“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”

healthy appleThat’s an old saying that I remember from my childhood and even though I probably didn’t understand it back then, time and research has revealed there is a lot of truth back of it. Apples have been used as a food for about as long as humans have walked on two legs and have a variety of culinary uses. But what is it that the humble apple has that makes it such a valuable and healthy food?

There are several factors that make an apple a great source of nutrition, vitamins and minerals and all-important fiber. Apples should be eaten as fresh as possible, raw and with the skin on because that’s where most of the beneficial nutritional constituents are to be found. Let’s take the main reasons why apples are so healthy one at a time:

Healthy Fiber

Dietary fiber is important for the efficient functioning of the intestines and colon, helping to keep things moving along properly and helping to prevent the build-up of unfriendly bacteria and other unwanted infiltrators. A medium size apple contains around 4 grams of dietary fiber which is made up of soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber such as pectin helps to prevent the buildup of cholesterol in the blood vessel wall lining. This is essential in reducing the incident of atherosclerosis and heart disease. The insoluble fiber, which present in the skin of apples provides bulk in the intestinal tract which helps to hold water which cleanses and helps to move food quickly through the digestive system.

Antioxidants

There is around 8mg of vitamin C in a medium size apple, most of which is found directly beneath the skin. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant as well as an immune system booster and has recently been found in studies to possess anti-aging properties. It is an important factor in helping the body to remove harmful free radicals effectively decreasing teh risk of certain cancers.

In addition to vitamin C, other antioxidant phytonutrients found in apples help fight the damaging effects of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood stream.

Malic Acid

Malic acid is found in many fruits but the apple is the best known source. When used in conjunction with magnesium, malic acid has been found to offer some relief from muscle pain and fatigue which is associated with fibromyalgia. It also plays an important role in the Krebs cycle that promotes muscular energy. The acid binds to metal toxins and can be a useful substance for detoxifying the body of certain heavy metals.

There is also some evidence to suggest that the malic acid contained in apples plays a role in the prevention of the onset of arthritis and also as a natural cure when contained in apple cider vinegar. It is believed that this acid is capable of slowly dissolving the hard uric acid deposits that occur in and around affected joints, thus helping to retard the progress of the disease at its root cause.

Nutrition Facts

Apples contain the essential trace element boron, which has been shown to strengthen bones. This is a good defense against the onset of osteoporosis. Apples also contain fructose, a fruit sugar that is more easily processed by the body than refined sugar (sucrose, which is also present in a lower amount) into glucose for energy.

Information on exact nutritional information for apples can be found here: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

While the humble apple may not be considered a total protection from disease or health related conditions, it does provide a valuable service in being a small, portable, nutrient packed package that is a far superior snack (health-wise) to anything man-made (such as energy bars or other confection). It helps the body digest its food thanks to a relatively high level of fiber and makes a tasty, sweet snack that is infinitely preferable to getting a sugar hit from a candy bar or bar of chocolate.

So does it really keep the doctor away? Well, if you eat one a day you are less likely to suffer from certain conditions that would call for the doctor, so at least in some ways the answer has to be “YES” …although it will not protect you against everything a doctor may be needed for!

Terry Didcott