Everyone has heard the popular expression ‘An apple a day keeps the Doctor away’ and we all know fruit and vegetables are good for us and that is why health initiatives encourage us to consume our ‘5 a day’, but how true is this common saying? And what in particular makes the apple stand out from the bunch?
According to Dr. Bahram Arjmandi (RD) and Margaret Sitton (Professor and Chair) at the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at The Florida State University; apples are truly a “miracle fruit” that convey benefits beyond just the fibre content of 4 grams per fruit.
At only 80 Kilo Calories, apples provide a fibre filled, juicy, low fat afternoon snack, compared to its common competitor, the sugar rich, fat laden mid-afternoon biscuit. An added bonus as part of a weight management regime is the apple’s natural fruit pectins, which are known for their satiety effect. However, there is much more to the apple than meets the eye and if we delve deeper into the core of research, we are met with a long list of health benefits, including the reduction of chronic disease risk, such as Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Diabetes and Asthma.
Little-known apple benefits for health
A Study in the Journal of Functional Foods reported some outstanding results for daily apple consumption over a 4 week period on improving cholesterol profiles . This study of healthy, middle-aged adults highlighted significant improvements of lowering a blood substance that contributes to hardening of the arteries by an impressive 40%. This could be the difference between having and not having a diagnosis of Coronary Artery disease.
This powerful protective antioxidant activity in apples is attributed to some very clever substances, called phytochemical compounds. These are non-nutrient plant segments and include the carotenoids, flavonoids, iso-flavonoids and phenolic acids. Antioxidants work by mopping up harmful free radicals that cause damage to healthy body cells. Apples are a significant and potent source of flavonoids (particularly Quercetin) and apples are currently one of the largest sources of phenolics in the US and the UK diet , giving them the second highest antioxidant activity, just below the Cranberry fruit .
These substances are why apples have been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk by 13-22%  especially in women, with a higher apple intake associated with a lower risk of thrombotic stroke .
The flavanoid; Quercetin (the most predominate flavonoid in apples) is a major component of the apple peel has also been associated with a decreased risk of Type II diabetes and asthma . Quercetin cleverly does this by reducing Insulin resistance and improving blood leptin hormone control (a hormone, produced by fat cells in the body, which acts as a gatekeeper of fat metabolism, acting to maintain energy balance). Just like Insulin resistance, it is possible to develop a resistance to leptin, which when in high levels signals to our brain that we are full and can stop eating, therefore improving leptin resistance is significant in preventing weight gain.
Much more is revealed about the composition of the apple if we peel back the layers!
The peel of an apple is 2 – 6 times richer in polyphenols and 2-3 times richer in flavonoids than the juicy flesh, which means the peel antioxidant power exceeds 2-3 times that of pulp activity .
If we consider this factor, the processing of apples will effect this fruit’s natural protective powerfulness for example juicing and pulping can reduce the antioxidant activity to a mere 3% , as well as removing the fibre content. However the storage of apples has little if any effect on apple phytochemicals .
To summarise: An apple a day, could keep the Doctor away due to the multitude of benefits it has on prevention of degenerative diseases such as Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, Diabetes and Asthma. These benefits are a result of ingenious chemicals, called Phytochemicals, of which the apple is particularly rich in Flavonoids and more specifically Quercetin, which is a lot richer in the apple peel. So to get the greatest benefit of all – eat the fruit in its natural form, as a snack when hunger strikes or you could upset the apple cart.
Curious facts about apples
– There are more than 8,000 varieties of apples
– The science of apple cultivation is known as Pomology.
– China produces the largest amount of apples at 56%
– Apples ripen 5 -6 times slower when kept in the refrigerator than when left at room temperature.
– The Turks eat more fresh apples per head of population than any other nation.
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An apple a day keeps the doctor away! Use this motto to help with your balanced vegetarian diet plan.