Apple vs Orange - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.
Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugars|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in minerals|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
Which food is preferable in case of diets?
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|
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All nutrients comparison - raw data values