Dear Dr. Mo: Is there some truth in the old saying that “An apple a day keeps a doctor away”?
Dear reader: Your question is timed well as we are now in the season of apple picking. This saying could be in principle applied to many fruits and veggies and I always recommend a balanced diet to accommodate for a variety of healthful foods to keep us healthy. Here are some of the reasons why apples are so revered for their health benefits.
Apples lower cholesterol – there is about 4 grams of fiber per average-sized apple. Pectin is one of those fibers, which is soluble and is thought to lower your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) by reducing the absorption of it from food and bile and stimulating the body to use the cholesterol rather than to store it.
Apple helps with constipation and diarrhea – Pectin again, increases the volume and viscosity of stool and this relieves both constipation and diarrhea symptoms. Generally, fiber in apple (as with all other fiber-rich food) is beneficial for our digestion.
Apple makes you feel full – Fiber in apple helps to keep you full for longer because it takes our body more time to digest complex fiber than simpler stuff like sugar; an average apple has about 100 calories so it’s a small caloric price to pay for what we get from it.
Food that has a minimum of 3 grams of fiber per serving is considered a good source of fiber and nutrients and we should aim for about 30 – 40 grams of fiber a day.
Don’t peel apples – apple’s skin contains most of the fiber! Also it has an acid called Ursolic acid, which is found to boost calorie burn helping you to control your weight. Of course, rinse apples well before eating them!
Good for the lungs, good for the brains – An apple a day will help you breathe and think better – antioxidants in apple’s skin are linked to better lung and brain function so again, do not peel apples!
The skin, again – anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids (powerful antioxidants, likes of which found in Green tea) which are responsible for apples’ colors (as well as of some other fruits and vegetables of red, blue and purple color) are also probably responsible for lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Flavonoids are also considered to have an influence against cancer, inflammation, aging and bacterial and viral infection.
Vitamin C – although not super rich with it, it does contain up to 10 mg of vitamin C, which is about 1/6 of our daily requirement. This vitamin is important for proper build of our tissues and it also has anti-oxidative properties, although not as strong as advertised.
Apples come in many varieties of size, color and taste so find your favorite type and make it your daily routine to eat at least one. Coupled with a balanced diet and an effort to maintain a healthy life style, your encounters with doctors should be only in your regular checkups and possibly, at cocktail parties.
To conclude with a book recommendation – Michael Pollan has written some years ago a wonderful account on how people and domesticated plants have formed mutually beneficial relationships – one of those plants is, you are guessing, the Apple, which Pollan connects to a fundamental human desire for sweetness. Book is called “The Botany of Desire”.
Yours in health,