Can an apple a day really keep the doctor away?
Apples and autumn go together — visits to apple orchards, making caramel apples and drinking delicious apple cider. Apples aren’t meant to be eaten just in the fall though. Research shows that your health would benefit greatly from consuming these sweet and crunchy fruits all year long!
We all know the popular phrase “an apple a day helps keep the doctor away.” Is there any truth to this medieval saying that’s been passed down from generation to generation? Here’s what the research is showing on the health benefits of apples:
- Apples are very high in antioxidants called flavonoids. In fact, apples have the second highest level of antioxidants of any U.S. fruit. Antioxidants help reduce inflammation and keep cells healthy. This reduces oxidative damage or “rusting” of cells, which can lower your risk of developing many cancers. These same flavonoids have also been shown in large studies to help reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. One tip to keep in mind — be sure to eat the peel of apples. Two-thirds of the antioxidants in apples are found in the peel!
- Apples are high in heart-protective soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is sticky and gel-like. As it moves through your digestive system, it grabs onto cholesterol and prevents it from being absorbed back into the bloodstream. This helps to lower cholesterol levels and reduce risk for heart disease.
- The soluble fiber in apples also helps with portion control, blood glucose and weight management. When you eat something with fiber, water is attracted to it and fills up the stomach which provides a feeling of fullness. Soluble fiber helps food break down more slowly, leading to smaller peaks in blood glucose and feeling fuller for longer.
- Eating apples may lead to less hardening of the arteries. A study on healthy, middle-aged adults found that eating an apple a day for four weeks lowered blood levels of oxidized LDL or “lousy” cholesterol by 40%.
- Apples may also lower levels of C-reactive protein, a key marker of inflammation. Eating an apple a day for six months in one study was found to decrease C-reactive protein by 32%.
- Over 50? A University of Oxford study found that eating an apple a day may be just as beneficial as taking a statin to prevent death from heart attack, stroke and vascular disease in people over 50 who do not already have heart disease.
Apples are great to eat on their own, but here are some other “a-peel-ing” ideas:
- Slice apples and dip into a small amount of peanut butter or almond butter.
- Add chopped apples and cinnamon to oatmeal.
- Sauté chopped apples in water until softened and mix with sweet spices like cinnamon & nutmeg.
- Add chopped apples or unsweetened applesauce to smoothies.
- Make your own applesauce in a slow cooker.
- Top baguette slices with goat cheese, apple slices and drizzle with honey.
Heather Klug is a registered dietitian at Aurora Health Care.
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About the Author
Heather Klug, MEd RD is a registered dietitian and cardiac educator at the Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center inside Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.