Apples: Nutrition And Health Benefits
Many of us grew up hearing the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Even though apples aren't the answer to all your health problems, they do have many nutrients and several health benefits.
Apples are one of the most common fruits cultivated worldwide. Most apples are grown for sale as fresh fruit; however, these have also been used in the preparation of vinegar, cider, juice, and jelly. Fresh apples can be eaten either raw or in sweet and savory recipes.
This bright and crunchy fruit has many nutritional factors that promote our health when consumed in appropriate quantities.
Apples provide an array of antioxidants. Besides, they are also rich in other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. These substances help neutralize free radicals in the body.
Similarly, they also contain a significant amount of dietary fiber, which is essential in maintaining good health. Since apples are popular and consumed worldwide, they are considered important sources of such nutrients.
Apples are rich in quercetin and pectin, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties. Much of these nutrients are present in the skin of the apples so it is advised to consume unpeeled apples.
A single raw and unpeeled medium-sized apple contains the following nutritional facts:
- Calories: 94.6
- Water: 156 grams
- Protein: 0.43 grams
- Carbs: 25.1 grams
- Sugar: 18.9 grams
- Fiber: 4.37 grams
- Fat: 0.3 grams
The primary nutrient in apples is carbs. A 7-ounce apple contains 28 grams of carbohydrates. The sugars commonly found in apples are simple sugars like fructose, sucrose, and glucose.
Despite having high amounts of sugar, apples generally have a low glycemic index (GI), which indicates how the food affects blood sugar levels after consumption. The GI of apples is between 34 and 36.
The low GI is the result of higher fiber content in apples, so peeled apples tend to have a higher GI than unpeeled ones.
Vitamins and Minerals
Apples are rich in vitamin C but also contain less amount of other minerals. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and a 7-ounce apple accounts for 10% of the daily value of vitamin C.
Besides, they also contain minerals like potassium, folate, magnesium, and calcium. Potassium has several health benefits when consumed in appropriate quantities. The same serving of apple also provides 2-5% of the DV of vitamin E, B1 and B6.
One apple contains almost 5 grams of fiber, which occurs in the form of insoluble and soluble elements like pectin and quercetin. Quercetin is a naturally occurring chemical that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Similarly, pectin is a soluble fiber that prevents constipation and helps in lowering low-density lipoprotein, also known as bad cholesterol. Pectin is fermented by gut bacteria and converted in short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are active in the prevention of chronic diseases like cancer.
Besides the nutrients mentioned above, apples also contain other plant-based antioxidants and elements that aid in weight loss and the regeneration of cells.
Some of the well-known plant-derived compounds found in apples are catechin and chlorogenic acid. Catechin improves mitochondrial health, whereas chlorogenic acid reduces blood sugar level and promotes weight loss.
As a result of the nutritional benefits and widespread consumption, apples have been associated with several health benefits ranging from the control of blood sugar levels to the prevention of cancer.
There have been many researches throughout the world on the effects of apples on overall health. Nevertheless, it is essential that this fruit is consumed in appropriate amounts to avoid any concerns.
The following are some of the major health benefits associated with apples:
1. Heart Health
Apples have been associated with the prevention of heart disease. Research has indicated that a lower chance of heart disease was observed in individuals who consumed 100-150g/d of apples.
This is the result of soluble fiber found in apples, which helps reduce blood pressure, eventually promoting a healthy heart. Elements like polyphenols and flavonoids are found in apples that indicate a lower chance of stroke.
These chemicals are mostly found in apple peels; thus, it is advised to consume apples with their peels. The pectin fiber helps to reduce free radicals in the blood vessels and also exhibits cholesterol-lowering effects. Improvement in cardiovascular parameters like reduced LDL and triglycerides were observed as a result of consumption of whole or dried apples.
2. Weight Loss
The fiber content in apples supports weight management. The fiber results in slow digestion, causing one to feel full more a longer time. There have been research indicating that apples reduce BMI in many, which further reduces the chances of heart disease.
The polyphenols found in apples also have anti-obesity effects. So, it is wise to carry a medium-sized apple for a sweet snack for the day.
3. Blood Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes
Some studies have indicated the correlation of apple consumption with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. Just one serving of apple could result in a 3% less risk of the condition.
The flavonoids found in apples have protective action against cells in the pancreas, which are essential for blood sugar regulation. The studies have indicated a relationship between the consumption of apples and the lower risk; however, it has not been associated with a specific chemical found in the fruit.
4. Gut Health
Pectin found in apples serves as a prebiotic for gut microbiota. The bacteria ferment the pectin to short fatty-chain acids, which protect against chronic gut diseases.
It also promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut, which is essential for digestion as well as enzymatic glands present in the stomach. A healthy gut is essential for overall well-being.
5. Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases
The phytochemicals and flavonoids found in apples prevent free-radical production in the body. This reduces the risk of cancer as these are the precursors to cancerous cells.
These chemicals have also indicated a role in the prevention of new cancer cells from forming and the spread of existing cells. These studies were performed on animals and cells and the result from human-testing had mixed results.
6. Immune System
The fiber found in apples is known to convert pro-inflammatory cells into anti-inflammatory cells and promote immune-supporting cells in the system.
There is reason to believe the immune-promoting effects of the fruit as they contain high amounts of Vitamin C. The regular intake of vitamin C promotes the barrier against harmful bacteria and viruses on tissues.
7. Mental Health
A higher intake of fruits and vegetables has indicated direct effects on reducing anxiety and mood changes. However, it is recommended that one take five portions of these fruits and vegetables to observe the effects.
Fruits like apples have a positive effect on the overall psychological well-being of a person and many doctors recommend the consumption of fresh apples to maintain your overall health.
8. Brain Diseases
Reducing oxidative stress in the brain is the key to many brain-related diseases. Quercetin found in apples has shown significant reduction of oxidative stress.
A research in 2020 found that people who consumed flavonoid-rich foods like apples were 2-4 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's. Further research is required to observe the exact effects of these chemical on the neurons.
Types Of Apples
Now that you're aware of the nutritional facts and the health benefits associated with apples, its time to decide what type of apples you would want to consume. There are a variety of apples based on texture, flavor, crunch and seasons.
Even though there are more than 25 different varieties of apples, most grocery stores in the US have 11 of these varieties in rotation.
The following are 11 types of apples found in the United States:
1. Red Delicious
- Taste: Sweet, Crisp and Juicy
- Color: Striped Red to Midnight Red
2. Golden Delicious
- Taste: Extremely rich and almost custardy
- Color: Yellow with an occasional pink blush
3. Granny Smith
- Taste: Tart, acidic with subtle sweetness
- Color: Green with a red blush
- Taste: Sweet, Fresh and Bright
- Color: Deep red with green blush
5. Rome Beauty
- Taste: Mildly sweet and tangy
- Color: Deep Red
- Taste: Sweet and Refreshing
- Color: Striped with yellow and red color
- Taste: Sweet and somewhat tangy
- Color: Red with thin skin
- Taste: Sweet and Sharp
- Color: Deep red with green-yellow spotting
- Taste: Very sweet and Juicy
- Color: Cream to red- and yellow-striped
- Taste: Sweetly tart and juicy
- Color: Red with green stripes
11. Yellow Newton
- Taste: Sweet-tart and pine-like flavor
- Color: Yellow-Green
How To Buy, Peel and Store Apples?
It is best to get fresh and unpeeled apples if you're looking for the health benefits associated with them. Since most of the fiber is present in the skin of apples, you should have it without peeling.
While buying apples, look for firm and heavy pieces. Avoid apples that have stains or dents, as it can be a sign of rot.
Make sure to have your apples immediately after cutting, as cut apples can develop an unappealing brown color due to the enzymatic process. Even though it is completely fine to have them after browning, it might look appealing.
To avoid the browning process, you can either dip the apples in lemon solution or use commercial products. Refrigerate your apples to keep them fresh for a longer time, as they might appear wrinkly otherwise.
How Long Do Apples Last?
The shelf life of apples depends on several factors: the type of apples, maturity at picking, handling before storing, and weather conditions. Even though most apples last for a week or two, some varieties can be stored for months.
In order to store the apples for a longer time, separate the small ones and place them in a container in the fridge. If you can't store them in a fridge, you can also store them in a cold basement.
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