May 25, 2024
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The Not So Lowly Apple

As the summer is slowly (or maybe quickly) dwindling away, we begrudgingly embrace the fall and all that it has to offer. Early fall is a beautiful time of year, as the weather is still pleasant and we can still be in denial that winter is in the far distance. As time moves forward, the weather changes, veering from warm and sunny to cool and crisp. That crispness lends itself to the ubiquitous but humble apple that is quintessential to the fall that we love/hate.

The advent of fall is usually concurrent with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, a holiday rich in sweetness and hope for a happy and healthy new year for us all. The meal tables display plates of sliced apples to be dipped in jars of yummy honey, a practice that is enjoyed and savored by both young and old.

In the fall, masses crowd farms, filling up their burlap bags with varieties of apples to take home and do as they please with them. Though this fruit is seen as pretty basic and standard, it does pack a punch in the nutritional ring. A report in the journal Nature Communications explains that a diet rich in flavonoids (~500 milligrams/day) can help steer off cancer and heart disease. Apples are high in a number of these flavonoids, which are responsible for many of apples’ health benefits. These include (a) quercetin, a nutrient that also occurs in many plant foods, which may relay anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and antidepressant effects, according to animal studies; (b) catechin, a natural antioxidant, also present in large amounts in green tea and shown to improve brain and muscle function in animal studies; and (c) chlorogenic acid, also found in coffee, found to lower blood sugar and cause weight loss in some studies.

A study done by Fabiani et al. in 2016 showed that apple consumption is associated with a reduced cancer risk in the lungs, colon and breast. Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in August 2020 found that adults age 50 and older who included only a small amount of flavonoid-rich foods like berries, apples and tea in their diet were a whopping two to four times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and related types of dementia over 20 years compared with people who ate more flavonoid-rich foods.

Apples also contain fiber, about 4.4 grams from a medium-sized apple. Fiber comes in a variety of forms, including soluble and insoluble fibers, and apples contain both! Soluble fiber helps slow down digestion, allowing you to feel full, and also slows the digestion of glucose, which helps control your blood sugar. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material in the body. According to the University of Illinois, soluble fiber helps prevent cholesterol buildup in the lining of blood vessel walls, therefore lowering the incidence of atherosclerosis (restricted blood flow in the arteries due to plaque buildup) and heart disease. It can also help lower blood pressure levels. A study found that a higher intake of soluble fiber was associated with a decreased cardiovascular disease risk. Meanwhile, insoluble fiber can help move food through your system and aid with constipation and regularity.

Whatever you plan to do with fall’s fruit, know that you are reaping major nutritional benefits that can last way past the last bite! An apple a day can really keep the doctor away!

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