If you read the latest reports on the health benefits of eating apples, you’ll find that apples are credited with the following:
- Reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
- Reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke
- Boosting the immune system
- Reducing the risk of breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer
- Preventing tooth decay
- Aiding hair growth
- Protecting skin against the sun
- Preventing menopausal bone loss
- Improving symptoms for sufferers of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Stabilizing blood sugar
- Aiding in the prevention of kidney stones
- Aiding weight loss
The list is impressive, and it will likely grow as more research is conducted. Evidently, the 1900s adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is solid advice.
Apples are indeed a nutritional superfood. An average apple has only about 80 calories, yet it contains potassium, folic acid, vitamin C and 3.7 grams of fiber. Apples also contain trace amounts of B vitamins, iron, magnesium and more. The skin and the portion of apple just under the skin contain most of the nutrients. Consequently, eating unpeeled apples provides the greatest nutritional benefit; however, unpeeled apples need to be washed thoroughly to make sure they are free of toxic pesticides.
Apples didn’t start out with a good reputation. Remember the role of the tempting apple in the biblical story of Adam and Eve? And what about the wicked witch who poisoned the beautiful red apple she gave to innocent Snow White?
Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) was untroubled by the apple’s questionable reputation. Legend has it that in the 1800s Johnny walked thousands of miles throughout the Midwest and planted apple trees wherever he went. In fact, he was a nurseryman who planted orchards for local farmers before continuing his journey and planting more apple trees.
Johnny Appleseed must have done his job well because the variety of apples today seems almost countless. Over 300 varieties are identified by www.allaboutapples.com.
With all their nutritional benefits, apples shouldn’t be limited to the role of occasional afternoon snack. With a little imagination, we can spruce up any menu with apples. Add a chopped apple to your favorite green salad. Doesn’t a steaming bowl of beet and apple soup sound good? Top off your meal with slices of apple and cheese or serve an easy-to-make, delicious apple crisp dessert. And the next time you bake a cake or a batch of muffins, remember to substitute applesauce in equivalent amounts for oil or shortening. The applesauce enhances the flavor, and your baked goods won’t dry out.
One of my fondest childhood memories is that of sitting in an apple tree with my oldest sister in the front yard on our Iowa farm. We would spend lazy afternoons talking about life as we ate apple after apple. As much as I loved apples then, my appreciation of them rose exponentially since I reviewed the latest research on the considerable health benefits that apples provide. I’d write more, but I need to take a break—I’m hungry for an apple.
Photo courtesy of Robert Michie