The phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away‘ means that eating an apple (or fruits and vegetables in general, basically, foods that are good for you) can improve one’s health and thus keep the doctor away.
To put it another way, a person who eats healthy probably won’t need to go to the doctor as often as someone who is eats poorly and is thus unhealthy.
Example: Ashley has a friend who rarely gets sick, and when she does, she handles it well. So Ashley asked her: “How are you so healthy?”
“Well,” her friend said, “as the saying goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. I drink plenty of water, I eat fruits and vegetables during the week, and I make sure to get enough sleep.”
The Origin Of ‘An Apple a Day Keeps The Doctor Away’
The origin of this saying is believed to be from Wales, a country in Great Britain. There is an earlier form of this expression that goes: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” The first known appearance of this earlier form is from a publication known as Notes and Queries from the year 1866:
“Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”
The later version (an apple a day keeps the doctor away) that’s commonly used today looks like it took hold sometime during the early 20th century. I say this because that’s the earliest I could find it in print. For example, the later version appears in The Country Gentleman, 1913:
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
So in summary, this phrase is at least 153 years old.
Does An Apple a Day Really Keep The Doctor Away?
This phrase is a common one, and when some people hear it, they might wonder: Does eating an apple a day keep the doctor away forever? Well, no it doesn’t. While eating an apple every day can have health benefits (apples are a good source of fiber, for example), a person can still run into health problems even if they are eating healthy. Indeed, an apple every day does not make one immune to sickness.
Basically, the phrase is not meant to be taken literally. The idea this proverb is expressing is that eating healthier can help to keep the doctor away.