Nothing imparts the taste of fall quite like the crisp flavor of a fresh apple. This popular fruit has a lot more to offer than taste, however. Packed with antioxidants and other healthy substances, apples boast a variety of health benefits, giving credence to the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Apples are a major source of flavonoids and polyphenols, antioxidant-like compounds that protect plants from disease, UV light and other stress and which, when eaten by humans, can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. The majority of polyphenols found in apples are located in the fruit’s skin—making it critical to eat the whole fruit in order to derive the health benefits. (Apple juice and applesauce don’t have the same benefits.) Generally, the deeper red an apple’s skin is, the more antioxidants it contains, which is why Red Delicious apples are now recognized as one of healthiest varieties to eat.
Studies have shown that eating apples on a regular basis can help prevent or inhibit various types of cancer, including breast cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer. A recent study by a Cornell University professor found that rats given fresh apple extracts had fewer, smaller and less malignant breast tumors than rats who were not given apples.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Good news for diabetics! Early research shows that eating apples can help regulate blood sugar. Quercetin and other flavonoids in apples inhibit certain enzymes that normally break down carbohydrates into simple sugars, preventing excess sugar from entering our bloodstreams. Polyphenols found in apples also reduce the rate at which glucose is absorbed from our digestive tracks and stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin, which helps reduce the sugar load in our bloodstreams.
A recent study found that women who ate dried apples every day for six months had a 23 percent decrease in levels of bad cholesterol and a 4 percent increase in levels of good cholesterol. Pectin, a water-soluble fiber found in apples, binds to cholesterol in the gut and prevents it from entering the bloodstream.
Although apples provide many health benefits, conventionally grown apples are laden with pesticides, earning them the top spot on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. To derive the health benefits of apples without the toxic side effects, source your apples from a local farmer whose growing methods you’re familiar with, or buy organic.
Images (top to bottom): Photo By emilyonasunday/Courtesy Flickr; Photo By Andrew Morrell Photography/Courtesy Flickr
Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on Google+.