“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but do you know why that is?
Apples are one of the world’s most popular fruits. They come in a wide range of different varieties and can be consumed in a number of ways. Not only can you crunch on apples as a convenient portable snack, but they are also incredibly versatile and can be found in a large number of breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes. Apples taste delicious, and, as it turns out, they really are beneficial to your health.
Apples are linked to a reduced risk of developing cancer. This is likely due to the high antioxidant effects that apples provide. Antioxidants are substances that can fight free radicals—the molecules responsible for harming cells in the body. Apples are also high in polysaccharides (a carbohydrate) and the plant pigment quercetin, which may also help fight cancer.
Many studies have found that consuming apples may reduce the risk of lung cancer predominantly, as well as colorectal cancer, other cancers of the digestive tract, and breast cancer.
A single medium apple can provide 4.5 grams of fiber. To compare, women are recommended to consume 25 grams of fiber daily, and men 38 grams. Fiber can help keep the bowel healthy and regular, and reaching for an apple is a simple way to increase your fiber intake and help your gut to keep things moving along nicely.
It’s important to remember that most of the fiber from apples is in the peel, so you should choose recipes that include the skin, such as these delicious Apple and Pear Crêpes. Just make sure to wash apples thoroughly to minimize the chance of consuming pesticides.
Free radicals in the body cause a process known as oxidative stress. This is one of the things that can cause asthma. Apples contain vitamin C, and quercetin, a plant pigment or flavonoid, is found in the peel. These can help to boost the immune system and reduce the oxidative stress that may lead to asthma. An older study from 2007 found that people who ate apples during pregnancy reduced the risk of their baby developing asthma, compared to those who did not eat apples.
Apples contain significant amounts of potassium, with one medium apple providing around 6 percent of your recommended intake. Potassium helps minimize the effects of sodium, and relaxes blood vessel walls, which helps lower blood pressure. Tackling high blood pressure, as well as high cholesterol and diabetes, can lower your risk of having a stroke.
Apples have also been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties in a study of mice, and these properties may help to keep the gut healthy in humans. Plant enzymes can also help aid digestion and relieve pesky symptoms that can make you feel uncomfortable after enjoying a tasty meal. To incorporate apples into your meal, try these recipes for Apple and Cranberry Stuffed Acorn Squash or Ploughman’s Salad.
Apples are rich in polyphenols and pectin. These, along with fiber, can help lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. This helps keep your heart healthy and lowers your risk of heart disease. Click here to learn more about good and bad cholesterol.
The phytochemicals in apples, especially in apples with deeper colored peels, may work with calcium in the body to help keep your bones healthy and strong. Phytochemicals and flavonoids found mainly in apples can also help increase bone density, making apple consumption a great way to help reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.
A 2019 study in rats showed that apples contain bioactive compounds that may help people with body weight disorders. Evidence also suggests that eating apples can help induce weight loss in overweight adults, though more research is needed. This is likely due to apples’ high water content, which can help you to feel full longer, leading to less unhealthy choices.
Another benefit of snacking on apples is that they are low on the glycemic index (GI), which measures the rate at which foods cause increases in blood glucose levels. This means that apples can help regulate insulin sensitivity and therefore may decrease your risk of developing diabetes.
Surprisingly, apples may help keep your smile shiny and white. It has long been thought that eating apples can help naturally clean your teeth and keep your smile shiny and white. However, more research is required to prove that this is the case. Proper dental hygiene is the most important and effective way to keep teeth healthy.
It should also be noted that an apple for breakfast is a healthier alternative to sugary breakfast cereals, and apples are a more tooth-friendly option than highly sweetened snacks or starchy foods including cake, candy, chips, and even dried fruits.
Men’s health across the life course
Theodore D. Cosco, PhD (Cantab) CPsychol