Some of us love fruit, and some of us can’t stand it – but does it really matter whether we eat fruit as part of our diet?

Recently, the good old fashioned apple has been getting some good press, but is it as good as they say?

Advantages of apples

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It would seem that most children do not meet the fruit recommendations within their diet, and it is claimed that eating a healthy diet that is full of fruit may reduce cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and even some types of cancer.

All that in mind, we should not only be getting our kids to eat fruit, but we should be tucking into it ourselves!

A medium apple is around 102kcals in energy and from that, it provides just under 5g of fibre, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and an array of other nutrients in smaller amounts.

It is believed that phytonutrients in apples can help to regulate blood sugar levels by preventing blood sugar spikes.

Phytonutrients are the natural chemicals found in plants and fruits. They give them their colour, smell and other properties.

Why is balancing blood sugar so important?

Well, a constant rise and fall of sugars in the blood can promote fat storage long-term.

Polyphenols in apples may also decrease the absorption of glucose from the GI tract whilst increasing the uptake of glucose from the blood.

Quercetin

Quercetin a flavanoid found within apples which may inhibit the action of certain enzymes on carbohydrates.

This leads to a reduction in free-flowing simple sugars within the blood stream, helping to reduce sudden spikes in their levels.

Quercetin also has anti-inflammatory effects.

One of the inflammatory markers within the blood is reduced following the consumption of an apple.

apple a day_3In addition, quercetin may also improve endothelial function as well as reducing inflammation.

The quercetin helps to decrease cell death, which is usually caused by oxidation and the inflammation of neurones.

Oxidative stress on nerve cells may lead to neurodegenerative disorders and research has indicated that apples may help to protect the body against this.

A study following over 9,000 people showed that those who had the lowest risk of stroke were the ones who ate the most apples.

Cholesterol and gut bacteria

The interaction of fibre and phytonutrients within an apple have a reduction effect on our blood fats too.

Newer research indicates that apples may benefit the good bacteria in our large intestine.

The soluble fibre in apples binds to fats in the intestine, which is believed to reduce cholesterol levels within the body.

A study published in Food Chemistry (2014) looked at the bioactive compounds in different varieties of apples and found that the beneficial gut bacteria was supported with the intake of apples, and in particular, the Granny Smith variety.

Preventing obesity

The balancing of the gut bacteria may, in fact, help in protecting against obesity.

This is due, in the main, to the high levels of non-digestible dietary fibre and polyphenols in the apples.

Due to the high indigestible material in the apple, the gut bacteria can ferment it and produce beneficial butyric acid, which is great to encourage growth of good gut bacteria.

Atherosclerosis, memory and eye health

Apples may decrease oxidation of cell membrane fats.

Keeping the cell membranes in tact is important as oxidation of the cells within the blood vessels is one of the primary risk factors for atherosclerosis.

Other studies have highlighted the ability of apples to lower the risks of asthma and even lung cancer.

As well as research on whole apples, research on apple juice consumption was shown to contribute to a reduction in memory problems.

The antioxidants within apples can also help to keep eye health in good order and those who eat apples are thought to be less likely to go on to develop cataracts.

Therefore, all in all for a humble piece of fruit, the apple can contribute quite a lot to our diet and overall health.

Connect with WatchFit Expert Lisa Lowery

References:

1. H.J. Heo, S.J. Choi, S.-G. Choi, D.-H. Shin, J.M. Lee, C.Y. Lee, Effects of Banana, Orange, and Apple on Oxidative Stress-Induced Neurotoxicity in PC12 Cells. Journal of Food Science (Online Early Articles), Published online on 24th January 2008

2. Knekt P1, Isotupa S, Rissanen H, Heliövaara M, Järvinen R, Häkkinen S, Aromaa A,Reunanen A. Quercetin intake and the incidence of cerebrovascular disease, Eur J Clin Nutr, May 2000

3. Assessing non-digestible compounds in apple cultivars and their potential as modulators of obese faecal microbiota in vitro, Giuliana Noratto et al, published in Food Chemistry, September 2014

4. Upton, D, Upton, P, Taylor C. Fruit and vegetable intake of primary school children: a study of school meals. J Hum Nut Diet

5. He, F.J., Nowson, C.A., Lucas, M. and MacGregor, G.A. Increased consumption of fruit and vegetables is related to a reduced risk of CHD: meta-analysis of cohort studies. J Hm Hypertens, 2007

6. Wang, W, Wang, X, Gong, G, Li, G, Li C. Consumption of fruit, but not vegetables may reduce the risk of gastric cancer: results from a meta-analysis of cohort studies. Eur J Cancer, 2014

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