vitamins and minerals, such as:

  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C

Apple cider contains polyphenols, which are compounds in plants that act as antioxidants. They can help the body to fight against free radicals and cell damage, lowering your risk of certain types of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Polyphenols also help to ease inflammation in the body.

As apple cider isn’t filtered, it has more polyphenols than apple juice. It does, however, contain less than fresh, whole apples, which also contain a significant amount of fiber.

Potential Health Benefits of Apple Cider

Apple cider in its purest form is the juice from chopped and mashed apples. The polyphenols in the cider provide health benefits. While cider might not have the same concentration of polyphenols that whole apples have, these antioxidants can help to improve your health and lower your odds of certain conditions such as inflammation and cancer. 

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Other health benefits of apple cider include:

Lower chance of cardiovascular disease . The phytonutrients in apple cider can help to stop the oxidation process of bad cholesterol, which leads to the buildup of plaque in your arteries. That plaque increasing your risk for heart disease. 

Constipation relief. While apple cider doesn’t have much fiber, it can still help people with constipation or irritable bowel syndrome. As it’s not filtered, the drink does keep some of its pectin content. Pectin is a soluble fiber that can keep you regular.

Apple cider can also help to relax your intestines, which can help create a healthier digestive system and alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.  

Hydration . Apple cider is mainly water. It’s also easy to drink. As such, it can help to prevent dehydration if you’re sick. Diluting the cider with water helps to cut down on the amount of sugar you take in. It also can help prevent symptoms like diarrhea, which can come when you have too much sugar. 

Reduced risk of some cancers. As antioxidants, the polyphenols in apple cider can help to fight free radicals in your body, lowering your chance of oxidative stress and cell damage. These polyphenols also help to ease your risk of certain types of cancers, such as colon cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.

Potential Risks of Apple Cider

If your apple cider is not pasteurized, there's a chance that you could take in some harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella or E. coli. This is particularly possible if any of the apples used to make the cider were "drops" (apples that were picked off the ground).

When you're shopping for it in a store, keep in mind that cider that's kept on the shelf or is frozen juice concentrate has been pasteurized. If it's in a cooler or refrigerator in your produce department, there's a chance that it wasn't. Check the label or ask your store's produce manager to be sure.

If you buy from someplace like a farmer's market or a local orchard, ask the seller how the cider was produced.

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You can always boil any cider before drinking it if you're unsure of its safety. Make sure to stir it while you boil it to make sure it heats evenly. Also remember that freezing your cider will not kill any bacteria.

If you make your cider at home, be sure to use apples that were freshly harvested and cleaned. Never use drops.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 16, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Institute for Cancer Research: “Health Talk: Is There a Nutritional Difference Between Apple Cider and Apple Juice?”

Frontiers in Nutrition: “The Role of Polyphenols in Human Health and Food Systems: A Mini-Review”

Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: “Plant Polyphenols as Dietary Antioxidants in Human Health and Disease”

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service: “Consumer’s Guide: Making Apple Cider”

Washington State University: “History of Cider”

USDA Food Data Central: “Apple Cider”

University of Wyoming: "Sipping Cider Safely."

Government of Canada: "Potential risks of drinking unpasteurized juice and cider."

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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