Does an apple a day keep the doctor away?
Medical miracle or enduring myth? Of course, it would be amazing if all we had to do to avoid disease and doctors was to eat an apple every day. You could plant a few apple trees in your backyard and say goodbye to insurance premiums and deductibles!
We might not take the “apple a day” prescription too literally, but the underlying message that eating healthy will help you be healthy is hard to deny. Unlike many commonly held health beliefs, it has stood the test of time, for good reason. Fresh fruits and vegetables, along with other plant-based foods that comprise a vegan diet, have given us plenty of evidence that natural nutrition is here to sustain our health.
As public health sayings go, this old favorite has really stuck with us. It’s been more than 150 years since it first appeared in a Welsh publication as “Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” Fortunately, a more slogan-minded 20th century wordsmith revised it to become the much catchier version we have known ever since.
So, is there a kernel of truth to the proverbial daily apple? Let’s explore some possibilities.
Apples may help keep the cardiologist away.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are the primary factors leading to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. Apples are high in soluble fiber, polyphenols and potassium, which have been shown to have a beneficial impact on blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Phytochemicals found in plants, including polyphenols, flavonoids, ascorbic acid, and carotenoids, promote our health by reducing oxidative damage, preventing chronic diseases and decreasing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
In one sweeping 10-year study of more than a half million people in China, daily consumption of fresh fruits such as apples, pears and citrus fruits demonstrated a 40% reduction in death due to cardiovascular illness and a 34% reduction in heart attacks.
Another study used a computer model to compare daily apple consumption to daily use of a widely prescribed class of drugs, called statins, which are an effective preventative measure for people with even a low risk of a cardiovascular event. The study used existing data to simulate a wide range of factors, from nutritional composition to mortality rates and side effects. Researchers concluded that an apple a day or a statin a day will have a similar effect on population vascular mortality for people 50 and older. However, apples offer the advantage of health benefits over side effects, which can include increased risk of diabetes.
While apples should not be considered a replacement for doctor-prescribed statins, they are a good, natural way to treat your heart right, one apple at a time.
Apples may keep type 2 diabetes away.
Studies have shown that eating an apple a day, or even a few per week, can potentially lower one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It is believed that the polyphenols found mostly in apple skin can have a helpful influence on the pancreas. They can stimulate insulin production and reduce insulin resistance, a one-two punch that gets more sugar out of the bloodstream and absorbed into cells. In addition, they can help protect insulin-producing beta cells from damage often found in people with type 2 diabetes,
Like all fruits, apples contain carbohydrates, which break down into glucose. Fortunately, part of that carb content is in the form of fiber, which not only doesn’t turn into sugar, it can slow the absorption of sugar into the blood.
Apples help keep cancer-causing free radicals away.
Apples contain a variety of phytochemicals, especially polyphenols, which are strong antioxidants. Apples have been found to have very strong antioxidant activity, which helps protect our bodies from free radicals, unstable atoms that can lead to development of cancerous cells. Studies suggest that apples may have an impact on preventing cancers of the lungs, breast and colon.
Several varieties of apples, such as Cosmic Crisp, Pink Lady, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith, are among the fruits highest in antioxidants, surpassed only by the cranberry. Oxidative stress caused by free radicals is a major factor in the progression of many illnesses, which is another great reason to eat an apple a day.
So eat an apple a day—the right way.
Whether you prefer to crunch into a whole apple or slice it up, be sure not to peel it! A large concentration of the fruit’s nutritional value is found in the apple’s skin. Opt for locally and organically grown varieties to enjoy the maximum nutrients without heavy pesticide exposure. And don’t substitute the real, raw fruit with processed apple products and apple juice, which typically use only the fleshy, juicy part of the apple and tend to include added sugars.
In addition to the health benefits described above, apples pack a lot of vitamins and minerals— including 14% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of Vitamin C as well as potassium, manganese and A, E, and B vitamins. As an added bonus, the high fiber and water content of apples makes them more filling so they can help us consume fewer calories and possibly even lose weight.
So, how do we like them apples?