By Sara Wylie
You know that one fruit that is so common, it often goes unnoticed as it sits in the fruit baskets of most homes along with the bananas and oranges? The fruit that horses love and also adds a nice, crisp chill to a salad or a smoothie?
Yup, I’m talking about apples.
Apples, among many fruits, actually happen to be one of my all time favorite members of the fruit family. Not only do they taste refreshingly delicious, they also contain a bountiful amount of benefits that people don’t often even think about. There’s more than one reason why they come second (behind bananas) as one of the most popular fruits in America.
Here are 5 reasons why you should be sure to include apples in your daily life:
1. Strong Antioxidant
Along with placing second in popularity, apples also place second when it comes to fruits that contain the strongest antioxidant activity. Unlike other antioxidant-rich foods, however, the free phenolic compound count ranks the highest in apples, meaning these compounds come with no other “luggage” attached to them, making them easier for your body to absorb into the bloodstream.
The Department of Food Science at Cornell University did a series of studies and conducted some further, more detailed research on just what “placing second for antioxidant strength” means:
“Since apples are so high in antioxidants, it is no surprise that [they] are associated with a decreased risk of chronic disease.
Three studies have specifically linked apple consumption with a decreased risk for cancer. Women who consumed at least one serving a day of apples and pears had a reduced risk of lung cancer…
A recent study has shown that apple and pear consumption has been associated with a decreased risk of asthma. Apple consumption has also been associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease in women. In the Netherlands, apple and pear consumption was associated with a decreased risk of obstructive pulmonary disease… A reduced risk of Type II diabetes was associated with apple and berry consumption in another major Finnish study…
Our lab has found that apples and especially apple peels have powerful antioxidant activity and can greatly inhibit the growth of liver cancer and colon cancer cells. Based on results from all of these studies, it appears that apples may play a significant role in reducing the risk of a wide variety of diseases.”
The antioxidant strength in apples really does give some truth to the cliche saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Keeping apples in your diet may aid in the prevention of cancer and other diseases that otherwise wreak havoc in so many lives today.
Also, as mentioned above, a significant amount of an apple’s antioxidant strength comes from the peel, as is further explained by the researchers of Cornell University:
“Because the apple peel contains more antioxidant compounds, it can be inferred that the apple peel may have higher antioxidant activity and higher bioactivity than the apple flesh. Early research from our lab showed that peeled apples had less antioxidant activity than apples with the peel. Apples with the peel were also better able to inhibit cell proliferation when compared to apples without the peel.”
Based on this research, perhaps you should think twice about peeling an apple the next time you swipe one out of that fruit basket to eat for a snack.
2. Brain Health
Sometimes, your brain may undergo what is known as oxidative stress. In the words of Dr. Ananya Mandal, M.D., “Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants.”
When you eat apples, it’s been proven that they can help protect your neuron cells against this type of mental, toxic stress. Also, by offering the cells of your brain this sort of protection, apples also have the potential to prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, according to a study done by researchers at Gyeongsang National University.
3. Weight Loss And Endurance Boost
One particular antioxidant contained in apples is the one called quercetin. This antioxidant helps with the oxidation in your bloodstream, ultimately making it easier for your lungs to receive and utilize oxygen. This factor gives your body an endurance kick that will help you make it through your workout and more.
The act of pushing yourself to make it through to the end of your workout and beyond naturally aids in the weight loss process, but along with this, having apples as a go-to snack can help your weight loss progress even further. Apples are a low calorie food, but they still have a density due to the high fiber content. That aspect helps you feel full for longer periods of time, preventing overeating or additional, unneeded snacking.
4. Heart Health
Various studies have been done to test the effect that apples (their flavonoid content in particular) have on heart health. One study done by the National Institute of Public Health and Environment Protection did tests on men who had both the potential or no potential of developing coronary heart disease:
“Flavonoid intake was significantly inversely associated with mortality from coronary heart disease and showed an inverse relation with incidence of myocardial infarction, which was of borderline significance. The relative risk of coronary heart disease mortality in the highest versus the lowest tertile of flavonoid intake was 0.42 (95% CI 0.20-0.88).”
Put in simpler terms, the flavonoid content in apples, as well as in other foods, do have an interesting impact on the health of the heart and also contribute in the prevention of deadly heart diseases such as coronary heart disease, ultimately lowering the overall risk such diseases have on society.
5. Tooth Protection
The refreshing feeling of biting into an apple actually has benefits for your teeth and therefore, your overall dental health/hygiene. When taking the time to bite and chew an apple, the moist activity causes an increase in the production of saliva, bringing on a stronger form of protection against tooth decay. The buildup of saliva lowers the levels of bacteria inside your mouth that cause such decay and disintegration.
Eating apples can also help in cases of halitosis (bad breath). The texture of the peel and flesh of the apple scrub your tongue and gums as you chew, chasing away any particles causing the bad breath. Another reason why apples can be a great choice for a snack!
Because apples also have shown to help clear away plaque and clean off your teeth, they are sometimes referred to as “nature’s toothbrush.” But don’t let this fact deter you away from switching out actual tooth brushing – apples still have a natural fructose content (fruit sugar) that can alter the positive effects they have on your teeth if actual cleansing isn’t happening regularly.
Along with all the above mentioned benefits, apples are also capable of reducing cholesterol, decreasing risk of hemorrhoids, preventing gallstones, aiding constipation, neutralizing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), preventing cataracts, boosting the immune system, detoxifying your liver and the list goes on. In short, apples truly have earned their place in the ranks of highly beneficial fruits.
Picking Quality Apples
Of course, just like most all foods consumed by society today, not all apples are created (grown) equal. Organic apples are your best bet, of course, but beyond that, here are just a few guidelines for picking quality apples provided to us by the Washington State Apple Commission: