How About Them Apples?
Pomaceous Pals to Keep You in Your Prime
by Sylvie Greil
The Health Benefits of Apples
Fall is the season for apples. While we often bypass the traditional go-to fruit for "keeping the doctor away" in favor of more glam superfoods such as açai, goji berry, pluots or purple kale, come autumn, Fuji, Red Delicious and Jonagold make an appearance on our shopping list. They should on yours as well, as these old school harbingers of health are bursting with benefits.
Cue antioxidants. We know we want them, and lots of them, but many of us are not quite sure what they actually do. Antioxidants, as their name implies, prevent cell oxidization, which damages cells, ages us and makes us prone to illness. Basically they neutralize free radicals. Apples, it turns out, are just as high in those miraculous molecules as fancier, newer import fruits. According to a 2004 USDA study, Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples came in twelfth and thirtienth among a variety of 100 foods.
Specifically, apples pack a type of anti-viral and anti-inflammatory antioxidant called flavonol (not to be confused with flavanol, found in dark chocolate). As to anti-viral, think flu season. In regards to anti-inflammatory? Inflammation in the body makes us more likely to get ill; inflammation can be caused by stress, poor diet including too much caffeine, and even soda. Consuming apples reduces inflammation, making your body more alkaline.
- reduces inflammation
- possibly cancer preventing
- promotes digestive health
- lowers cholesterol
- prevents clogged arteries
- stabilizes blood sugar levels
To break it down even further, the type of super flavonol found in apples contains quercetin, which according to the American Cancer Society, can fight a variety of serious diseases including cancer. Quercetin basically scavenges the body for free radicals. From apples you get a whopping 440 mg/kg as compared to 158 mg/kg from leafy greens or just under 100 mg/kg from berries.
Apples are also very high in fiber, packing four grams per medium fruit. This particular fiber is called pectin, which acts as a thickening agent in the gut. That's why traditionally in many cultures apples are served to treat diarrhea. As you know, fiber is crucial for many reasons, from lowering cholesterol, preventing plaque from clogging your arteries, and stabilizing blood sugar levels to fighting type two diabetes to preventing cancer. Naturally, apples provide vitamin C but also a variety of vitamin Bs as well as beta carotene and even some minerals such as calcium and potassium. And a medium fruit has only about 100 calories.
The best way to enjoy apples' bevy of health benefits is to nosh them in their raw state, skin and all. But even if you bake them, turn them into apple sauce or pack them into a pie, you still get a wholesome kick from the stars of the old adage: "an apple a day...."
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(Updated: 11/06/13 JDM)