With each fall season over-flowing baskets of gorgeous apples begin to appear in farmers’ markets, road-side stands as well as local grocery stores. In my opinion, apples are one of life’s tastiest pleasures. Apples are actually one of the healthiest fruits provided to us by our Creator. In fact, some anti-cancer studies show that one of the health benefits of apples is, when eaten on daily basis, they provide better anti-cancer benefits than lesser amounts meaning that the old-saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” is actually great advice.
September 16th of every year is International Eat an Apple Day which is celebrated by people all over the world by enjoying a piece of this delightful and delicious fruit. Fortunately we don’t have to make it a one-day celebration. In fact, because of the many health benefits of apples, eating just one apple a day has been found to be more effective at preventing cardiovascular disease than the statin drugs so often prescribed. Did you know there are approximately 7,500 varieties of apples grown today, and they offer a great range of flavor from tart to tangy to sweet? However, it’s the health benefits of apples that make all of these varieties common.
Apples are also an age-old fruit. Apples are mentioned in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve and also in Greek mythology. In the USA we think of apples as American as apple pie even though apples are grown literally all over the world.
Apples and Pesticides
In the northern hemisphere, apple season begins at the end of summer and lasts until the early part of winter. It’s important to note that apples available at other times have been in cold storage or are imported from the southern hemisphere. According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2013 report “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides,” conventionally grown apples are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been frequently found. Therefore, if you want to avoid health risks associated with pesticides, it’s best to eat apples that have been grown organically. Also, if you decide to purchase non-organic apples, be sure to ask your grocer about the kind of wax used to protect the apple’s surface during storage or shipping. It would be best, obviously, to have no outer-coating, but if there is then carnauba wax (from the carnauba palm tree), beeswax, and shellac (from the lac beetle) are preferable to petroleum-based waxes, which contain solvent residues or wood resins. (The World’s Healthiest Foods)
Worried about Sugar in Apples? Don’t.
Frequently I am asked about sugar in fruits in regard to blood sugar regulation. Certainly this is a valid concern because, after all, fruits are sweet. However, when we eat the edible portion of the fruit consuming all the synergistic components of the fruit, these components help with blood sugar regulation. With apples, we are mostly talking about polyphenols which are natural plant chemicals that work as antioxidants to protect the cells in your body from free radical damage. Polyphenols are also capable of having an effect on the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates which ends up improving the regulation of our blood sugar. Apples contain an amazing supply of polyphenols and this is where it gets interesting. Research studies show polyphenols to be the favorite mechanism used by apples to protect themselves from UV-B radiation. Cells in the skin of apple that conduct photosynthesis are especially sensitive to UV-B light from the sun. Many of the polyphenols in the skin of apples can actually absorb UV-B light, and thereby prevent UV-B from damaging the photosynthetic cells in the apple skin. Polyphenols, then, are like the apple’s natural sunscreen. Apple polyphenols impact our carbohydrate processing in the following ways:
- Slowing down of carbohydrate digestion. Quercetin and other flavonoids found in apples act to inhibit carbohydrate-digesting enzymes like alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase. When these enzymes are inhibited, carbohydrates are broken down less readily into simple sugars, and less load is placed on our bloodstream to accommodate more sugar.
- Reduction of glucose absorption. Polyphenols in apples clearly lower the rate of glucose absorption from our digestive tract. Once again, this change lessens the sugar load on our bloodstream.
- Stimulation of the pancreas to put out more insulin. Getting sugar out of our bloodstream often requires the help of insulin, a hormone produced by the beta cells of our pancreas. By telling the beta cells of our pancreas to produce more insulin, the polyphenols found in apple can help us clear more sugar from our blood and keep our blood sugar level in better balance.
- Stimulation of insulin receptors to latch on to more insulin and increase the flow of sugar out of our bloodstream and into our cells. In order for sugar to leave our bloodstream and enter our cells (especially our muscle cells), insulin receptors on those cells must bind together with the insulin hormone and create cell changes that will allow sugar to pass through the cell membrane and into the cell. (Muscle cells, for example, continuously need this uptake of sugar from the bloodstream in order to function.) Polyphenols in apples help to activate the muscle cell insulin receptors, and in this way, they help facilitate passage of sugar from our bloodstream up into our cells. Once again, the result is better blood sugar regulation in our body. (The World’s Healthiest Foods)
Health Benefits of Apples
- 4 grams of fiber per medium apple
- pectin helps to detoxify digestive tract
- lowers risk of death from heart disease
- lowers risk of stroke
- anti-inflammatory properties
- lowers cholesterol levels
- low in calories
- lowers metabolic syndrome
- lowers C-reactive protein
- boosts exercise endurance
- may help prevent Alzheimer’s
- contains phloridzin
- increases bone density
- helps with weight loss
- rich in polyphenols
- cleans teeth & gums
- supports healthy eyesight
- lowers asthma risk
- vitamin C source
- lowers lung cancer risk
- lowers colon cancer risk
- decreases insulin need
Healthy Baked Apple Chips Recipe
1 1/2 Tblsp of cinnamon
1/2 Tblsp apple pie spice
1/4 tsp unrefined salt
3 organic apples, cored
Preheat oven to 200. Core apples & slice as thin as possible. You can also use a mandoline. In a bowl, mix together the spices & salt. Toss the apple slices in the spice mixture to coat. Place apples on a parchment lined baking sheet & bake for 30 minutes. Then check the apples & flip them. Bake for another 30-45 minutes or until crispy. Let cool & enjoy!
Consumers Union of United States, Inc. Do you know what you’re eating? An analysis of US government data on pesticide residues in foods. Consumers Union of United States, Inc. Edward Groth III, PhD, Project Director, Charles M. Benbrook, PhD, Consultant, Public Service Projects Department, Technical Division. Feb 1999. 1999.
Hanhineva K, Törrönen R, Bondia-Pons I et al. Impact of Dietary Polyphenols on Carbohydrate Metabolism. Int J Mol Sci. 2010; 11(4): 1365-1402. 2010.
Solovchenko A and Schmitz-Eiberger M. Significance of skin flavonoids for UV-B-protection in apple fruits. J. Exp. Bot., Aug 2003; 54: 1977 – 1984. 2003.