Mediterranean Diet 101

Apple Health Benefits

Every gift by nature to humans is filled with goodness. Apples are no exception. They have got excellent taste and also excellent health benefits. No wonder, it’s said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Besides improving gut health and reducing the risk of stroke, apples have been found to benefit in high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even some cancers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests having a medium-sized apple to get a significant amount of vitamin C, other vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Apples can be eaten raw or can be added to dishes like salads and grilled cheese. One can even have baked apples as a healthy dessert. Or one can add them to pulled chicken cooked in a slow cooker to have an easy, yet delicious lunch or dinner.

Published: July 19, 2021.

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Health Benefits of Apples

Loaded with Phytonutrients

Although apples have a lot of ingredients that provide exceptional nourishment, the ones that stand out more prominently are their phenolic phytonutrients. There are actually dozens of phenols and polyphenols that offer apples their well-known antioxidant capability.

These phytonutrients include cyaniding galactosides and cyanidin arabinosides (anthocyanins), phloretin and phloridzin (dihydrochalcones), catechins, procyanidins and epicatechins (flavonols), rutin, kaempferol, quercetin, hyperoside and reinutrin (flavonols and flavonol glycosides), and coumaric acid, chlororgenic acid and caffeic acid (hydroxycinamic acid derivatives).

These nutrients are present in the flesh as well as the skin of apples, but many of them are more concentrated in the skin.

However, since the flesh is more in quantity than the skin, one can still get the nutrients even from the flesh. But by consuming both flesh and skin, one can take the full benefit of the antioxidant properties of apples.

May Lower High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

Apples offer cholesterol-lowering benefits and thus reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and studies link this benefit to the soluble fiber in apples. The University of Illinois has found that soluble fiber, which forms a gel-like material when dissolved in water, prevents cholesterol from building up over the lining of blood vessels, and thus helps reduce events of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the inner cavity of blood vessels (due to plaque buildup) that restricts the blood flow).

According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February 2020, the study participants when given two apples a day got their LDL (bad) cholesterol (oxidized as well as overall) and triglycerides reduced.

Helps Reduce the Risk of Stroke

Studies have found that eating apples (or pears) regularly is associated with lowering the risk of stroke by 52%.

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Improves Digestion

Everyone might know that fiber improves gut health. Harvard Health Publishing states that soluble as well as insoluble (that doesn’t dissolve in water) are beneficial for gut health and digestion. Fortunately, apples have both these types of fiber, says the University of Illinois.

As soluble fiber dissolves in water, it forms a gel-like bulk in the digestive tract. Pectin is a main soluble fiber in apples which slows down the pace of gastric emptying and also slows down the pace at which food moves through the digestive tract and thus helps one feel full for a longer time. On the other hand, the insoluble fiber in apples speeds up the movement and processing of waste matter through the gut and thus reduces the chances of constipation.

However, one should make sure they eat the apple skin too, as it’s the apple skin that contains most of the insoluble fiber, as per the University of Illinois.

Improves Immunity

Animal studies have shown that a diet containing soluble fiber helped change the pro-inflammatory properties of cells into anti-inflammatory and pro-immunity ones. Another research on animals published in the journal “Immunity” in May 2018 observed that a diet filled with fiber prevented flu in mice. Whether humans too would benefit from these effects is still not known.

A major reason to believe that apples boost a healthy immune system is the vitamin C content in apples. It has been proved by studies that vitamin C boosts the immune system in many ways, such as protecting against environmental free radicals that come from pollution and radiation and strengthening the epithelial barrier against pathogens.

Helps Lower Diabetes

Apples are beneficial for diabetic patients firstly because the soluble fiber in them slows down the absorption of sugar and thus controls the levels of blood sugar. What’s more, Mayo Clinic says that a diet that contains insoluble fiber like that in apples can reduce the risk of developing diabetes in the first place.

According to another study conducted on people with type 2 diabetes and published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine in August 2016, regular consumption of soluble fiber helped lower insulin resistance and brought down blood sugar and triglyceride levels.

Apples have phloretin, a phenolic dihydrochalcone, which too may play an important role in blood sugar regulation. Animal studies have shown that phloretin from apples helped stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce insulin resistance and control plasma insulin levels.

May Prevent Cancer

Although no cure for cancer has been discovered yet, nature’s gifts to mankind like apples can help prevent cancer in the first place. This quality in apples is linked to antioxidants present in them. Laboratory studies have found that apples are loaded with antioxidants which have been found to restrict the growth of cancer cells.

According to a review published in Public Health Nutrition in October 2016, regular consumption of apples can reduce the risk of some cancers such as oral, breast, colorectal, and esophageal.

Along with the antioxidant content, the fiber in apples may also play a role in cancer prevention. According to a 2016 study, women who consumed a lot of high-fiber foods (particularly vegetables and fruits) during puberty and young adulthood had a reduced risk of breast cancer later in life.

Helpful in Weight Loss

Since apples are loaded with fiber, they are great for those who want to shed extra pounds. The fiber content makes one feel full earlier, preventing overeating and thus helps lose weight. A study found that overweight women who ate 3 apples a day lost 2.7 lbs. (1.22 kg) within 12 weeks.

May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

According to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in August 2020, people of age 50 and above who took only a small amount of flavonoid-rich foods such as apples, berries, and tea in their diet increased their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia over 20 years by 2 to 4 times more than those who ate more flavonoid-rich foods.

More importantly, a review published in the journal “Biomolecules” in January 2020 observed that a flavonoid named quercetin found in apples protects neurons from free radical damage and also shows other anti-Alzheimer’s disease qualities. However, according to researchers, more research should be done outside of a laboratory setting to confirm this.

Helps Fight Asthma

Since apples are full of antioxidants, they can protect the lungs from free radicals. According to a study conducted on 68,000 women, there was a lower risk of asthma in those who ate a lot of apples. The risk of asthma was reduced by 10% in those who ate around 15% of a large apple every day.

The ability of the apple to fight asthma is linked to one of its flavonoids named quercetin which can help reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system. These two actions are important in fighting asthma and allergies.

May Strengthen Bones

As such, eating fruit is good for bone health as it increases bone density. Scientists link this ability of fruits to strengthen bones to the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in them. According to some studies, apples may promote bone health.

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Nutritional Profile of Apples

1 medium apple (182 g) contains:

- Vitamin A: 98.28 IU (DRI/DV 1%)

- Vitamin B1: 0.03 mg (DRI/DV 3%)

- Vitamin B2: 0.05 mg (DRI/DV 4%)

- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 0.17 mg (DRI/DV 1%)

- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid): 0.11 mg (DRI/DV 2%)

- Vitamin B6: 0.07 mg (DRI/DV 4%)

- Vitamin B7 (Biotin): 2.27 mcg (DRI/DV 8%)

- Vitamin B9 (Folate): 5.46 mcg (DRI/DV 1%)

- Vitamin C: 8.37 mg (DRI/DV 11%)

- Vitamin E: 0.33 mg (DRI/DV 2%)

- Vitamin K: 4.00 mcg (DRI/DV 4%)

- Choline: 6.19 mg (DRI/DV 1%)

- Boron: 497.21 mcg

- Calcium: 10.92 mg (DRI/DV 1%)

- Chromium: 1.69 mcg (DRI/DV 5%)

- Copper: 0.05 mg (DRI/DV 6%)

- Fluoride: 0.01 mg (DRI/DV 0%)

- Iron: 0.22 mg (DRI/DV 1%)

- Magnesium: 9.10 mg (DRI/DV 2%)

- Manganese: 0.06 mg (DRI/DV 3%)

- Phosphorus: 20.02 mg (DRI/DV 3%)

- Potassium: 194.74 mg (DRI/DV 4%)

- Sodium: 1.82 mg (DRI/DV 0%)

- Zinc: 0.07 mg (DRI/DV 1%)

- Protein: 0.47 g (DRI/DV 1%)

- Carbohydrates: 25.13 g (DRI/DV 11%)

- Fat: 0.31 g (DRI/DV 0%)

- Fiber: 4.37 g (DRI/DV 5%)

- Calories: 94.64 (DRI/DV 1%)

Risk Factors

Although apples are very good for health, eating too many of them is bad, just like anything else. One of the risks of eating too many apples is weight gain.

Eating apple seeds in large amounts is also bad because these seeds contain chemicals that get converted into cyanide once they enter the human body. However, for this to happen, a lot of seeds have to be crushed and eaten. An average adult would have to consume at least 150 crushed seeds to suffer from cyanide poisoning. Another fact is that these seeds are rich in fiber and protein.

Apples are also heavily sprayed with pesticides because bugs and diseases get easily attracted to them. So, fruits may have high pesticide residues left over them. Hence one should wash apples carefully before eating them.

Apple juice can react with fexofenadine, an allergy drug, and make the medication hard for the body to absorb.

Long Story Short: Include organic apples in your nutrition even on the daily basis - one small to medium apple is low on calories, but loaded with beneficial compounds.

Also, if You are on a low-carb diet, a single apple will not increase significantly your daily carb intake - one more reason why apples are regularly consumed in Mediterranean cuisine, fresh or processed.

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