The proverb ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is a testimony to the health benefits of apples. Unlike many fruits, apples themselves and health benefits of apples are rather well-known. The scientific name of apple is Malus domestica . Suited to grow well in temperate regions, it is now found in around 7,000 varieties across the world. The types range from the mild and sweet varieties to the brisk and tart ones.
Why is apple beneficial ?
Apple contains dozens of polyphenol nutrients that supports health. Apple is very rich in fiber content which includes soluble fiber pectin. Vitamin C is also present in abundance in apple. Apple skin is particularly nutritious. The health benefits of apples are derived mainly from the presence of phytonutrients in the fruit. Apples are now available in any place across the world almost throughout the year.
Health benefits of apples
Studies suggest that consuming an apple per day as the proverb suggests is not only risk-free but it can also contribute some benefits. The health benefits of apples ranges from helping in weight loss to fighting cancer. Some of the health benefits of apples are given here.
Anti-cancer benefits: Several compounds in apple make it possible for the fruit to curb the growth of cancer cells. Studies indicate that consuming more than one apple each day helps prevent cancers including that of mouth, esophagus, colon, breast, ovaries, prostate etc. it is important to eat the apple skin as well in order to maximize benefits.
Benefits to lungs: If pregnant women consume apples, it is seen that the kids have lesser chance of developing wheezing or asthma. In adults, apples lower the risk of lung cancer, asthma and other lung diseases thus protecting lungs.
Lowers cholesterol : Consuming apples can prevent the oxidation of bad cholesterol LDL and thus prevent the formation of plaque that clogs arteries. This is because of the presence of the fiber pectin and antioxidants called polyphenols. Apple peel is found to contain up to six times the antioxidants present in flesh.
Helps lose weight : Apples can satiate easily because of the fiber content and also because it requires chewing, which gives time for the body to register the feeling of being full. The fruit contains natural sweeteners that enter the blood stream slowly and keep the sugar and insulin levels in blood steady so that you will feel fuller for a longer time.
Benefits to brain: Apples boost acetylcholine production, acetylcholine being a chemical responsible for message transmission in nerve cells. This keeps the brain sharp even as you age and also lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s. Apples also enhance memory.
Benefits to heart: Apples are composed of strong antioxidants which prevent lipid peroxidation or oxidation of fats, thus reducing the risk of chronic problems for the heart. Apples contain quercetin which provides anti-inflammatory benefits to the cardiovascular system. Potassium in apples helps control blood pressure and heart rate and helps counter the negative effects of sodium .
Protects bones: Apples contain a flavanoid called phloridzin that provide protection for post-menopausal women from osteoporosis. It also increases bone density. Boron in apples helps strengthen bones.
Improves immunity: Presence of vitamin C and beta carotene in apples helps increase body’s resistance against infections and in removing the harmful free-radicals from the body.
Improves body functions: Apples contain some B-vitamins which together work as co-factors for the enzymes in body metabolism and in other several synthetic functions.
Benefits to stomach: Rich fiber content in apples helps digestion. Apples when consumed regularly make bowel movements smooth and prevent constipation and stomach disorders.
Treats anemia: Apples are rich in iron and hence beneficial in treating anemia, which is caused by deficiency of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin level can be increased with iron intake.
Benefits to teeth: Chewing apples cleans the mouth by removing food from teeth and gum thus decreasing the risk of cavities. The fiber in apples cleans the teeth and antiviral effects prevent further bacteria and virus attacks.
Benefits to eyes: Apples are supposed to have the potential to improve eye sight. Apples are also effective in fighting night blindness.
Other benefits :
Apples are also said to be beneficial against gout and dysentery.
Usage, selection and storage
Commercially cultivated apples tend to have pesticide residues on them and therefore a safer option is to choose the organically grown ones. But instead of peeling off the skin for fear of contaminants, just make sure that the apples are rinsed thoroughly. This is because the nutrient rich part of the apple is its skin. Hence it is advised to keep the skin intact even for recipes. While rinsing, the outside can be scrubbed gently too. Apart from using them diced, apples are commonly used also as apple juice and apple sauce but it is found that a significant loss of nutrients occur during this conversion process.
While selecting apples, opt for firm fruits having good color. This indicates freshness. Harvested apples can remain in cold storage for around 3-4 months. When they are stored as a bunch, it is important to remove the damaged apples from the lot as it will also consequently damage the other ones kept with it. Sliced apples when kept open to atmosphere tend to brown. In order to avoid this, they can be kept in cold water to which lime juice is added. They can also be frozen. Apple seeds have a bitter taste and hence are not consumed.
Should you use apple skin?
Most people peel apples and then eat them raw or use them in recipes. This is not the best approach as apple's peel is very rich in nutrients and you must eat it too along with the apple.
How to make delicious apple pie!
While it is advisable to eat peels of organic apples, but even in case you do not have an organic apple, you should still not discard its peel!
Precautions while using apples
According to reports apples are among the top 12 foods on which maximum pesticide residue has been found. Hence people who are concerned about eating them may want to avoid it. But it has been well established that when the health benefits of apples are compared against these risks, the benefits clearly outweigh the risks by a very large margin and hence it is advised that apples should not be avoided, but they just have to be cleaned well.
The apple truly is an amazing snack that keeps the hunger at bay and the doctor away. With thousands of varieties to choose from and unlimited ways to include it in diet, it becomes a must-have in your fruit bowl.