Eat Well to Be Well: Why an apple a day is good for you

If a person had to pick one fruit that signifies autumn, an apple would be it. There’s nothing quite like biting into a crisp, juicy apple on a cool fall day. Not only do apples provide a tasty treat, but also significant health benefits. A medium sized apple contains 4.4 grams of fiber. Eat apples with the skin left on. Two-thirds of the fiber and lots of antioxidants are found in the peel. The fiber composition of an apple is both soluble fiber (pectin) on the inside and insoluble fiber (cellulose) in the skin. Soluble fiber helps remove cholesterol, slows down glucose absorption and promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon. Insoluble fiber prevents constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticular disease.

Eating apples can aid in weight control. The fiber content keeps you feeling fuller longer, thus you eat less. A study has shown that if you eat an apple 15 minutes before a meal, you’ll consume 60 fewer calories. A medium apple contains about 80 calories, making them a great choice for an easy snack and gives you a boost of energy.

Ever notice that chewing an apple gives your mouth and teeth a workout? That’s good because chewing an apple stimulates saliva production and helps lower the level of bacteria in the mouth.

The peel of an apple contains powerful antioxidants called polyphenols. In fact, the red color of some apples comes from polyphenols called anthocyanins. Polyphenols give us a powerhouse of healthy advantages. They help control the absorption of our blood sugar glucose keeping it at more even levels throughout the day. Polyphenols in apples also help improve cholesterol levels benefitting our cardiovascular health. A polyphenol called Quercetin found in apples has led to lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation linked to heart disease.

Various studies have shown eating apples may lead to reduced cancer risk, particular of lung cancer. Animal studies along with a 2005 Italian study have suggested that eating apples may reduce the risk of colorectal, larynx, breast and ovarian cancers as well.

Improved brain health is another advantage of eating apples. A University of Massachusetts- Lowell research team provided evidence that eating apples and drinking apple juice may improve cognition by boosting neurotransmitter levels essential to thought and memory functions. In the study, drinking two, 4-ounce glasses of apple juice daily for one month reduced behavioral and psychotic symptoms associated with dementia by 27 percent. Reductions were also seen in anxiety levels, agitation and delusion associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. From this research, it appears that apple juice may help prevent oxidative damage to the brain, commonly seen with aging.

Besides the numerous health benefits you will reap from eating apples, here are some fun apple facts from the University of Illinois Extension:

  • There are at least 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the United States.
  • Apples are grown in all 50 states.
  • Apples are naturally fat, sodium and cholesterol free.
  • Most apples are still picked by hand in the fall.
  • The average size of a United States orchard is 50 acres.
  • Apples are the second most valuable fruit grown in the United States. Oranges are first.
  • The world’s top apple producers are China, United States, Turkey, Poland and Italy.
  • The apple variety Red Delicious is the most widely grown in the United States.

If you are looking for a fun fall activity, go to an apple orchard and pick your own apples. Here in Osage County, we are fortunate to have Fieldstone Orchards, located near Overbrook, where you can not only pick apples, but also other organic fruits and vegetables.

Next time you’re in the grocery store, admire the variety and colors of apples. Be brave and try a variety you’ve never eaten before. You’ll be surprised at the differences in texture and taste they each provide. And yes, the old saying “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away” which comes from the old English adage, “To eat an apple before going to bed, will make the doctor beg his bread,” may actually have a lot of truth in it!

Here are two easy ways to enjoy fall apples. The first recipe is a delicious fruit dip that has been requested numerous times by the Osage City school system and one I know you will enjoy also. Not only is this great for dipping apple slices but also perfect for bananas and other fruit.

Peanut Butter Fruit Dip

1 1/3 cups skim milk

2/3 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup light sour cream

3 tbsp. and 1 ½ tsp. sugar

1 (3.4 ounce) pkg. instant vanilla pudding mix

Apple slices or any fruit of your choice

1. Combine milk, sour cream, and pudding mix in medium bowl. Whisk until smooth. Stir in peanut butter and sugar into pudding mixture, mix until well blended.

2. Serve with sliced apples or other fruit. Store in refrigerator.


Baked Apple Slices

4 large baking apples

¼ cup apple juice

¾ cup sugar

1 tbsp. butter or margarine

2 tsp. cinnamon

½ cup chopped walnuts

¼ tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp. ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a small baking dish.

2. Peel apples and cut eat apple into 8 slices. Arrange apple slices in the baking dish.

3. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and apple juice. Pour over apples. Dot with butter or margarine. Sprinkle with nuts and bake uncovered for 45 to 60 minutes or until apples are tender.

 


Cheryl_Mussatto_pictureCheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian who works as an adjunct professor at Allen Community College, where she teaches a course called Basic Nutrition. She is also a certified health and wellness coach. She writes Eat Well to Be Well, a column about health and nutrition, and may be contacted at [email protected].

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