It really isn't very surprising that apples have been considered a symbol of good health and vitality. You can keep them handy anywhere, anytime, and apples package themselves in their own protective skin; they’re so good for us nature made them easy to eat! The first apple trees are thought to have grown in Eastern Europe and southwestern Asia, but now they grow worldwide. There are more than twenty-five varieties of apples available in the United States, and they vary in color, appearance, and flavor. Apples are even a special fruit in many different historical and mythical realms, for example the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Apples have also been used as a symbol in stories such as Sleeping Beauty or Snow White.
The old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," appears to be true! There was an analysis done of more than eighty-five studies regarding apple consumption, and having an apple a day, or at least frequently eating them, was consistently associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, cancer, asthma, and type II diabetes when compared to other fruits.
A study done in Finland with over 5,000 participants showed that those who ate the most apples (and other foods that were high in flavonoids, such as onions) had twenty percent less chance for heart disease compared to the people that ate low amounts of flavonoid-rich foods. Studies have also effectively linked apples to a lower risk of asthma. Researchers think that apples are a benefit against heart disease and asthma primarily because of their high flavonoid content; flavonoids are excellent antioxidants that help to prevent cellular damage that can lead to disease and cancer.
Apples are also really high in pectin, a soluble fiber that has been shown to have a lot of benefits to our health. Soluble fiber is a gel-forming type of fiber, which helps to not only decrease high cholesterol, but also to improve the intestine's ability to eliminate waste more efficiently. The insoluble fiber and the soluble fiber (pectin) in apples help to prevent constipation and diarrhea. In fact, an over-the-counter diarrhea medicine called Kaopectate actually has a form of pectin in it. Fiber also helps to balance blood sugars, which makes it a great food for diabetics, and it also helps to slow digestion, keeping us feel fuller for longer. One regular medium-sized apple has about three grams of fiber—more than ten percent of the daily fiber intake recommendation. According to one study, one large apple daily can help to decrease cholesterol levels by eight to eleven percent!
Most of the apple's important nutrients are found in and just under the skin however, so peeling apples can throw away much of their nutritional benefit. If apples are eaten raw and unpeeled (and organic), they are a great way of getting a lot of important plant phytonutrients, including the flavonoid quercetin. Apples are high in the mineral boron, an important mineral for bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis. Apples are also an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium.
As was mentioned in the beginning, there are more than twenty-five varieties of apples, so when it comes to picking apples it really just depends on your taste preference. Do you prefer sweet or tart apples? As a general guide, Red and Golden delicious apples tend to be the most sweet, Braeburn and Fuji are slightly tart, and the most tart are the Granny Smith apples. Tart apples tend to be better at retaining their texture when cooked. Whenever possible, buy certified organic apples, as non-organic apples are sprayed with a number of dangerous chemicals and are usually waxed to lengthen their life. Apples should be firm, crisp, and well colored; overripe apples feel softer and almost squishy to the touch.
Raw Apple Pie with Maple Cinnamon Glaze
- 2 cups walnuts, soaked until soft
- 2 tablespoons coconut butter
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- 4 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup agave nectar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/3 cup raw oat flour
Maple Cinnamon Glaze
- 1 tablespoon coconut butter, softened
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup*
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon