Apples are famously good for us. How often have you
heard that "an apple a day keeps the doctor away"? Apples are
delightfully crisp and juicy. Many varieties are available year-round.
Unlike grapes or ripe bananas, apples stay firm in a backpack or purse,
requiring no special protection. An apple makes an ideal after-school
snack, requiring no preparation other than a quick wash. Baked into pies
or cobblers, apples rank high among comfort foods.
In short, it's hard to find anything negative to say about this justly
popular fruit. What may surprise you, as it did me when I was doing the
research for this article, is just how many benefits apples offer. The
range is truly impressive.
The nutritional standouts in apples are fiber, flavonoids, and fructose.
One apple provides up to 5 grams of fiber, more than many cereals. This
can help prevent heart disease and constipation. Apples contain
virtually no fat. They can help lower harmful LDL cholesterol and raise
beneficial HDL cholesterol. Lauren Mathews, my Denver acupuncturist (www.FrontRangeAcupuncture.com),
says she has seen patients' cholesterol levels "plummet" after they
added a daily apple and a fish-oil capsule to their diets. Fujis and Red
Delicious apples have the most effect on cholesterol.
Extensive research has confirmed that flavonoids, a class of antioxidant
that is abundant in apples, help prevent heart disease and stroke. The
richest sources of flavonoids are apples, tea, onions, and broccoli. To
get the most of a flavonoid called quercetin, which can boost memory, be
sure to eat the skin of the apple. A flavonoid called phloridzin, which
is found only in apples, may help prevent bone loss associated with
Antioxidant compounds in apple skin called phenols provide UV-B
protection, making your skin more resistant to damage from the sun.
Braeburn, Fuji, and Red Delicious apples are all high in phenols.
The fructose in apples gives them their sweetness. Fructose is a simple
sugar, but it's broken down slowly. Combined with all the fiber in
apples, this helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
Dozens of studies in many countries have shown that apples can reduce
the risk of developing asthma, several types of cancer, type 2 diabetes,
and heart disease. They can also increase weight loss and lung function.
The tannins in apple juice may help prevent urinary tract infections and
The common and popular Red Delicious apple may be one of the healthiest
foods on earth. It contains more antioxidants than seven other apple
varieties. Jonagolds and Golden Delicious apples contain the most
quercetin, the memory booster mentioned above. Granny Smith and Red
Delicious apples are particularly good for the skin, fortifying both
collagen and elastin. (My husband eats a Granny Smith apple every day.
David is 63, but has very youthful-looking skin. Now we know one of the
There is nothing wrong with sticking with one or two favorite types of
apples, as they are all good for you. But why not experiment, so as to
get the full range of possible benefits? For just a few dollars, you can
take home samples of half a dozen different varieties. And those are
only a few of the 7,000 varieties of apples on the world market today.
Be sure to try apples of all colors: red, green, and yellow. You will
discover a remarkable range of flavors, texture, and sweetness.
Some cautions to observe: Apple juice has only about 10% of the
phytonutrient content of fresh apples, and is higher in sugar. "Cloudy"
apple juice is more nutritious than the clear variety. In order to avoid
the pesticides that may be in apple skin, buy organic apples if
possible. If this is not possible, be sure to wash and rinse the apples
thoroughly. To get the most nutrition and fiber from your apples, be
sure to eat the skin. Waxes are often applied to apples to protect them
during shipping and storage. Carnauba wax, beeswax, and shellac (from
the lac insect) are preferable to petroleum-based waxes, which contain
solvent residues. If your apples are waxed, wash them thoroughly in warm
soapy water, then rinse well before eating.
Using and storing apples: Of course you can eat apples raw. Many people
like apple slices with a little peanut butter on them. Add diced apples
to fruit salads and green salads. Sliced apples and cheese are a
European favorite for dessert. You can also cook apples, and not just in
desserts. Gravenstein, Pippin, and Granny Smith apples retain their
texture the best during cooking. Try braising a chopped apple with red
cabbage. To prevent apple slices from browning, simply put them into a
bowl of cold water with a spoonful of lemon juice added. To use apple
slices in future recipes, freeze them in plastic bags or containers.
Whole apples retain a large percentage of their nutritional value for
many months if they are stored in the refrigerator.
Try to eat at least three or four apples per week. Some of the
healthiest people I know eat one or two apples every day.