Health benefits of apples

‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ – it has been known for a long time that apples are good for you. In particular, they have a very high concentration of antioxidants – these are molecules that fight against free radicals, which cause damage to healthy cells in your body.

Being one of the most popular fruits in the world means they are consumed in almost every single country on our planet and come in a large number of varieties including Granny Smith, Gala and Golden Delicious. Below we list some of the main benefits that eating them brings and also the different ways in which they can be enjoyed.

The benefits of eating apples

1. Healthier heart

Substantial research has shown that apples have a huge effect on the health of your heart. They provide a high concentration of both fiber and polyphenols; the fiber, some of which is in the form of pectin (a soluble type) prevents the absorption of cholesterol and by doing so reduces deposits of this harmful substance in your arteries.

The polyphenols on the other hand prevent any cholesterol which is absorbed from solidifying (also known as plaque) and clogging up your arteries. A build up of plaque in your arteries lessens the amount of blood which flows to your heart, resulting in a variety of coronary complications.

If you are over the age of 50, you should try and eat an apple a day to help lower your chances of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. Apples are able to aid your cardiovascular system in a similar way to medicines such as statins (used to lower cholesterol), but without any side effects.

2. Prevent gallstones

By helping control cholesterol levels, apples are also able to prevent the formation of gallstones in your gall bladder. Gallstones form when your bile is rich in cholesterol, which causes it to solidify into green pebble shaped ‘stones’. These are extremely painful to have, as they pass through tiny ducts of the biliary tract and end up blocking them.

3. Control weight

Apples contain a large amount of dietary fiber and are around 80% made up of water. Consuming them keeps you fuller longer whilst at the same time supplying fewer calories than a lot of other foods you may eat (a medium sized apple contains around 85 calories).

If you eat at least 3 apples a day, have a good diet plan overall and exercise regularly, you are likely to lose weight within a few months. Maintaining a healthy weight is advantageous as it prevents the onset of diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Ursolic acid which is found in the peel of apples has also been shown to increases the number of calories you burn and helps increase muscle mass, therefore allowing your body to burn off fat stores.

4. Prevent cancer

Research has shown that antioxidants, which are found in plentiful supply in apples, help prevent cancer. Tests on both humans and animals have indicated that the consumption of apples regularly has a positive effect on curbing a variety of cancers, including:

  1. Triterpenoids which are found in the apple peel can prevent the growth of cancer cells in the liver and mammary glands.
  2. The high fibre content keeps your intestines in good shape, helping reduce the risk of colon cancer.
  3. The antioxidants in apples according to a study carried out in Hawaii has shown to reduce the risk of lung cancer by 50%.

Obviously there are a large number of factors that determine whether you are at a higher risk of getting cancer such as whether you smoke, however eating more apples will definitely bring some benefit.

5. Better lungs

The skin of apples is rich in yet another antioxidant know as quercetin, which could shield your lungs from external toxins and pollution. A study found that people who ate 5 or more apples in a week had healthier and stronger lungs than those who didn’t. Another study found that pregnant women who consumed lots of fruit were less likely to give birth to children with asthma.

Quertecin is also able to provide more oxygen to the lungs, thereby enhancing physical endurance. So the next time you’re going to go out for a bike ride or run, have an apple (with the skin) before and see if if has a positive effect on your performance.

6. Smoother bowel movements

If you are suffering from either constipation (where you can’t go) or diarrhea (where you go too much), apples may be the best cure. The fiber in apples adds bulk to your stools and is able to control the water content in your colon. If you are constipated you need more water to get things moving – the fiber does this by pulling water from your colon and makes it easier for you to pass stools.

If you have diarrhea on the other hand, the fiber absorbs water from your stools, which reduces your bowel movement frequency. Apples can also help reduce bloating and abdominal pain.

7. Reduce the risk of diabetes

Having a plentiful supply of apples on a weekly basis is associated with a 7 percent reduction in the chance of getting type 2 diabetes. This could be because apples are able to regulate blood sugar levels; compounds found in apples may be able to reduce the absorption of glucose from food you eat and also promote the secretion of insulin in your pancreas. Additionally, as stated above, consuming apples helps control weight which in turn reduced the chances of diabetes.

8. Healthier brain

Apples could lower your chances of developing neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as boosting your memory. Free radicals lead to the degeneration of brain cells and this is a major factor in the onset of Alzheimer’s – antioxidants in apples help combat these free radicals.

Additionally, mice that consumed an apple rich diet had higher concentrations of acetylcholine, a neurotransmiter which transfers information in the brain, keeping the cells healthy.

One suspected cause of Parkinson’s disease is the breakdown of dopamine producing nerve cells – apples have been shown to reduce the breakdown of these cells.

9. A cleaner mouth

You obviously need to brush your teeth at least twice per day (after every meal if possible) to keep your teeth and gums healthy. However, the biting and chewing of an apple helps keep your teeth white and mouth clean. While you chew on an apple, your mouth produces a fair amount of saliva – this helps get rid of bacteria, which cause tooth decay.

Just be sure to brush your teeth well, as apples are fairly acidic and this can cause damage to the enamel on your teeth.

10. Stronger immune system

Because apples are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they are great at boosting your immune system – this helps ward of infections such as the common cold. A single apple contains roughly a quarter of the Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) of vitamin C and is also relatively rich in potassium, calcium and phosphorus. Combing apples with a variety of other fruits and vegetables will help you in getting the recommended 5 a day.

How to eat apples

Before you eat apples always make sure you wash the skins thoroughly to get rid of any wax coating and pesticides they may contain. You can do this using a vegetable brush or by simple rubbing them with your hand under a tap of running water. Eating apples without the skin is also an option however the skin is full of nutrients which you do not want to miss out on.

Eating an apple whole brings with it the largest number of benefits, however you may wish to consume them in other ways. If so you can enjoy them in the following ways:

  1. In a juice or smoothie – either on their own or mixed with other fruits and vegetables. Apples go particularly well with carrots and ginger in making an extremely healthy vitamin and antioxidant rich juice.
  2. In the form of apple sauce (healthy recipe here) – apple sauce is extremely delicious and can be eaten on its own or mixed in with other food. Just be sure to make your apple sauce with no (or minimal amounts) of sugar.
  3. In a variety of dishes – apples can be used as topping for pizza (who would have guessed!), in salads, quiches and mixed in with granola/cereal.

Some precautions

  1. Unless you make the juice fresh and consume it quite quick;y, you may want to be cautious about bacterial infections. Apple juice left to stand can attract bacteria such as E. coli which can cause infections that lead to diarrhea and abdominal pain.
  2. Apple seeds contain cyanide, which is very poisonous. Try get rid of the seeds before you consume the apple.
  3. Read the labels on packaged apple based products such as juices and jams. In most cases these have a lot of added sugar

So there you have it, the most important benefits of incorporating apples into your diet. We hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as we enjoyed writing it and start eating an apple a day, to keep the doctor away!

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