An apple a day keeps the doctor away, – we have heard this proverb so many times that don’t pay attention to it any more. However, there are many reasons to heed the advice of that old saying. Lots of scientific researches are being done to show the health benefits of including apples in your diet. Scientists have named an apple the fruit number one for humans. Sometimes we forget that the simplest answer is the best. Next time you need a snack reach for the fruit bowl for some apples.
Health Benefits of Apples
Boost your immune system
Apples contain vitamins A, B and C and an antioxidant called quercetin which, as multiple recent studies have found, can help to boost and fortify your immune system, especially when you are stressed out.
The quercetin in apples may protect brain cells from the kind of free radical damage that may lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Protect against Parkinson’s
Researches have shown that people who eat fruits and other high-fibre foods may gain protection against Parkinson’s, a disease characterized by a breakdown of the brain’s dopamine-producing nerve cells. Scientists have linked this to the free radical-fighting power of the antioxidants.
Lower cholesterol & improve your cardio-vascular system
The pectin and soluble fibre, which binds with fats in the intestine, lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. The phenolic compound of apple skin also prevents the cholesterol that gets into your system from solidifying on your artery walls. When plaque builds inside your arteries, it reduces blood flow to your heart, leading to coronary artery disease. They say that people who eat two apples per day may lower their cholesterol by as much as 16%.
Reduce the risk of cancer
It is a scientifically proven fact that flavonoid–rich apples could help reduce the risk of developing pancreatic, liver, lung, colon, and breast cancer. Several compounds – triterpenoids – found in apple peel have potent anti-growth activities against cancer cells.
Help maintain a healthy digestive tract
Fibre in apple can pull water out of the colon to keep things moving along or absorb excess water from the stool to slow the bowels down. It can neutralize irritable bowel syndrome that characterized by constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and bloating. Whether you cannot go to the bathroom or you just cannot stop, apples will be of great help.
Hemorrhoids are caused by too much pressure in the pelvic and rectal areas. Fibre can prevent you from straining too much when going to the bathroom and thereby help alleviate hemorrhoids.
The pectin in apples supplies galacturonic acid to the body which lowers the body’s need for insulin and may help in the management of diabetes.
Control your weight
Being overweight can cause many health problems: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. Foods high in fibre will fill you up without costing you too many calories.
Get healthier teeth
Chewing an apple stimulates the production of saliva in your mouth, reducing tooth decay by lowering the levels of bacteria.
Prevent gallstones formation
The excess of cholesterol in your bile can solidify in form of gallstones. Fibre helps to control your cholesterol level.
Reduce the probability of cataracts
Though past studies have been divided on the issue, recent long-term studies suggest that people who have a diet rich in fruits that contain antioxidants—like apples—are 10 to 15 per cent less likely to develop cataracts.
Protect your bones
Phloridzin, a flavanoid found only in apples, may protect post-menopausal women from osteoporosis and may also increase bone density.
A Word of Warning!
Although, apples are very healthy food, not everyone can consume them. If you have gastritis, ulcer or pancreatitis, eating apples could be a very bad idea. Ask your doctor first.
What Makes Apples So Great? The Content of Course!
Vitamins & other antioxidants
Compared to many other fruits and vegetables, apples contain relatively low amounts of vitamin C, but are a rich source of other disease-fighting antioxidant compounds. Antioxidants are chemical substances that donate an electron to the free radical and convert it to a harmless molecule. They reduce or prevent oxidation, thus preventing cell and tissue damage from free radicals in the body.
While less than in most other fruits, apples are full of a natural fibre called pectin: a medium-sized apple contains about 4gr of fibre. Pectin is classed as a soluble, fermentable and viscous fibre, a combination that gives it a huge list of health benefits. The fibre helps regulate bowel movements and reduces cholesterol by preventing re-absorption.
“In vitro” apples contain a host of phytochemicals including bioflavonoids , polyphenols and triterpenoids and other phenolic compounds.
There are a number of different types of flavonoids with each having a protective health effect. Over 4,000 flavonoids have been documented to have antiviral, antiallergic, antiinflammatory, antitumor and antioxidant activities. Phytochemicals may help slow the aging process and reduce the risk of many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cataracts, osteoporosis, and urinary tract infections.
The predominant phenolic phytochemicals in apples are quercetin, epicatechin, and procyanidin B2. Probably, because of flavonoids, especially – quercetin, the old saying about eating “an apple a day” has been associated with good health. It combats the destructive “free radical” molecules that play a part in many diseases. Quercetin is found only in the apple skin.
The average phenolic content of a 100g apple varies from 110 to 347mg and it is estimated that about 20% of all healthy fruit phenolics consumed in the United States comes from apples.
Phytochemicals are usually related to plant pigments: the more intense the color of a fruit or vegetable the greater the concentration of these compounds. For the apple, most of these colorful compounds are concentrated in the skin. The skin also contains more antioxidants and fiber than the flesh.
Tannins are substances that tan hides and make apples rust when exposed to the effects of the air. True tannins produce both tanning and puckering. The amount of tannin in an apple, especially in the skin, may differ not only from species to species, but also from tree to tree and even from year to year for the same tree. Research suggests tannins may help prevent periodontal or gum disease.
The apple seeds are mildly poisonous, containing a small amount of amygdaline, a cyanogenic glycoside; it usually is not enough to be dangerous to humans.
Interesting Facts about Apples
- The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family (Rosaceae) and is a perennial. It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits, and the most widely known of the many members of genus Malus that are used by humans.
- Apple trees do not bear their first fruit until they are four or five years old.
- Archaeologists have evidence of people eating apples as far back as 6500 B.C.
- There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples, resulting in a range of desired characteristics.
- At least 55 million tons of apples were grown worldwide in 2005, with a value of about $10 billion. China produced more apples than any other country: about 35% of this total.
- Mature trees typically bear 40–200 kilograms (88–440 lb) of apples each year, though productivity can be close to zero in poor years.
- Guinness World Records reports that the heaviest apple known weighed 1.849kg (4lb 1oz) and was grown in Hirosaki city, Japan in 2005.
- According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, there are about 300 Commercial Apple Growers in the province that occupy 15,412 acres (6,237ha) with marketed production of fresh apples of about 230,000,000lb per year (2006).
- The average person eats 65 apples per year.
- Apples float because 25% of their volume is air.
- One medium apple contains about 80 calories.
- The Adam’s apple is so-called because of a popular idea that it was created when the forbidden fruit got stuck in Adam’s throat when he swallowed it.
No wonder that because of its exceptional qualities an apple is an element that appears in many religious traditions, various national and ethnic folk legends or fairy tales where it was considered as divine food and the source of immortality.
Greek Mythology – Atalanta
Atalanta and Hippomenes, Guido Reni
Three golden Apples were featured in Greek mythology, in which a huntress named Atalanta raced against a suitor named Hippomenes who used the golden apples to distract her so that he could win the race:
“After Atalanta participated in the hunt and received the pelt, her father claimed her as his offspring and wanted her to get married. Although a very beautiful maiden, Atalanta did not particularly want to marry after an oracle told her that she will gain bad luck if she marries. In order to get her a husband, her father made a deal with Atalanta that she would marry anybody who could beat her in a foot race. Atalanta happily agreed, as she could run extremely fast. She outran many suitors. The one accomplished this through brains, not speed. Hippomenes knew that he could not win a fair race with Atalanta, so he prayed to Aphrodite for help. The goddess gave him three golden apples and told him to drop them one at a time to distract Atalanta. Sure enough, she quit running long enough to retrieve each golden apple. It took all three apples and all of his speed, but Hippomenes finally succeeded, winning the race and Atalanta’s hand. Unfortunately, Hippomenes forgot to thank the Goddess and she turned them into lions”
The Garden of the Hesperides
The Garden of the Hesperides by Frederick, Lord Leighton, 1892
The Garden of the Hesperides, Atlas’ daughters, is Hera’s orchard in the west, where either a single tree or a grove of immortality-giving golden apples grew. The apples were planted from the fruited branches that Gaia gave to her as a wedding gift when Hera accepted Zeus. The Hesperides were given the task of tending to the grove, but occasionally plucked from it themselves. Not trusting them, Hera also placed in the garden a never-sleeping, hundred-headed dragon named Ladon as an additional safeguard.
The eleventh Labor of Hercules was to steal the golden apples from the garden. He stole the apples by asking Atlas to steal the apples and in return he would hold up the sky for him. Then after Atlas picked the apples Hercules asked Atlas to hold up the sky for him while he made a pad of the lion skin but did not take it back and ran away.
Freyja, from Das Rheingold, with the tree of golden apples
Norse mythology flourished during the Viking Age and following the Christianization of Scandinavia during the High Middle Ages passed into Nordic folklore, some aspects surviving to the modern day. According to it, the golden apples are the source of the god’s immortality and perpetual youth. They are cultivated by – and most often associated with – the goddess Freyja, who was associated with love, beauty, fertility, gold, war, and death.
Ivan Tsarevich catches the Firebird when it tries to steal golden apples
Many European fairy tales begin when golden apples are stolen from a king, usually by a bird.
The Book of Genesis
Adam and Eve, showcasing the apple as a symbol of sin, by Albrecht Dürer, 1507
Though the forbidden fruit in the Book of Genesis is not identified, popular Christian tradition has held that it was an apple that Eve coaxed Adam to share with her. This may have been the result of Renaissance painters adding elements of Greek mythology into biblical scenes. In this case the unnamed fruit of Eden became an apple under the influence of story of the golden apples in the Garden of Hesperides. As a result, in the story of Adam and Eve, the apple became a symbol for knowledge, immortality, temptation, the fall of man into sin, and sin itself. In Latin, the words for “apple” and for “evil” are similar in the singular (malus—apple, malum—evil).