December 19, 2007

A is for Apple

Lately I’ve been snacking on apples a lot. There is a farmer’s market down in the square below my building (though Friday is their last day of the season! No fair), so I stop every few days and pick up a bunch of yummy orchard apples to keep at my desk. I usually eat one every morning around 10 or so as a mid-morning snack to get me through to lunch. I also happened to use an apple last night in my soup and salad, so I’ve been getting quite a few apples into my diet lately!

I haven’t really been getting sick much lately, which begs the question… does an apple a day keep the doctor away? First, let’s take a look at where this expression came from. In Greek mythology, apples were associated with the god Apollo, who was known for healing. In medieval times, doctors thought that cooked apples could help with common ailments of the bowels, lungs and nervous system. Before doctors knew about fiber, they knew that apples could help with digestion, which was a common problem requiring doctor’s visits. So – an apple a day really COULD help keep the doctor away.

If we’re considering more modern medicine, when we know fiber is important and therefore a lack of it isn’t as prevalent a reason for doctor’s visits, Massachusetts General Hospital has a great article answering this question. Basically, the answer is that apples ARE super healthy for you… but it’s more that eating a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables will help you, not apples specifically. Apples have a lot of nutrients and could definitely be considered a “super food,” but in general lots of fruits and veggies are great for you, and the same claim could be made about any. Massachusetts General recommends not peeling your apples, because a lot of the nutrients are in the skin.

Raw plain apples on their own aren’t the only things good for you: some apple products can work as great substitutes in your cooking. You may know about using applesauce in your baked goods instead of shortening, but new reports show that apple butter can also be used to cut fat and sugar. But not all apple products are good for you – watch out for apple juice! I love a good Appletini as much as the next girl, but most juices are so sugary that it cancels out most of the health benefits. And we all know how hard cider can mess up a diet…

Going back to the skin for a second, I want to give a quick shout-out to my alma mater, Cornell University, where researchers found that the amount of fresh apple extract from a medium apple with skin provides the antioxidant activity equal to 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C. So apples can even help prevent cancer! A Finnish study confirmed this in 1997, when it surveyed people and found that those who ate the most flavonoid-rich foods had a 20% lower incidence of cancer than those who didn’t. Quercetin accounted for 95% of the flavonoids consumed, and quercetin is found mainly in apple skins.

So, we’ve discovered that apples are pretty healthy, pretty filling, and can also help you prevent cancer, which is great. But did you know that different apples have different health benefits? This article from iFit and Healthy tells you more. Personally, I’m a Fuji or Gala kind of girl… I like the smaller size and the taste. When I was little I loved Jonagolds and Golden Delicious best though (hey, maybe that’s why I got dumber as I aged: I stopped eating the brain food apples!). I think I just liked having the word “gold” in there, because yellow was my favorite color.

Anyway, all those benefits sound pretty good to me, so pick a variety of types and mix it up every day! If you get really into it, you might even check out the Apple Diet

PS – Did you know the modern apple originated in Kazakhstan? “Great success!”


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