Apples would undoubtedly make any holidays more special. Who wouldn’t love a freshly baked apple pie on a holiday menu? They are also great eaten as they are. Their rich color and their uniquely refreshing and sweet flavor add a festive quality to a holiday feast. They are also best when they are in season during the cold months.
Apples are also known for their tartness. This tartness depends on the apple variety. Granny Smith and Pippins apples are noted for being brisk and tart, for example, while Red Delicious and Golden apple varieties are sweet and mildly tart. On the other hand, there are also apple varieties that are usually eaten raw while there are those that best retain their texture during cooking.
A member of the Rose family of plants, apples are crunchy white-fleshed fruits that come in red, green, or yellow skin. There are more or less 7000 apple varieties available in the market today. Apples are said to have originated from southwestern Asia and Eastern Europe but their cultivation have spread to the many countries all over the world, especially in the temperate regions.
Available whole year round, apples are great additions to the Mediterranean diet. Apples can be eaten as they are or as ingredients in many Mediterranean diet recipes. Aside from the delightful taste and texture of apples, they also have a lot of nutrients and health benefits. The saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” holds water and here are 7 good reasons why:
Apples Contain Polyphenols
In the recent years, one of the most researched about apples is the polyphenols they contain and how they can benefit the human body. Polyphenols are phytonutrients that has a wide range of health benefits. Apples contain many kinds of polyphenols and these polyphenols each have their respective functions and health benefits. It is also interesting to note that these polyphenols are also the reason why apples easily get brown when bruised or sliced open.
The primary phytonutrient found in apples is the flavonol quercetin which is largely concentrated in the skin of apples. Other important flavonols also found in apples are myricetin and kaempferol. The primary phenolic acid found in apples, on the other hand, is chlorogenic acid which is found in both the apple’s skin and pulp. Apples also have anthocyanins, which are mainly found in the skin. The more anthocyanins present in an apple, the more uniformly red or deeper the hue of an apple will be.
The epicathechin is the primary catechin polyphenol that can be found in apples. Apples also have phloridzin, a flavonoid that accounts for 98% of apple seeds’ total flavonoid content. Many of the polyphenols found in apples can also absorb UV-B light so these polyphenols serve as the natural sunscreen of apples. The total polyphenol content in apple skin is much higher than what can be found in an apple’s pulp. So you better think twice before peeling your apples. However, you need to wash the apple thoroughly first before taking a bite.
Apples Have Antioxidant Benefits
Most of the polyphenols found in apples act as antioxidants so it is no wonder that apples also have antioxidant benefits. For one, apples can help decrease the oxidation of cell membrane fats. This oxidation of fat in the cell membrane lining the blood vessels, also called as lipid perioxidation, is a primary risk factor for atherosclerosis or the clogging of blood vessels and other cardiovascular problems. Another antioxidant benefit of apples is its ability to help lower the risk of asthma and lung cancer. Aside from containing a wide array of polyphenols, apples also contain Vitamin C which is also an important antioxidant.
Apples Are Good For Regulating Blood Sugar Levels
The effect of apples on the regulation of blood sugar levels is a relatively new area of research. However, the results of these researches are very promising and this has awakened the interest of many food scientists. For one, the polyphenols found in apples have the capability of influencing the process of digestion and how carbohydrates are processed and absorbed by the human body. This, in turn, helps improve the regulation of blood sugar levels.
The quercetin and other flavonoids contained in apples help inhibit alpha-glucosidase, alpha-amylase, and other carbohydrate-digesting enzymes. If these enzymes are inhibited, it is possible for carbohydrates to be broken down less readily into simple sugars. This way, the bloodstream will accommodate less sugar load. The polyphenols found in apples can also lower the glucose absorption rate from the digestive tract and this also lessens the amount of sugar loaded on the bloodstream.
The polyphenols found in apples also help stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to process the sugar in the bloodstream. Aside from getting the sugar out of the bloodstream and help regulate blood sugar levels, the stimulation of insulin receptors also help the sugar enter the various cells in our body, especially the muscle cells. Our muscle cells need sugar in order to perform its functions.
Apples Have Cardiovascular Benefits
The cardiovascular benefits of apples are primarily due to their polyphenols and the water soluble fiber called pectin that they contain. Regular consumption of apples can help decrease the total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol level of a person. Quercetin, a flavonol found in apples, also has anti-inflammatory benefits.
Apples can also help protect us from possible lipid perioxidation or oxidation fats especially those found in the bloodstream and in the cell membranes of cells linking the blood vessels. Decreased lipid perioxidation is a big factor in lowering the risk of many chronic heart and cardiovascular problems.
Apples Can Help Reduce The Risk Of Lung Cancer
There are many researches looking into the benefits of apples to combat various kinds of cancer but perhaps its effect on lung cancer is one of the most popular. Though there are many vegetable and fruit combinations that are said to protect against and lower the risk of lung cancer but there are only few individual fruits that can do this and one of these is apple. Researchers still cannot fully explain the close association of apples with reduced risk in lung cancer but many of them believe that the anti-inflammatory benefits of apples could be a factor. Though future research is still needed, the benefits of apples in this area are indeed very promising.
Apples Have Anti-Asthma Benefits
There are many studies showing that eating apples is associated with lowered risk of asthma. Just like in its anti-cancer benefits, the anti-asthma benefits of apples still needs more research. However, initial studies are very promising and it looks like the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant nutrients found in apples are important factors in both the anti-asthma and anti-lung cancer benefits of apples.
The many health benefits of apples do not end here. Apples are also known to have health benefits vis-à-vis many age related problems, which includes the macular degeneration of the eye and several neurodegenerative problems like Alzheimer’s disease. There are also researches looking into the possible benefit of phloridizin found in apples to prevent bone loss.
Hope this has been of some use…