An Apple a Day – New Information Behind an old Adage
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. You’ve probably heard the saying, but do you know the science behind it? Turns out packing an apple in your lunch bag isn’t boring, it’s clever! Apples not only offer a sweet treat in a convenient portable package, they provide numerous health benefits.
Apples provide soluble fiber in the form of pectin. Interestingly, it is the combined effort of pectin + phytonutrients in apples that offer the most cardiovascular benefit. The blood fat lowering effects of this combo are more potent than pectin alone – Mother Nature does it best.
Quercetin, found in apple skins is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse that can lower C-reactive protein levels in the blood (this inflammatory marker is associated with heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s).
The anthocyanins concentrated in apple skins offer antioxidant support that decreases the oxidation of fats in the body – both in cell membranes and in the blood. Anthocyanins can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and reduce clogging of the arteries.
Blood Sugar Balancing
Eating whole apples is a good practice as the polyphenols are present mostly in the skin. Polyphenols can help prevent blood sugar spikes by slowing the absorption of glucose in the digestive tract and stimulating the secretion of insulin by the pancreas. They also stimulate insulin receptors, allowing for better uptake of blood glucose. Flavonoids such as quercetin promote blood sugar balance by inhibiting enzymes involved in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simple sugars. It is worth noting that the redder the apple the better when it comes to balancing blood sugar. Lighter and sweeter varieties such as Golden Delicious have fewer phytonutrients and more sugar.
Animal studies are showing that apples have a beneficial impact on bacteria in the gut. More specifically, the intake of apples is altering the amounts of two bacteria (Clostridiales and Bacteriodes) in the large intestine. As a result the amount of butyric acid (fuel to intestinal cells) is increasing after apple is consumed. Similar findings in human studies could have significant impact as butryic acid normalizes cell function and has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits.
Not all apples are created equal
To reap the most rewards opt for apples with dark red skin, which will be higher in phytonutrients. You also want to buy organic whenever possible as apples are the biggest offenders when it comes to pesticide residue. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has listed apples as #1 on their 2014 “Dirty Dozen” list. This is because 99% of the apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue. On top of avoiding unnecessary chemicals, organic apples just taste better! Take advantage of Ontario’s apple season and buy local, organic apples at great prices. Then make something delicious with them like this apple butter!
Kate McMurray Holistic Nutritionist