Ancient grains, chia seeds, and green smoothies can sometimes try your taste buds. Fortunately, one of the most common foods has health benefits that rival those of the most exotic fruits.
Apples – yes, the common apple – are enjoying a resurgence of respect among dieticians, thanks to recent research.
It looks like the adage “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away” could be more than just a memorable saying.
As one of Washington biggest exports, apples are easy to find, and they keep well in the coldest section of your refrigerator for weeks. Domestically grown apples are available year-round thanks to commercial cold storage, which helps keep the fall harvest near peak condition even in late summer, just before the new harvest is ready to be picked.
Step away from that peeler
Much of the new research has focused on the health benefits of the apple peel. So if you take a paring knife to the peel, you might be stripping away the apple’s best benefits.
Phytonutrients, including lycopene, which is found in tomatoes; carotenoids, also found in carrots; and allyl sulfides, also found in garlic and onions, have all been identified in apple peels, says Cindy Brinn, a registered dietitian and the nutrition and diabetes program coordinator at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center.
Cornell Food Lab: People given apple sample buy more fuits, veggies at grocery store.
Those and other antioxidants help to reduce cellular damage in the body and have been linked to the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Apples are also full of fiber, with a medium-size one providing 4 1/2 grams of fiber, nearly 20 percent of the daily fiber recommended for an adult woman.
Apples and lung cancer
Several recent studies show a significant reduction in the risk of lung cancer by eating apples. A study cited by the National Institutes of Health says women who had at least one serving of apples and pears a day had a 21 percent reduced risk of lung cancer, although there was no reduction in the risk of lung cancer for men.
Another study showed a nearly 50 percent lower risk of lung cancer for people who had the highest amount of apples, onions and white grapefruit in their diet.
Many of the cancer risk studies focused on the phytonutrient quercetin, which is found in apples and onions.
Apples and overall lung health
Multiple studies have found that eating apples is associated with lung function and pulmonary health. A British study at King College London says people who ate at least five apples a week had stronger lung function than those who didn’t eat apples.
Another study, published in 2007 in the medical journal Thorax, says pregnant woman who ate at least four apples a week had children who were less at risk for wheezing episodes associated with asthma. Researchers looked at a variety of fruits and vegetables that might protect children from asthma, but only apples were helpful against the illness.
Apples and diabetes
Brinn says apples are part of a whole plant food diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables and is healthy for people with diabetes and pre-diabetes. Apples’ nutrients and fiber reduce insulin resistance and help people feel fuller, which reduces calorie intake, she says.
However, Brinn says people with diabetes should limit their intake of carbohydrates because it can elevate blood glucose. She recommends that people with diabetes limit fruits to one serving at each meal or for a snack, with a limit of four servings a day. A serving is equivalent to a medium piece of fresh fruit or three-fourths of a cup of cut-up fruit.
Apples and healthy shopping
A study by the Cornell Food Lab found that eating an apple sample before grocery shopping affected what a shopper bought. According to the study, people who were given the apple sample bought 28 percent more fruits and vegetables than those who were given a cookie sample. As a result of the study, researchers suggested that people eat an apple or other fruit before heading to the grocery store.