How to Create a Healthy Food Plan That’s Free from Diet Culture – Part 2September 18, 2023
What is Fire Cider? Four Thieves Vinegar Recipe and UsesNovember 20, 2023
Apples are probably the most underrated fruit. We overlook them as superfood because they are so common, but don’t forget an apple a day keeps the doctor away, right?
I don’t know about that, but apples certainly have a lot of surprising health benefits. The apple, also known as the malus pumila, is a member of the rose family, like the pear. Apples are a crisp, white-fleshed fruit that vary in colour, taste and texture. Some apples are very sweet, while others have a tart flavour.
There are over 7,000 varieties of apples available in the market today!
History and Mythology of Apples
Apples have an interesting history and are a common theme in mythology, religion and even fairy tales. Apples originated in eastern Europe and southwestern Asia. Apples can grow in most temperature regions; they have now spread all over the world. In mythology, apples are used as a symbol of beauty, love, and wisdom.
The first apple trees in North America were brought over by settlers from France and England in the 1600s. The proliferation of apples in the United States is somewhat credited to John Chapman aka Johnny Appleseed. In the 1800s, Johnny Appleseed walked all over America, planting apple seeds wherever he went. The story goes he also did this barefoot!
Benefits of Apples
1. Apples for Allergies
In Canada, apple season is also ragweed season. Is this a coincidence or is Mother Nature trying to help us with our red eyes and stuffy noses? Apples are rich in quercetin. Quercetin is an anti-inflammatory compound that can help regulate the immune system. It can particularly be helpful in an overactive immune system, such as in the case of asthma or seasonal allergies.
A 2016 study showed that quercetin reduced histamine levels and pro-inflammatory cytokine, thus reducing allergy symptoms. Quercetin is also found in broccoli, onions, and garlic. Of course, quercetin can also be taken as a supplement, but a capsule is not nearly as delicious as an apple.
2. Apples for Blood Sugar Balance
Apples are considered low glycemic, which means that they are generally considered a good fruit option for diabetics.
Apples have a glycemic index of 38. Glycemic index measures the rate at which the sugar (glucose) in the food reaches the blood stream, causing blood sugar to increase. Foods that have a glycemic index of less than 50 are considered low. By comparison, bananas have a glycemic index of 62.
Pectin and other fibers in the apple are what help to slow down the release of sugar in the blood stream, thus keeping blood sugar levels more stable. Glycemic load measures how many carbohydrates (sugar) are in a food, as well as the rate in which the sugar will be released into the blood stream. The glycemic load of apples is also considered low (approx. 6).
While the amount of sugar will vary per apple depending on the variety and size, on average, a medium apple will have approximately 20g of natural sugars (mainly fructose). As this sugar is being released slowly into the blood stream, this sugar is more likely to be used as energy and not stored as fat. Apples also contain an antioxidant called chlorogenic acid that has been shown in scientific studies to help lower blood sugar levels.
3. Apples for Better Digestion and Lower Cholesterol Levels
Constipation, or a slow digestive system, can cause high cholesterol. Cholesterol is excreted via the gallbladder and out the bowels through the digestive system. Basically, this means that when cholesterol has done its job, the liver and gall bladder send it on its way out of the body.
However, if it is not excreted properly, it will become reabsorbed thus increasing cholesterol levels. Pectin and other soluble fibers, when dissolved in water, form a gelatinous mass. This mass helps to absorb and move waste through, thus keeping cholesterol levels low and improving overall digestion.
Apples are a great source of soluble fibers such as pectin. In addition to moving the bowels, pectin can also help reduce diarrhea by absorbing the excess water in the bowels. Apple sauce is a common food to consume when experiencing diarrhea.
4. Apples for Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
There have been multiple studies that have tested the idea of “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
Analysis of over 85 different studies have shown that apples consistently reduced the risk of heart disease and cancer when compared to other fruits.
A Finland study followed 5,000 men and women over 20 years. The study showed that those who ate more apples and other flavonoid-rich foods had a 20% lower risk of developing heart disease.
Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits
Apple cider vinegar comes from crushed apples and naturally occurring yeast to form acetic acid. It contains anti-viral and anti-microbial properties as well as antioxidants.
Apple cider vinegar has been shown in scientific studies to improve blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, improve skin and promote weight loss.
Apple cider vinegar is delicious in salad dressings and marinades. Here is one of our favorite salad dressing recipes:
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- Add all ingredients in a mason jar and shake or blend with an immersion blender.
- Store at room temperature for a week or longer in the fridge.
Other ways to use Apple Cider Vinegar:
- If you are prone to indigestion, take 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in water prior to eating. The acidity in the vinegar will help you digest your food.
- Use apple cider vinegar to add acidity in cooking, similar to how you would use wine, rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar.
- Use apple cider vinegar as a marinade for meat. The acidity will tenderize the meat and give it a subtle sweet apple flavour – don’t use too much!
- Fire Cider: Fire cider, also known as “thieves’ vinegar”, is a homemade infused apple cider vinegar used as a remedy for colds and flus. Common fire cider ingredients are hot peppers, horseradish, garlic, and ginger. Stay tuned for our upcoming blog on fire cider including the benefits and how to make it.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Apples
- Eat them in season to ensure the freshest and most nutrient dense version.
- Buy organic, when possible, apples are often listed as one of the “dirty dozen” by the Environmental Working Group, due to high pesticide use. If organic isn’t available, wash with water and baking soda.
- Leave the skin on: A lot of the pectin and other nutrients are contained in the skin, while you should still enjoy apple sauce, apple pie, apple crisp etc. The healthiest way to eat an apple is raw and unpeeled.
Nutrition Facts: 1 Medium Apple
|Vitamin C||8.4 mg|
|Vitamin A||5.5 µg (micrograms)|
Recipes Using Apples
- Cinnamon Baked Apples | Minimalist Baker Recipes
- Hot Spiced Apple Cider (No Added Sugar) – Minimalist Baker Recipes
Kirsten Colella, CNP, a Holistic Nutritionist who graduated from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition with high honours, is also a certified yoga teacher. Living on a farm with her family, Kirsten prepares a wide variety of farm-to-table meals. She shares her delicious recipes, colourful food pics and health-promoting food ideas on our Instagram page @essentialbalanceholistic
Sources quoted for the blog:
- Mlcek J, Jurikova T, Skrovankova S, Sochor J. Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response. Molecules. 2016 May 12;21(5):623. doi: 10.3390/molecules21050623. PMID: 27187333; PMCID: PMC6273625
- Guo XF, Yang B, Tang J, Jiang JJ, Li D. Apple and pear consumption and type 2 diabetes mellitus risk: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Food Funct. 2017 Mar 22;8(3):927-934. doi: 10.1039/c6fo01378c. PMID: 28186516.
- Coleman SL, Shaw OM. Progress in the understanding of the pathology of allergic asthma and the potential of fruit proanthocyanidins as modulators of airway inflammation. Food Funct. 2017 Dec 13;8(12):4315-4324. doi: 10.1039/c7fo00789b. PMID: 29140397.
- Sandoval-Ramírez BA, Catalán Ú, Calderón-Pérez L, Companys J, Pla-Pagà L, Ludwig IA, Romero MP, Solà R. The effects and associations of whole-apple intake on diverse cardiovascular risk factors. A narrative review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(22):3862-3875. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2019.1709801. Epub 2020 Jan 13. PMID: 31928209.
- The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, N.D., and Joseph Pizzorno, with Lara Pizzorno