“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Did you learn that as a child? Apple are listed as one of the top 10 healthiest foods to eat and for good reason. For thousands of years, people have intuitively witnessed the health benefits and that is where and why this famous quote arose. Apples were used over 1500 years ago in Asian Ayurvedic medicine and prized in ancient Rome. A health phrase related to apples is said to have been first recorded and coined in Wales in the 1860’s. “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread”. It evolved into several different versions, including “an apple a day, no doctor to pay” as well as “an apple a day sends the doctor away” until the well-known phrase today was first recorded and became common in the 1920s.
Clearly, something is up with eating an apple. They are not only one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat, providing vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, they also protect and prevent many of our modern-day diseases.
What’s in an apple?
A medium apple is equal to 1.5 cups of fruit and contains about Calories: 95, Carbs: 25 grams. Fiber: 4 grams. Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin K: Manganese, copper and vitamins A, E, B1, B2 and B6. Apples are a good source of fiber and vitamin C. They also contain polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that work with Vitamin C to attack free radicals which damage and harm our cells and bodies.
Vitamin C in its natural form delivers strong immune support, while the B vitamins in an apple help to keep your blood vessels and nervous system running smoothly. The high fiber help to prevent your ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol from rising. Plants contain over 900 different chemical properties that aid our bodies and keep us healthy. Apples contain a potent mix of some highly active phytonutrients. These phytonutrients are antioxidants that have overwhelmingly been linked to some extraordinary health benefits. What’s important to remember is that real whole foods from plants not only contain their own individual and complex combinations of these 900 different kinds of nutrients and antioxidants; it is the complexity of the combinations that each type of plant is made up of that deliver to powerful health benefits. You can’t take a supplement that has one or two derivatives, like a Vitamin C pill or a B vitamin and get the same effects and benefits. With real food the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. The synergy of the various combinations creates powerful health benefits in our bodies.
Health Benefits of an Apple
- Apples help your brain and Improve neurological health. Quercetin, a powerful antioxidant quells inflammation. According to animal studies, the juice from an apple was found to help prevent the decline of neurotransmitters that are involved in memory. Including apples in your diet helps to protect your neuron cells and this may reduce your risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
- Apples help lower levels of ‘Bad Cholesterol”. Studies show that older women who ate “an apple a day” lowered their ‘Bad Cholesterol” (LDL) by 23% and increased their ‘Good Cholesterol (HDL) by 4 % in just 6 months.
- Apples may help prevent Obesity: Much of the latest research is pointing to the link between obesity and gut health (the balance of gut bacteria that you have). Apples have a ‘prebiotic’ fiber that has a positive effect on our guts. Prebiotic foods naturally feed and nourish the ‘good bacteria’ in our digestive system. Feeding the good bacteria in our guts with prebiotic fiber may be the reason that apples protect against obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The best apples for gut health include Granny Smith, Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and McIntosh apples. Granny Smith had the most beneficial effect on gut bacteria. The peel of the apple contains another important defense against obesity. Ursolic acid is found in the peel and this compound helps increase muscle and your brown fat levels. Brown fat levels crank up your calorie burn.
- Apples reduce your risk of stroke. Eating 2 apples a day (about 200 grams) can reduce your risk of stroke by almost 1/3. This information was derived by reviewing 20 different studies and it’s interesting to note that you can further reduce your risk of stroke by 11% for EACH 200 rams (about 2 cups) of vegetables that you eat every day.
- Apples reduce your risk of diabetes. Although fruits contain natural sugars and diabetics need to carefully monitor their reactions to certain foods and sugars it has been found that people who eat 3 servings of apples, grapes, raisins, blueberries or pears have a 7% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Apples have a type of fiber called Pectin and this helps slow down the release of the sugars from the apple into the bloodstream. It also helps with bowel function and helps control weight.
- An Apple a Day may help prevent breast cancer. Apples contain a substantial amount of a potent phytochemical called ‘Phenolics”, a flavonoid (antioxidant). These phenolics are super-powered antioxidants which were found to have an anti-prolific effect on breast cancer tumors. Apples provide about 33 % of the phenolics that Americans eat annually.
- Apples Can Help Fight Asthma. Because of their high amount of quercetin (an antioxidant and powerful anti-inflammatory compound, apples help regulate the immune response and quell inflammation that may help protect against asthma.
- Apples are good for Bone Health. Among the many vitamins and minerals that apples supple us with, they also contain a trace mineral called Boron which helps support bone building function. Because of the high polyphenol amounts in apples, they help with the production of osteoblasts which are part of your body’s bone making machinery. One of the polyphenols in apples called phloridzin has been found to help prevent bone loss.
- Apples help protect your stomach from damage from NSAIDs – Eat an apple with that painkiller! Apples have been found to help protect the stomach lining from injury due to NSAID painkillers.
- Eat the Peel! Where do most of the amazing benefits of the apple come from? The peel. If you drop those peels in the trash you are trashing most of the health benefits and important nutrients for the benefits outlined here. It’s really important to wash the peel well before you eat it since apples that are conventionally grown have high levels of pesticides which are extremely detrimental to your health and well-being. Seems like a contradiction in health benefits. A better choice is to buy organically grown apples. If you shop carefully and purchase organic apples you can see that the slight increase in price is well worth the health benefits.
Apples are not only one of the most beneficial fruits for your health and disease prevention, they are easy to take along with you during your workday. They don’t really require refrigeration; they are easy to eat and require no preparation. Just buy a bag, wash well and enjoy!
By: Cindy Luisi WHE, WHC, CCP, CDL Wellness Coach