The Benefits of Apples

Apples 450

Why We Love Apples

There may be some truth behind the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.  The phytonutrients in apples provide powerful antioxidant protection, cardiovascular support, anti-cancer benefits and help to regulate blood sugars.  With over 4 g of fiber, apple consumption can be helpful for weight loss and maintenance, by providing an improved sense of satiety or “fullness”.  Their fiber content can also help to slow down digestion and decrease the sugar load to our bloodstream.  This heart healthy fruit also contains a variety of antioxidants to help lower both total and LDL cholesterol, while providing vitamin C and phytonutrients, like quercitin for anti-inflammatory benefits. Numerous studies have also shown a decreased risk of lung cancer and asthma due to these beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients.

How to Shop for Apples

Although there were once thousands of wild species, this number has dwindled down to a few common varieties found in most grocery stores such as Red/Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Jonagold, McIntosh, Cortland, and Honeycrisp.  Heritage species often contain more phytonutrients than the common store bought varieties, and these  wild apple varieties are beginning to make a comeback at local farmers markets.  Don’t worry if local orchards aren’t an option, there are many ways to get the most nutritional benefits no matter where you shop!

Buy apples when they are in season to keep costs down, and keep their freshness and flavor high. Apple season in the United States begins at the end of summer and lasts until early winter.  Apples available at others times have either been in cold storage or imported.  Choose an apple that is uniformly bright in color, as this will indicate the amount of sunshine this apple has seen, and therein its concentrated polyphenols.  Brightly colored apples indicate they grew at the top of the tree and were exposed to direct sunlight, meaning they had to produce an extra supply of their red or green colored phytonutrients.

During peak apple season, you can expand your choices by shopping at local farmers markets, U-Pick orchards, and farm stands. Each variety has a different flavor and texture to guide your choice.  Choose Honeycrisp or Red Delicious for a sweet and mild-taste, Granny Smith for a tarter tang, and Braeburns for a blend of sweet and tart.  Choose organic when you can.  Apples top the EWG dirty dozen list of most pesticide-contaminated produce.

How to Store Apples

Apples can be stored for a relatively long time (3-4 months in a commercial warehouse, and a 1-3 weeks in a home refrigerator).  Apples ripen or soften ten times faster if at room temperature than if refrigerated. Handle your apples with care and be sure not to store any bruised or damaged apples with a large bunch. The myth “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch” holds some truth; Once an apple is bruised, it begins to release ethylene gas which can spoil the surrounding apples or fruits stored nearby. It is important to always wash apples with cold running water before serving, as this will help to reduce this fruits commonly high pesticide content.   Apples also freeze well and can be sliced into plastic bags or containers with lemon juice to prevent browning to be used in future recipes.

How to Prepare Apples

Apples can be enjoyed in all sorts of ways – juiced, blended, raw in salads, as a snack, or cooked in your favorite healthy version of Apple Pie.  The skin is unusually high in nutrients, so even is a recipe calls to peel an apple, consider leaving the skin on to receive their unique benefits.

Juice: Wash apples well, then add through juicer chute at a high speed. Apples produce a decent amount of juice, and can be an easy and delicious addition to most juice recipes.  Apples can be especially helpful additions when introducing juice to kids or juicing newbies.
Blend: Fresh apples are an excellent addition to a smoothie.  Before blending, just rinse them and add them into your blender with your other favorite ingredients.  You can also blend baked apples for a homemade applesauce.
Raw: Fresh, raw apples are an excellent snack, a great addition to a summer salad, or even as an edible beauty product! Apples turn brown easily when cut or bruised, due to their high polyphenol content. To prevent browning, put the slices in a bowl of cold water with a spoonful of lemon juice.
Baked/Cooked: Cook cored apples in a saucepan and blend up with additional produce for a delicious warming soup. Try adding apples to one of our apple baked desserts for a warm treat.
Chips: You can make delicious and nutritious apple “chips” if using a dehydrator, or slicing thin and baking on a low heat 200 F for 2-4 hours.

Cooked, Raw, or Frozen? How to Get the Most out of Apples

Apples often retain the most nutrients in its fresh raw form (including the skin).  However, cooked apples retain similar amounts of nutritional value and can sometimes be tolerated better for those with sensitive digestive tracts, like those with IBS.  Dried apples, also preserve many of their natural ingredients but bring these nutrients in a concentrated amount (1 cup equates to 200 calories, 56 g carbohydrate, and 7.5 g fiber as opposed to 1 raw apple being 100 calories, 25 g carbohydrate, and 4 g fiber).

Apple juice is one of the most common fruit juices sold on supermarket shelves.  Unfortunately, in order to allow mass production and long-shelf stable “apple juices”, the starch and pectin is removed and the juice undergoes heat pasteurization, is packed in aseptic processing containers, and is further treated by dehydration processes.  That being said, using your juicer is always the best option for apple juice! Although the phytonutrient rich skin is removed, the juice extracted still contains many vital polyphenols like cholorogenic acid and flavonols shown to reduce oxidative stress.  Be aware that pure apple juice is high in sugar (24 g sugar per 8 oz) but can be a helpful addition when adding to a concentrated vegetable juice to make the flavor and palatability more appealing for the consumer.

Fun Fact

An apple tree will start bearing its fruit 4-5 years after it has been planted.

Apple Recipes We Love