Should You Store Apples in the Refrigerator?

Dr.Kristie Leong

Do you keep apples in the refrigerator? Most people do, but when you store apples in the refrigerator, you may be reducing their health benefits. Here’s why.

According to an article published in the Journal of Nutrition, storing apples in the refrigerator or in other cold storage areas reduces the concentration of polyphenols in the outer skin of apples - but not in the inner pulp.
Polyphenols are the natural antioxidants in apples that are responsible for most of their health benefits. Most of the polyphenols are concentrated in the skin of apples, not the inner pulp, which means that cold storage could destroy many of the health benefits of apples – at least from an antioxidant standpoint.

What health benefits do you miss out on when you keep apples in the cold? Apples are not only a good source of vitamin C and fiber, preliminary studies show that the apple polyphenols they contain may lower the risk of some types of cancer - as well as reduce cholesterol levels, delay muscle fatigue during exercise, and help to reduce body fat – among others.

Not all types of apples have the same amount of antioxidants. For example, Red Delicious, Fuji, and Granny Smith apples have higher concentrations of apple polyphenols than other common varieties of apples – but storing them at cold temperatures for long periods of time destroys much of their antioxidant power.
Even the apples you get at the grocery store may have lost most of their antioxidant punch. Apples sold in supermarkets are frequently stored in cold warehouses for months before they’re shipped to their destination to be sold to consumers. Antioxidant activity gradually drops off after three months of storage in the cold. By the time they reach produce shelves, they’ve lost most of their antioxidant benefits, and the problem is made worse by storing them in the refrigerator.

To get maximum antioxidant health benefits from apples, grow your own - or buy them at a farmer’s market where they haven’t been held in cold storage for a long period of time. Apples that are immature have the highest concentration of apple polyphenols, but they’re often too bitter for most people’s tastes. Once you buy them, store them on the counter and eat them as soon as possible after purchase to maximize their health benefits.

The bottom line? Most of the antioxidants in apples are in the outer skin and may have already been destroyed by the time they reach supermarket shelves. Buy your apples at the Farmer’s market if you don’t have an apple tree, and don’t store them in the refrigerator. Look for organic Red Delicious, Granny Smith, and Fuji apples since they have the highest levels of polyphenols. Whatever you do, keep eating apples.

References: "Apple extract may reduce fatigue for sporty types"
Muscle and Fitness Magazine. April, 2010. "Fat-Burning Fruit?"
Nutrition Journal 2004, 3:5
ACS Symposium Series. "Extraction, Separation, Detection, and Antioxidant Activity of Apple Polyphenols"

The copyright of the health article, "Should You Store Apples in the Refrigerator?," in "Interesting Health Articles" is owned by Dr.Kristie Leong M.D. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

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