An Apple A Day
A snack that is sweet and actually healthy, tasty, filling, pre-packaged, and versatile?
Throw out and avoid ye old muesli granola ‘power’ bars, sugar-laden energy drinks and coffee, and those doughnuts that always ‘catch’ you off-guard, and swap all of them out for the humble apple!
Prepared and consumed in many forms the apple has been the vanguard of basic nutrition for many everywhere. The old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor” may be the first piece of nutritional advice many children have heard, and for good reason. Its no exaggeration to say that replacing your snacks with an apple could change your health for the better.
Apples are crunchy, brightly-coloured fruit that grow on the modern-day apple tree (Malus domestica) which is a part of Rosaceae, the Rose family. Its originator is Malus sieversii from the mountains of Kazakhstan 1. Other members of the Rose family include pears, cherries, strawberries, peaches, raspberries, and plums. They were introduced to many places in the world from European settlers who preferred their fruit to the native people’s offering wherever they went 2.
Apple trees produce sexually with a male and female tree needed to create a viable seed. But due to the innate evolutionary strategy known to botanists as “extreme heterozygosity” the final product can be completely different to the parents, even if they are of the same type 3. This is the reason why there are so many different types of apples to choose from. To 100% guarantee a result is through grafting where buds are removed from current apple trees and inserted into the bark of trees for next year’s apples.
Nutrition and Benefits
The table below shows the nutrient info for a medium sized raw apple.
|Nutrient||Amount in 1 apple|
|Carbohydrate (g)||25.1, including 18.9 g of sugar|
|Calcium (milligrams [mg])||10.9|
|Vitamin C (mg)||8.37|
|Folate (micrograms [mcg])||5.46|
|Lutein and zeaxanthin (mcg)||52.8|
|Vitamin K (mcg)||4|
G = grams
While apples do are mainly made of carbs they are not the kind that take away fiber that’s good for you. They are high in simple sugars such as fructose, sucrose, and glucose 4.
More than half of an apple’s dietary fiber is found on the skin, a part of which is soluble and insoluble fiber 5. These are called pectin and can contribute to a myriad of health benefits. The fiber of apples can contribute to:
- Improved satiety, stopping you from consuming additional food, and reducing caloric intake for the day. A study was conducted in 2003 6 with overweight women between the ages of 30-50 that had high blood cholesterol levels were randomly chosen to eat apples, pears, or oat cookies. Those that ate one and a half apples a day lost three pounds during the study. A review in 2018 7 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition analyzed research concerning the component of apples and their relation to weight loss 8 and found that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that apple consumption and weight loss were connected.
- More manageable acid reflux effects 9, diarrhea 10 and constipation 11 through eating food that are fiber rich such as apples.
- Protection against blood vessel 12 and heart damage 13, and lower blood sugar levels through a plant compound known as chlorogenic acid. Also found in coffee it has been found in some studies to cause weight loss 14.
- Reducing the effects of intestinal disorders that include diverticultis, hemorrhoids, and some cancers 15. The insoluble fiber keeps your intestines in good working order and the apples fiber structure may also protect against non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 16.
Antioxidants, Vitamins, and Minerals
On its own an apple has its own range of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that, while not high in amount, contribute to its overall high value as a healthy snack. These include:
- Vitamin C. Also known as ascorbic acid is important in the regular running of your body and play a party in many bodily functions 17.
- Quercetin. The result of animal studies concluded that it may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anticancer, and antidepressant qualities 18 19 20 21.
- Catechin. Also found in green tea its been shown through animal studies to improve brain and muscle working condition 22 23.
- Phloridzin. Several studies suggest that it may help prevent type 2 diabetes 24. Another study analyzed previous scientific efforts to find the relation between naturally-occuring Phloridzin and its actual dietary intake, and found that most people consumed apples and apple juice 25 to gain it.
- Chlorogenic acid. A plant compound known as phytochemicals it reduces blood pressure, weight, and may lessen blood sugar levels, improve your mood, and helps with infections. It also helps with stopping oxidative damage to cells 26 27.
- Potassium. Making up the majority of minerals in apples it may enhance heart health, lowers the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems 28.
Daily consumption of apples is connected to reducing the risk of gaining the common forms of cancer that include breast, prostate, colorectal cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Research has shown that the antioxidants can slow the growth of cancer cells, with animal studies saying that the phytonutrients can also help against lung and colon cancers 29 30 31 32 33 34.
Free radical molecules are formed through natural processes and the environment – if enough of them accumulate in your body cell damage is incurred via oxidative stress. This can lead to certain ailments including diabetes and cancer. Eating an apple can help stave of the threat of free radical damage to your body’s cells through its various plant chemicals and compounds, fibers, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants 33 34.
You would think that there would be no downsides to something that is so beneficial to you. But there are some things to be wary of and these include:
According to The Environmental Working Group apples are the produce products that are contaminated the most with pesticides. Try to purchase organic apples; if not then rinse them thoroughly with a fruit and vegetable wash, or peel them 30.
While many enjoy apples those with irritable bowl syndrome may not be able to consume them due to their high levels of natural fructose sugar and variety of FODMAPs. These are a collection of fibers that may exacerbate symptoms. The fructose can trigger the same effects undigested lactose 35 36.
Source of Allergens
There is an apple allergy that is the result of the protein in apples. While it may seem the source of an OAS (oral allergy syndrome) response the apple itself is not the culprit – rather it is the body’s own reaction to pollen. This is more regularly seen with those who have seasonal allergies or hay fever 37.
If you’re not one for GMOs then be wary of apples. A common feature added is to stop them from browning when sliced and left out; instead of browning as would an organic apple would these ones keep their color. One of risks of genetically modified foods is that we have no idea of their risks (short and long-term) without proper study 37.
Selecting, Storing, and Preparation
Watch for any discoloration or bruising and damage on the skin. Picking up an apple will also let you know if its good or not – it should be hefty and solid all round; put them back if they are soft or mushy in spots. If you do pick up those that have some damage eat them first as these will deteriorate quicker 37 38.
How to Store Apples
To keep your apples fresh for as long as possible put them in the crisper section of your refrigerator, preferably away from other produce. They will last 1-2 months inside a plastic bag with holes, or covered with a damp cloth. Apples in a container or enclosed bag will release moisture and induce rot. Due to their constant releasing of a gas called ethylene they continue to ripen themselves as well as other produce if they are close by so keep them separate if possible. If you prefer apples outside on a counter then 1-2 weeks is what you’ll get – though the texture may change during this period. Got a lot of apples you want to store? A dark location with a little humidity is good like a basement or garage. If you want to go for the long haul individually wrapping them with their stems on in paper in a single layer is the best bet 30 33 38.
A considerable boon for apples is their versatility in eating them. Whether raw or cooked, mashed, grilled, baked, diced, sliced, and others ways most dishes can be enhanced with the flavor, texture, snap, and crunch of the apple. Have them on the go or use them to prepare more elaborate dishes.
Some apple varieties are more suited towards cooking and baking while others are best enjoyed raw.
The mildly sweet and tart types include Jonagolds, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Melrose, Cortland, and Braeburn. Those that are best chosen for quick eating are those that have juicy and sweet flavors include Gala, Red and Golden Delicious, Fuji, McIntosh.
Among the fruits the apple reigns supreme in their health benefits, taste, variety, and popularity. Their small form allows children and adults alike the option and easy choice of a healthy snack at work, school, or at home. Whether eaten by itself or added to another dish you will always be pleasantly surprised at how versatile the humble apple can be. Be sure to eat the skin as well!
1 Rupp, R., 2014. The History of the “Forbidden” Fruit. [online] National Geographic. Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/food/the-plate/2014/07/22/history-of-apples>.
2 WebMD. n.d. What You Need to Know About the Health Benefits of Apples. [online] Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/benefits-apples#1>.
3 Rupp, R., 2014. The History of the “Forbidden” Fruit. [online] National Geographic. Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/food/the-plate/2014/07/22/history-of-apples>.
Table from: Brazier, Y., 2019. Apples: Benefits, nutrition, and tips. [online] Medicalnewstoday.com. Available at: <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267290>.
4 Arnarson, A., 2019. Apples 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. [online] Healthline. Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/apples#bottom-line>.
5 n.d. An Apple a Day? Learn 8 Reasons WHY to Eat One. [online] Available at: <https://www.realfoodforlife.com/apple-a-day/>.
6 Conceição de Oliveira, M. Sichieri, R., Sanchez Moura, A., n.d. Weight Loss Associated With a Daily Intake of Three Apples or Three Pears Among Overweight Women☆. [online] Doi.org. Available at: <https://doi.org/10.1016/S0899-9007(02)00850-X>.
7 Asgary, S., Rastqar, A. and Keshvari, M., 2018. Weight Loss Associated With Consumption of Apples: A Review. [online] Taylor & Francis. Available at: <https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2018.1447411>.
8 Robbins, O. and Robbins, O., n.d. 11 Top Weight Loss-Friendly Foods. [online] Food Revolution Network. Available at: <https://foodrevolution.org/blog/top-weight-loss-friendly-foods/>.
9 WebMD. n.d. What Is Heartburn?. [online] Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/understanding-heartburn-basics#1>.
10 WebMD. n.d. Diarrhea. [online] Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-diarrhea>.
11 WebMD. n.d. The Basics of Constipation. [online] Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-constipation>.
12 Hoffman, M., n.d. Human Anatomy: Blood – Red and White Cells, Plasma, Circulation, and More. [online] WebMD. Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/heart/anatomy-picture-of-blood>.
13 Hoffman, M., n.d. The Heart (Human Anatomy): Picture, Definition, Location in the Body, and Heart Problems. [online] WebMD. Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/heart/picture-of-the-heart>.
14 SAGE Journals. n.d. The Effect of Chlorogenic Acid Enriched Coffee on Glucose Absorption in Healthy Volunteers and Its Effect on Body Mass When Used Long-term in Overweight and Obese People – E Thom, 2007. [online] Available at: <https://doi.org/10.1177/147323000703500620>.
15 Graziani, G., 2005. Apple polyphenol extracts prevent damage to human gastric epithelial cells in vitro and to rat gastric mucosa in vivo. Gut, 54(2), pp.193-200.
16 n.d. An Apple a Day? Learn 8 Reasons WHY to Eat One. [online] Available at: <https://www.realfoodforlife.com/apple-a-day/>.
17 Li, Y. and Schellhorn, H., 2007. New Developments and Novel Therapeutic Perspectives for Vitamin C. The Journal of Nutrition, 137(10), pp.2171-2184.
18 Graziani, G., 2005. Apple polyphenol extracts prevent damage to human gastric epithelial cells in vitro and to rat gastric mucosa in vivo. Gut, 54(2), pp.193-200.
19 Spedding, G., Ratty, A. and Middleton, E., 1989. Inhibition of reverse transcriptases by flavonoids. Antiviral Research, 12(2), pp.99-110.
20 Murakami, A., Ashida, H. and Terao, J., 2008. Multitargeted cancer prevention by quercetin. Cancer Letters, 269(2), pp.315-325.
21 Hou, Y., Aboukhatwa, M., Lei, D., Manaye, K., Khan, I. and Luo, Y., 2010. Anti-depressant natural flavonols modulate BDNF and beta amyloid in neurons and hippocampus of double TgAD mice. Neuropharmacology, 58(6), pp.911-920.
22 Chang, C., Cho, S. and Wang, J., 2014. (-)-Epicatechin protects hemorrhagic brain via synergistic Nrf2 pathways. Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, 1(4), pp.258-271.
23 Chang, C., Cho, S. and Wang, J., 2014. (-)-Epicatechin protects hemorrhagic brain via synergistic Nrf2 pathways. Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, 1(4), pp.258-271.
24 Sabarinathan, R., n.d. Link between apple polyphenol phloridzin and type 2 diabetes risk – Medical News Bulletin | Health News and Medical Research. [online] Medical News Bulletin | Health News and Medical Research. Available at: <https://medicalnewsbulletin.com/link-between-apple-polyphenol-phloridzin-and-type-2-diabetes-risk/>.
25 Niederberger, K., Tennant, D. and Bellion, P., 2020. Dietary intake of phloridzin from natural occurrence in foods. British Journal of Nutrition, 123(8), pp.942-950.
26 Cohen, J., 2020. 6 Health Benefits of Chlorogenic Acid + Side Effects – SelfHacked. [online] SelfHacked. Available at: <https://selfhacked.com/blog/chlorogenic-acid/>.
27 Robbins, O., 2020. Apple Facts You Need To Know About: Benefits, Concerns, & the Best Ways to Enjoy Them. [online] Food Revolution Network. Available at: <https://foodrevolution.org/blog/apple-facts-and-benefits/>.
28 Arnarson, A., 2019. Apples 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. [online] Healthline. Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/apples>.
29 n.d. An Apple a Day? Learn 8 Reasons WHY to Eat One. [online] Available at: <https://www.realfoodforlife.com/apple-a-day/>.
30 WebMD. n.d. What You Need to Know About the Health Benefits of Apples. [online] Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/benefits-apples#2>.
31 Healthline. n.d. Apples 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/apples#weight-loss>.
32 Aussieapples.com.au. n.d. Dr Joanna McMillan’s Top Five Crunch Facts – Aussie Apples. [online] Available at: <https://www.aussieapples.com.au/health/dr-joanna-mcmillans-top-five-crunch-facts/>.
33 The Nutrition Source. n.d. Apples. [online] Available at: <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/apples/>.
34 Medicalnewstoday.com. n.d. Apples: Benefits, nutrition, and tips. [online] Available at: <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267290#nutrition>.
35 FODY Food Co. – USA. n.d. Trigger Foods to Avoid with IBS | FODY Foods Co.. [online] Available at: <https://www.fodyfoods.com/pages/the-trigger-foods-to-avoid-with-ibs-and-low-fodmap-alternatives>.
36 n.d. 5 Foods to Avoid if You Have IBS. [online] Available at: <https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/5-foods-to-avoid-if-you-have-ibs>.
37 Robbins, O., 2020. Apple Facts You Need To Know About: Benefits, Concerns, & the Best Ways to Enjoy Them. [online] Food Revolution Network. Available at: <https://foodrevolution.org/blog/apple-facts-and-benefits/>.
38 Aussieapples.com.au. n.d. Dr Joanna McMillan’s Top Five Crunch Facts – Aussie Apples. [online] Available at: <https://www.aussieapples.com.au/health/dr-joanna-mcmillans-top-five-crunch-facts/>.
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