An apple a day does a lot more than you thinkThere’s nothing like the crisp, refreshing feeling of biting into a fresh apple. The sweetness (or tartness, depending on which kind you like) and crunch are a quintessential part of fall, especially here in upstate NY. And it’s just about this time of year that baskets and boxes of the first ripe apples start to show up at farmers markets and natural grocery stores.
When you see fresh apples all piled up in a shiny array of green, red and yellow, it’s only natural to start dreaming of apple crisp, apple cake, apple muffins and, of course, apple pie. What you probably don’t think of at first is the positive effect that this abundant autumn fruit has on your health. Every time you reach for your favorite variety of apple, you’re doing your body a big favor.
High Fiber, Happy Colon
According to the Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, apples contain high levels of pectin and other fibers, all of which aid digestion by improving motility. Pectin is particularly helpful in that it’s a gel-forming fiber, which not only supports digestive health but also binds with cholesterol and shuttles it out of the body. This prevents the cholesterol from winding up in your blood stream and forming the beginnings of atherosclerotic plaques. It also keeps excess cholesterol out of the bile, thereby improving bile flow and lowering your risk of developing gallstones.
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods notes that raw, unpeeled apples possess an array of powerful phytonutrients, including ellagic acid, chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid. These are found mainly in the skin along with high levels of flavanoids, most notably quercetin, a potent anti-inflammatory and antihistamine. Removing the peel robs you of the benefits of these powerful compounds, so leave apple skins on whenever possible.
One thing to note: apples come in at the top of the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Dirty Dozen” list, meaning that the skins of non-organic varieties may harbor high levels of pesticide residue. Go organic whenever you can, and when you can’t, use a high-quality veggie wash to thoroughly clean apples before consuming.
Smack Down Disease
Phytonutrients make apples powerful disease fighters. Despite its unassuming appearance, this humble fruit is able to help your body combat some of the most prevalent diseases in Western society. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods cites an analysis in which researchers looked at 85 previous studies and found an association between apple consumption and lower instances of:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Many types of cancer
These results remained significant even when compared with other types of fruits and vegetables in subjects’ diets. World’s Healthiest Foods notes that one apple contains about 11 percent of the RDA recommendation for vitamin C intake, which could also help explain the fruit’s ability to beat diseases. Vitamin C gives the immune system a boost, and the body can recycle this nutrient more easily when it comes packaged with flavanoids.
As noted above, eating apples may also lower your risk of heart disease. It’s not just the fiber that’s responsible for this power. Polyphenols, another type of phytonutrient, protect against the oxidizing of fats. Known as lipid peroxidation, this process is what causes cholesterol to bind to arterial walls and begin the cascade of immune reactions that results in the formation of arterial plaques.
Everything Tastes Better In Season!
I make this point a lot, but it can’t be said enough: seasonal food is just plain better. There’s a world of difference between the apple you get from your favorite farmers market vendor–or better yet, pick right off the tree–and the one you pick up at the grocery store in the middle of winter. One is crisp, succulent, juicy and filled with all the best that the season has to offer. The other is rock hard, waxy and tasteless.
Why is this? Part of it is the fact that grocery store produce is picked before it ripens, stuffed in trucks and hauled around the country so that, by the time it hits the shelves, it’s traveled as many as 1,500 miles. Seasonal produce, on the other hand, is most often picked when it’s just right for eating and doesn’t have far to go from the farm to your mouth. Seasonal foods have been shown to possess a higher nutrient content than those harvested out of season, likely due in part to the fact that vitamins and minerals are lost during chilling and transportation. Ripeness also plays a role in how much nutrition you get from a food, so be sure to look for apples with firm flesh and vibrant color.
Make an Apple (or two) Part of Your Day
To get your daily dose of apples, eat them raw (with the skin on), toss them in your favorite baked goods or make apple peanut butter “sandwiches.” Enjoy them now and all season long for the best flavor and the most health benefits!
Some other delicious ways to eat your apples:
- Apple Cider Marmalade Baked Oatmeal
- Apple Pizza Bowl with Caramelized Onions & Kale
- Maple Apple Waffle Topping
- Totally Stuffed Apple Oatmeal Muffins
Want to discover another way to enjoy raw apples? Check out my “Raw Apple Pie, Simplified” class at Honest Weight Food Co-op on September 30th!
Registration is free, but please sign up here to let me know you’re coming. Hope to see you there! The class is now sold out! Can’t wait to see you there.