Not too surprisingly, the most popular apples are the sweetest – Red and Golden Delicious are the best-sellers in this country. It’s lucky that the skin is edible, because scientists now say that’s where some of this fruit’s most important nutrients lie. An apple is a good source of fiber, including the soluble fiber pectin, and of vitamin C. Apple nutrients are disproportionately present in the skin, which is a particularly valuable part of the fruit with respect to its nutrient content.
Despite a whopping 7,500 varieties of applies in the world, 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the U.S. today. The only apple native to North America is the crabapple, yet it’s the official state fruit of Washington, New York, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.
Despite that old saying – “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” – the average American, surprisingly, eats only 65 apples a year, and half of this country’s apple crop is turned into apple products like applesauce and apple juice (forfeiting some of its phytonutrient-rich fiber and most of its highly nutritious skin).
Apples belong to the Rose family of plants, which contains a surprising number of popular foods, ranging from apricots to plums, cherries, peaches, pears, raspberries, and even almonds.
Intact apples contain phytonutrients that help regulate blood sugar; eaten whole, thanks to the presence of pectin, they significantly lower many blood fats; by altering the amounts of two bacteria (Clostridiales and Bacteriodes) in the large intestine, apples make more fuel available to the large intestine cells than is otherwise available; they contain numerous antioxidants, and slow down carbohydrate digestion and glucose absorption.
Although some preliminary results show apple benefits for several different cancer types (especially colon cancer and breast cancer), apples trump other fruits and vegetables in the area of asthma and lung-cancer benefits, thanks in part to the high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients they contain. A recent study found that children with asthma who drank apple juice on a daily basis experienced less wheezing than children who drank apple juice just once a month; another study showed that children born to women who ate apples regularly throughout their pregnancies had lowered rates of asthma.
The regular consumption of intact apples is credited with reducing one’s chances of developing lung, breast, colon and liver cancer, and said to help with diabetes management; scientists are currently researching the health benefits of apples for a range of health problems from macular degeneration to bone loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
Tips for Preparing Apples
Because the skin of the apple is unusually nutrient-rich, try to buy organic apples and leave the skins on.
To prevent browning, put apple slices in a bowl of cold water to which a spoonful of lemon juice has been added.
In processing apples, the more of the fruit that can be retained, the better, to which end, nutritionists recommend processing whole apples in a powerful blender for apple juice.
Here are a few suggestions for incorporating apples into your diet: Add diced apples to fruit or green salads; braise a chopped apple with red cabbage; serve sliced applies with cheese for dessert.
And remember, as Carl Sagan once said, “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”