Fall is primetime for apples as they come into all their glory with a range of variable flavors and hues of red to green. The familiar saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” appears to have quite a bit of truth in that statement. Numerous research has shown many positive advantages to eating one of the most common and favorite fruit in the world. From its origination in the Tien Shan mountains of Kazakhstan millions of years ago, apples are still enjoyed and are recognized as being an important part of a healthy diet.
Health benefits of apples
1. Good source of fiber
A medium sized apple provides 4 grams of fiber – leave the peel on as it contains the majority of fiber along with many antioxidants. The fiber composition includes soluble fiber (pectin) on the inside and insoluble fiber (cellulose) in the peel. Soluble fiber helps remove cholesterol, and slows down glucose absorption. Insoluble fiber prevents constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticular disease.
2. Aids in weight control
Apples are the perfect easy snack containing about 80 calories, no fat or cholesterol and the fiber content provides satiety preventing overeating. A Brazilian study in Nutrition showed overweight women who ate apples lost more weight than women who did not eat fruit in their diet. Eating an apple 15 minutes before a meal will result in a 15% calorie decrease.
3. Reduces asthma
Pregnant women should eat apples as their children are much less likely to develop asthma by age 5 according to a comprehensive review. Among all the foods studied, apples were the only fruit that had this protective association.
4. Promotes gut health
Your intestinal tract loves when you eat apples. The fiber pectin is perfect for increasing good bacteria and apples are packed with it. Beneficial bacteria revel in feeding on pectin, allowing them to reproduce and flourish helping to keep the intestinal tract working like a charm.
5. Improves brain health and may reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Drinking apple juice may be one way to boost brain power and reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease. Research on mice showed when given apple juice each day, they performed better on cognitive tests. It appeared apple juice was also linked to a lower production of beta-amyloid plaques within the mice. Past studies in humans have shown drinking apple juice may prevent the decline of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is necessary for transmitting messages to other nerve cells that are crucial for memory and brain health. When acetylcholine is increased in people with Alzheimer’s, mental decline is slowed down.
6. Improves cardiovascular health
A research review showed apples contain a rich source of polyphenols and fiber which have a positive effect on reducing inflammation associated with heart disease along with decreasing ischemic heart disease mortality and thrombotic stroke. A daily consumption of apples can reduce damage from LDL cholesterol and may decrease the risk of dying from a heart attack.
Fun facts on apples
· There are at least 2500 varieties of apples grown in the United States
· Apples are grown in all 50 states
· Most apples are still picked by hand in the fall
· Apples are naturally fat, sodium and cholesterol free
· The average size of a United States orchard is 50 acres
· Apples are the second most valuable fruit grown in the United States. Oranges are first.
· The world’s top apple producers are China, United States, Turkey, Poland and Italy.
· The apple variety “Red Delicious” is the most widely grown in the United States.
· Washington State produces over 50% of the apples in the United States.
Find an apple orchard near you and experience picking your own apples from the tree or go to a farmers market or grocery store to choose what is available there. Apples are available year round with a peak season from September to November. Look for firm, bright colored apples with smooth and shiny skin. Avoid bruised, soft or shriveled fruit. Apples can be kept at room temperature for a few days but if you prefer crisp apples, store in the refrigerator. The awesome thing about apples is the wide variety available – try them out and see which one is your favorite.
For more information on apples, the apple industry and apple recipes go to www.usapple.org.