Everything You Need to Know About Cider

Find out why indulging in your favorite cider is considered bittersweet for your health!

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Nutritional Facts about cider

Cider was a part of the great American story, but it truly dates back to 55 BC when the Romans arrived in England. Good, old-fashioned apple cider, both regular and hard – some people enjoy cider in its juice state, while others prefer it in its alcoholic state. Whatever your fancy, this special drink has the hearts of people worldwide, but it was not always like that, especially in America during the 19th century. While the popularity of cider has been at battle with its “cousin” beer, there are many different qualities that set it apart from its wheat-heavy relative, and many people have come to love and enjoy it.

10 Fun Facts about Cider

  1. “Back in the 14th century, it is believed that kids were baptized in hard cider since it was often more sanitary than water.” [1]
  2. “Hard cider was so important to early Americans that one in every ten farms in New England operated its own cider mill by the time of the American Revolution.”
  3. “It takes about 36 pieces of fruit to make one gallon of the good stuff.”
  4. “On November 18th, 1307, the legendary William Tell shot an apple from his son’s head. November 18th is now National Apple Cider Day.” [2]
  5. “In the 19th Century cider was advertised as a cure for the gout and other illnesses.”
  6. “At one time, 365 different varieties of cider apples were grown.”
  7. “Farm workers’ wages in earlier times included four pints of cider a day.”
  8. “Over two million new cider apple trees have been planted since 1995 (to 2006).” [3]
  9. “Captain Cook carried cider on his ships to treat his crew for scurvy.”
  10. “Cloudy, unfiltered ciders made in the West Country [of the UK] are often called “scrumpy,” from “scrump,” a local dialect term for a small or withered apple.”

History/Mythology of Cider

The history of apple cider is intriguing due to its rich history back thousands of years ago. It was once said that apple trees were known to grow back in 1300 BC, but they do not have evidence that cider was ever produced from the fruit of the trees. [4] How cider was perceived in Europe, has a different story than when it was brought to America.

According to Drink Focus:

“After the Norman Conquest of 1066, cider consumption became widespread in England and orchards were established specifically to produce cider apples. During medieval times, cider making was an important industry. Monasteries sold vast quantities of their strong, spiced cider to the public. Farm laborers received a cider allowance as part of their wages, and the quantity increased during haymaking.”

It was widely popular across the Atlantic, but it didn’t quite take off as they would have hoped.

According to Daily Drink:

“English cider making probably peaked around the mid seventeenth century, when almost every farm had its own cider orchard and press. The industry later went into decline, due to major agricultural changes. Cider regained its popularity during the twentieth century, but demand was largely for the mass-produced variety. Only in recent years has traditional cider making finally triumphed.” 

When the early English settlers brought their apple seeds to American soil, it was a new flavor for everyone. At first it was popular because grains were not thriving in the environment, which made beer a more precious commodity. Because apple orchards were everywhere thanks to Johnny Appleseed, cider was cheap and easy to get ahold of which made it popular at first. Then came the downfall of cider around the end of the eighteenth century. Similar to the decline in Europe, the Americans also experienced a decline when German beer came into the picture.

German beer has an extremely fast fermenting process, which made the creation and consumption much more economical for those trying to brew and consume it. When word spread around about its ability to be produced more quickly, its popularity skyrocketed. With the popularity of microbreweries even today, apple cider production and consumption is still trying to make a comeback.

Nutritional Facts of Cider

Cider is not the most nutritious drink you could put into your body, but apples are full of vitamins and minerals so this drink is given a few of its nutritional properties. In one cup (8 fl. oz.) of apple cider there are roughly:

  • 117 calories
  • 29 grams of carbohydrates
  • 27 grams of sugar
  • less than 1 gram of protein

As you can see, water might be the better option especially if you are wanting to watch your calories. The amount of sugar in fresh cider is almost as much as a can of soda pop! Carbohydrates make up 97 percent of apple cider’s calories, which does not make it nutritionally whole by any means. [5] Fresh cider has vitamin C, calcium, and iron, which are all good for the body. Hard cider generally has fewer calories, as much of the sugar has been consumed during the fermentation process. That can decrease the sugar content to 7 grams for the same one-cup portion. [6]

Health Benefits of Cider

I wish I could tell you that drinking apple cider a day will keep the doctor away, but that is not the case sadly. While it is a fun drink to enjoy with your friends and family, it is not one to drink like water due to its heavy sugar and carbohydrate content. If you are drinking hard cider, it is to be enjoyed responsibly and not to be overdone, as the high sugar content can call for a mean hangover the next day. Many people have pitted beer against cider, asking which one is better for you, but they are completely different in their makeup.

According to Live Strong:

“Apple cider is made from the juice that is extracted from the pulp of pureed apples. While it has its own health benefits, apple cider can also be made into apple cider vinegar, which is used as a cure for some health conditions. Apple cider vinegar is made from fermenting apple cider. Apple cider contains bacteria and acids that have shown a vast array of health benefits.” [7]

People who consume apples on a daily basis do experience health benefits, due to their antioxidants and phytochemicals that help reduce cardiovascular disease. In addition to cardiovascular health, apples are said to help with asthma, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Apple cider vinegar is also said to have many different health benefits, one of those being improved digestion. On a weight loss note, Live Strong says, “It has been stated that some of the bacteria and acids in the apple cider vinegar may help speed metabolism, however, more research is needed in this area before conclusive evidence is found.” [7]

Varieties of Cider

There are a variety of ways you can drink cider, whether it be straight, hard, or even mixed with a little beer. Cider doesn’t always apply to just apples either, as there are different fruits that can be used to make cider, such as pears and berries. Hard cider is even making a comeback in the beer industry, where you will find it being mixed with certain beers for optimal flavor. When looking to purchase cider, you really have a lot of flavor options.

According to Real Cider, there are four categories of (hard) cider apples with a variety of styles and bites [8]:

Bittersweets

High in tannin and low in acid – eg: Yarlington Mill, Dabinett

Sweets

Low in both – eg: Sweet Coppin, Sweet Alford

Bittersharps

High in both – eg: Kingston Black, Broxwood Foxwhelp

Sharps

Low in tannin and higher in acid – eg: Frederick, Crimson King

Some popular types of apples to make fresh cider with are: Gala, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Fuji, McIntosh, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Jonathan, and Honeycrisp.

Cider School says:

“Each of these varieties has an interesting and storied history, and together with a few other varieties they dominate both the market and the growing volumes of the western world. They are also–except as the blander portion of the blend, and with the possible exception of Granny Smith–not all that interesting in (hard) cider. What makes a great eating apple–high sugar content excepted–doesn’t make a great hard cider apple.” [9]

It doesn’t matter if you like to enjoy your cider with or without alcohol, because the history remains the same. People both young and old can enjoy the tart, sweet, and fruity flavor of their favorite cider and feel like they are a part of history worldwide. Next time you are in the market for a drink, pick up some cider to enjoy with friends and family. You can share with them all of the history you have learned, which will make the drink even more satisfying than it already is! Just remember not to overdo it, though, because of the sugar content!

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Upon receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in college, and competing at a Division 1 level for tennis Lauren has loved writing for many years. She specializes in health and nutritional topics, which has come from the decades of high level education from her competitive tennis days where she worked with nutritionists, strength coaches, and mental coaches full time. After graduation she went onto compete at a professional level for tennis, in which injury sidelined her career. She then jumped straight into the health and wellness space working for a nutritional company, as well as writing for multiple health organizations to date.

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