Just an Apple a Day?

The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may have its roots in a 16th century nursery rhyme:

“Apple in the morning – doctor’s warning
Roast apple at night – starves the doctor outright
Eat an apple before going to bed – knock the doctor on the head
Three each day, seven days a week – ruddy apple, ruddy cheek!”

Even without today’s extensive research, people who lived centuries ago were wise to the many health benefits of apples. These days, the apple is considered by some to be a “superfood.”

Why we should eat apples

  1. High in vitamin C
    A medium apple provides about 11 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin C
  2. Rich in flavonoids
    Flavonoids are antioxidants found naturally in plants. They are what give flower and fruits their vibrant colors. Research shows they trigger enzymes in the body that reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and lung disorders, such as asthma
  3. Lowers LDL or bad cholesterol
    Apples contain pectin, a soluble fiber, which is effective in lowering bad cholesterol (LDL)
  4. Raises HDL or good cholesterol
    Just as soluble fiber lowers bad cholesterol, it raises good cholesterol (HDL)
  5. Skins are rich in compounds called triterpenoids
    Triterpenoids have shown potential for fighting cancer and boosting the effect of chemotherapy
  6. Good source of not one, but two types of fiber
    The fiber helps regulate the bowels and also helps protect against cancer by flushing toxins such as lead and mercury out of the body
  7. May help regulate blood sugar level
    Most of an apple’s sweetness comes from natural fructose, which raises blood sugar more slowly and to a lesser degree than other sugars.

Apples may be nutritious, but unfortunately, Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit that investigates environmental health threats, has ranked them among the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables contaminated by pesticides. You can peel them, but you’ll lose valuable flavonoids and fiber. Instead, consider buying organically grown apples. You’ll reap the benefits and avoid the toxins.

A Canadian study found that Red Delicious, Northern Spy, and Ida Red were especially high in antioxidants. But, they’re only three out of thousands of varieties of apples, all with different tastes and textures. I’ll take a Granny Smith – a common variety, but so tasty and with a nice crunch. Love the color, too.

My thanks to Patsy Catsos, MS, RD, LD,  for her help sorting out the facts.

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