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Apple vs Orange - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Introduction

The well known idiom, comparing apples and oranges, is used when two items being compared are so different that the comparison is not sensible. In this article, we are going against the English language of idioms and doing exactly that.

Apples and oranges are two of the most widely consumed fruits in the world. Here, we will talk about the apparent and not so apparent differences, as well as find some similarities, with our main focus being on nutritional compositions and impacts on health.

Classification

Apples and oranges are both fruits that grow on flowering trees. Apple or Malus domestica belongs to the Malus genus and the Rosacae family, while orange is a hybrid between pomelo and mandarin, belonging to the Citrus genus and the Rutaceae family.

Appearance

Apples and oranges have their apparent spherical shapes in common. 

Most apples are seeded, while oranges tend not to be. Depending on the variety, apples come in various colours, such as red, yellow, green, pink or multicoloured.

Both oranges and apples can greatly vary in size.  

Taste and Use

Different varieties of orange can taste not only sweet, but also sour or bitter, due to various levels of sugars and acids.

While some apples are sour, most tend to be sweet.

Both apples and oranges are used in the production of numerous sweets, beverages and pastries.

Growing Conditions

Apple and orange trees both prefer to grow in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. Apples prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil, with the pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.0, while oranges can also grow in more basic soils with the pH falling in the range of 6.5 to 7.5.  

Varieties

Apples and oranges, being two of the most widely cultivated fruits in the world and each with a rich history that goes back many centuries, have thousands of varieties. These varieties differ from each other by their colour, size, taste, as well certain nutritional properties.

Different varieties of apples can be cultivated for distinct purposes. Based on this, apples can be grouped into three types - dessert apples, cooking apples and cider apples.

Oranges can be seeded or seedless. Seedless oranges are more popular in modern farming.

Some of the most commonly cultivated varieties of apples are Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Gala and Fuji.

Valencia, Navel, acidless and blood oranges are in turn, some of the most popular cultivars of oranges.

Nutrition

The nutritional values used in this article are for raw oranges of all commercial varieties and raw apples with skin.

Macronutrients and Calories

Oranges and apples are quite similar in their overall macronutrient compositions, however, apples are a little more dense in nutrients. Apples are composed of 85.6% water, while oranges contain 86.8% of it.

The average serving sizes of oranges and apples are nearly the same. The serving size of an orange is one fruit, weighing 131g, while one average serving size of an apple is one cup of chopped fruit that weighs 125g.

Calories

Apples and oranges are both low calorie foods. Apples are only a little higher in calories containing 52 per a 100g serving, whilst the same serving size of oranges contains 47 calories.

Protein and Fats

Overall, both of these fruits are very low in both proteins and fats.

Oranges are richer in proteins compared to apples, containing higher levels of all essential amino acids.

Apples are a little higher in fats, due to a larger content of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Oranges contain more saturated and monounsaturated fats.

Carbohydrates

A 100g serving size of apples contains 2g more of carbohydrates when compared to the same serving size of oranges. However, apples and oranges contain the same amount of dietary fiber.

Apples are higher in sugars and can also contain a small amount of starch. The main sugars found in apples are fructose, glucose and sucrose.

Vitamins

Oranges are significantly higher in almost all vitamins, including vitamin C, vitamin A and B complex vitamins.

Nevertheless, apples contain vitamin K, which oranges are completely absent in.

Apples and oranges contain the same amount of vitamin E. Both completely lack vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Minerals

Oranges also win in this category, being higher in calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, selenium and choline.

Apples, on the other hand, contain larger amounts of iron and manganese. Apples are also higher in sodium.

Glycemic Index

According to The International Tables of Glycemic Index Values, the glycemic index of apples, based on the mean of five studies, falls in the range of 36±3 (1).

Naturally, depending on the variety and growing conditions of the fruit, its glycemic index can significantly vary. You can read our in-depth article on Apple glycemic index to get more information about the glycemic values of different varieties of apples.

The glycemic index of oranges, based on the mean of five studies, is equal to 45±5 (1).

As we can see, oranges tend to have a higher glycemic index compared to apples. However, the glycemic indices of both oranges and apples fall in the low category.

If you’d like to compare the glycemic indices of apples and oranges with other foods, you can have a look at our Complete glycemic index chart with over 300 foods.

Acidity

Depending on the variety, the pH value of apples can range from 3.2 to 4 (2). This acidic nature is caused by a compound found in apples called malic acid. The acidity of apples decreases as they mature.

Oranges have a similar acidity, with the pH value falling in the range of 3.0 to 4.2 (2). While oranges also contain malic acid, the changes of the acidity levels in different varieties of the fruit are mostly due to the citric acid content (3).

The potential renal acid load or PRAL is another tool for measuring acidity. The PRAL value demonstrates how much acid or base is produced by the breakdown of the certain food.

The PRAL values for apples and oranges are -1.9 and -3.6 respectively. This demonstrates that oranges produce more acids in the organism compared to apples.

Weight Loss & Diets

Apples and oranges, like most fruits, are low in calories and fit well in most weight loss diets. Between the two, oranges are the preferred choice for low calorie, low fat and low carb diets.

Various studies have demonstrated weight management benefits of including more fruits in healthy diets. Apples and oranges are no exceptions.

The low energy-density and the high fiber of apples content has been studied to make them effective in weight reduction diets (4). Consumption of apples has been proven to be associated with a better diet quality and a reduced risk of obesity in children (5).

As for oranges, a flavonoid compound found in these fruits, called nobiletin has been researched to reduce obesity and protect from complications of metabolic syndrome in experimental animals (6).

Together with a reduced-calorie diet, orange juice has also been shown to lead to weight loss and improved obesity related biomarkers (7).

Health Impact

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what does an orange a day do? In this section, we will compare how the two fruits affect different aspects of health.

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

Apple and apple product consumption has been demonstrated to have an inverse association with cardiovascular disease and coronary mortality. These cardioprotective effects are said to be mostly due to the dietary antioxidants found in apples (4).

While there are not many studies about the association of orange fruits and cardiovascular health, there is enough research about orange juice to conclude what effects the fruit might have.  

Orange juice consumption has been researched to improve cardiovascular risk factors by lowering glucose levels, insulin resistance, as well as levels of total cholesterol and low density cholesterol (8).

Studies have also found orange juice to have the potential of significantly decreasing systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure (9, 10).

Diabetes

Unsurprisingly, research has shown that adding one serving of apples to a diet has been associated with a significant reduction of the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (11).

While orange consumption can also play a role in the prevention of diabetes, it has not been found to be as significant as apple consumption (12, 13).

Cancer

High fruit consumption has been researched to lead to a decreased risk of several cancers, such as mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach and lung, as well as colon, pancreas and prostate (14).

The National Cancer Institute advises to put a special emphasis on oranges and dark greens to help prevent cancer (14).

Various studies have also found that daily apple consumption can significantly decrease the risk of oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, larynx, lung, colorectal, breast, ovary and prostate cancers (4).

Other Benefits

A diet high in fruits, and especially apples, can also help against diseases such as cataracts, Alzheimer’s and bronchial asthma (12).

Downsides and Risks

Oranges and Medication

Some citrus fruits contain a compound called furanocoumarins that can negatively interact with medications used for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression by inhibiting the enzyme that metabolises those drugs.

Sweet oranges are free of this risk as they do not contain this compound, however, Seville oranges or bitter oranges can produce this unfavourable interaction (15).

Apple Seed Toxicity

Apple seeds are rich in nutrients, such as protein, fiber and oils. However, they also contain some levels of toxigenic amygdalin. 

Studies have shown that such a low level of amygdalin not only doesn't negatively impact health but also does not inhibit the beneficial effects that apple seeds may possess (16). 

Summary

In summary, apples are higher in calories and sugars, while oranges contain more protein. Oranges are also richer in most vitamins and minerals, except for vitamin K and iron. 

Apples have a lower glycemic index and can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes. Oranges may be the preferred choice to decrease the risk of cancer. 

Sources.

  1. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/diacare/suppl/2008/09/18/dc08-1239.DC1/TableA2_1.pdf
  2. http://www.arrowscientific.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=61:ph-values-of-foods-and-food-products&catid=17&Itemid=31
  3. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2472104?seq=1
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22332082/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25971247/
  6. https://www.jlr.org/article/S0022-2275(20)43522-9/fulltext
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28526377/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33350317/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3653258/
  10. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-020-02279-0
  11. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312644914
  12. https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-3-5
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3978819/
  14. https://progressreport.cancer.gov/prevention/fruit_vegetable
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3589309/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5691708/
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Profession: Yerevan State Medical University
Last updated: March 29, 2021

Infographic

Apple vs Orange infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Apple
1
:
7
Orange
Contains more Iron +20%
Contains more Calcium +566.7%
Contains more Potassium +69.2%
Contains more Magnesium +100%
Contains more Copper +66.7%
Contains more Zinc +75%
Contains more Phosphorus +27.3%
Contains less Sodium -100%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 5% 2% 10% 4% 9% 2% 5% 1%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 4% 12% 16% 8% 15% 2% 6% 0%
Contains more Iron +20%
Contains more Calcium +566.7%
Contains more Potassium +69.2%
Contains more Magnesium +100%
Contains more Copper +66.7%
Contains more Zinc +75%
Contains more Phosphorus +27.3%
Contains less Sodium -100%

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Apple
1
:
8
Orange
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Contains more Vitamin C +1056.5%
Contains more Vitamin A +316.7%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +411.8%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +53.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +209.9%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +309.8%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +46.3%
Contains more Folate +900%
Equal in Vitamin E - 0.18
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 16% 4% 4% 0% 5% 6% 2% 4% 10% 0% 6% 3%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 178% 14% 4% 0% 22% 10% 6% 15% 14% 0% 0% 23%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Contains more Vitamin C +1056.5%
Contains more Vitamin A +316.7%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +411.8%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +53.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +209.9%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +309.8%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +46.3%
Contains more Folate +900%
Equal in Vitamin E - 0.18

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

Summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfils human daily needs, the more the summary score is
Vitamin Summary Score
5
Apple
24
Orange
Mineral Summary Score
4
Apple
8
Orange

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Protein
2%
Apple
6%
Orange
Carbohydrates
14%
Apple
12%
Orange
Fats
1%
Apple
1%
Orange

Comparison summary table

Pay attention at the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Apple Orange
Lower in Sugars ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal

Which food is preferable in case of diets?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Apple Orange
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sugars?
Orange
Orange contains less Sugars (difference - 1.04g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Orange
Orange contains less Sodium (difference - 1mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Orange
Orange is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.013g)
Which food is cheaper?
Orange
Orange is cheaper (difference - $0.1)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Orange
Orange is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Orange
Orange is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Apple
Apple is lower in glycemic index (difference - 9)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

In the column "Opinion" we made some assumptions which could be controversial. For instance we are assuming that less saturated fats is good for you. Please ignore this column if you have your own opinion.We marked the nutrients, comparison of which we considered as not meaningful, as "N/A"
Nutrient Apple Orange Opinion
Calories 52 47 Apple
Protein 0.26 0.94 Orange
Fats 0.17 0.12 Apple
Vitamin C 4.6 53.2 Orange
Carbs 13.81 11.75 Apple
Cholesterol 0 0
Vitamin D 0 0
Iron 0.12 0.1 Apple
Calcium 6 40 Orange
Potassium 107 181 Orange
Magnesium 5 10 Orange
Sugars 10.39 9.35 Orange
Fiber 2.4 2.4
Copper 0.027 0.045 Orange
Zinc 0.04 0.07 Orange
Starch 0.05 Apple
Phosphorus 11 14 Orange
Sodium 1 0 Orange
Vitamin A 54 225 Orange
Vitamin E 0.18 0.18
Vitamin D 0 0
Vitamin B1 0.017 0.087 Orange
Vitamin B2 0.026 0.04 Orange
Vitamin B3 0.091 0.282 Orange
Vitamin B5 0.061 0.25 Orange
Vitamin B6 0.041 0.06 Orange
Vitamin B12 0 0
Vitamin K 2.2 0 Apple
Folate 3 30 Orange
Trans Fat 0 0
Saturated Fat 0.028 0.015 Orange
Monounsaturated Fat 0.007 0.023 Orange
Polyunsaturated fat 0.051 0.025 Apple
Tryptophan 0.001 0.009 Orange
Threonine 0.006 0.015 Orange
Isoleucine 0.006 0.025 Orange
Leucine 0.013 0.023 Orange
Lysine 0.012 0.047 Orange
Methionine 0.001 0.02 Orange
Phenylalanine 0.006 0.031 Orange
Valine 0.012 0.04 Orange
Histidine 0.005 0.018 Orange
Fructose 5.9 Apple

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links of the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Apple - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171688/nutrients
  2. Orange - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169097/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.