An Apple a Day…?
Prepared by Drusilla Banks,
Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness;
University of Illinois Extension in Bourbonnais, IL.
Nothing says fall like the fresh fragrance and taste of apples. Historically, love, beauty, knowledge, sin, pleasure and health have all been linked to apples. It is believed by some experts that apple trees were the first cultivated fruit trees. Many historians believe Romans were first to plant and harvest apples, which originated in the area around Southeast Asia.
In any case, apples are cultivated and eaten worldwide. They are dried, juiced, canned and eaten fresh, as one of our most popular snack foods. And who doesn’t love apple desserts? You have heard the old adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” While it will certainly take more than a daily apple to keep you healthy, it is a step in the right direction.
Apples are easy to carry for snacking, low in calories, a natural mouth freshener, and they are still very inexpensive. Fact is, there is nothing sweeter tasting than a fresh apple on a crisp fall day. Now is the time to buy fresh, locally grown apples in season from Illinois, Michigan and Indiana.
Think about expanding your apple horizons this year. Try an apple variety you have never tasted before. Visit a local apple orchard and pick your own. Locally grown apples are now available at your local farmers market, grocery store, and farm stands.
Apples are extremely rich in important nutrients. They are a source of antioxidants, flavanoids and two types of dietary fiber. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in apples may help reduce the risk of developing some forms of cancer, and have an impact on hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, such as pectin, actually helps prevent cholesterol buildup in the lining of blood vessel walls, thus reducing the incident of atherosclerosis and heart disease. The insoluble fiber in apples provides bulk. It goes in as fiber and comes out as fiber. It is a remarkable detox agent and natural cleanser in the intestinal tract. Apple fiber holds water to cleanse and move waste more quickly through the digestive system.
It is a good idea to eat apples with their skin. Almost half of the vitamin C content is just underneath the skin. Eating the skin also increases insoluble fiber content. Most of an apple’s fragrance cells are also concentrated in the skin; and as they ripen, the skin cells develop more aroma and flavor.
Q: Do fresh apples contain many pesticides?
A: Apples frequently top the list of fruits highest in pesticide residues. They often require more pesticides as they are particularly susceptible to bugs and disease. Highest levels on apples after harvest is diphenylamine, used to prevent apple scald or browning of the skin during prolonged storage. However, the USDA and the EPA keep a close watch on safe levels of pesticide residue on apples and other foods. If you are concerned, purchase organically grown apples, which are typically pesticide-free. At the farmers market or orchards, ask the growers about their pesticide usage.
Q: Will washing remove pesticides?
A: Yes, some. The FDA recommends washing all produce thoroughly (organic, too) under cool, running water before preparing or eating. Scrub firm produce like apples with a clean produce brush. The FDA does not recommend washing produce with soap, detergent, chlorine or even commercial produce washes. These washes are intended for killing bacteria not removing pesticides. Studies have shown that water is just as, if not more, effective than produce washes for removing bacteria.
Baking soda is effective at removing bacteria and breaking down pesticide residues. Soak several apples in a baking soda solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 2 cups cool water for 10-15 minutes, then rinse well. Dry thoroughly before storing.
Q: Why does apple juice taste different from apple cider?
A: Primarily, the difference is in the variety of apples used. According to Harvard University: Cider is fresh, raw apples that are mashed and pressed to extract the liquid. Cider is often unfiltered and sold either pasteurized or unpasteurized—although, pasteurized is recommended. This causes cider to appear cloudy, as it contains some pulp and sediment. It is more acidic and contains more flavonoids than apple juice.
Apple juice is highly processed. It is filtered and pasteurized to increase shelf life. In addition, often sweetened with added sugars. Removed during filtration are tart, bitter flavors and natural apple flavonoids; so, apple juice typically has a uniform sweet flavor.
Remove any bruised apples immediately and use them first. Extend the freshness of your apples by storing them unwashed in the refrigerator. Wash just before using. Use a separate crisper drawer for large quantities of apples. They will usually remain fresh for at least one to two months, if not longer. At room temperature, apples soften and shrivel within one to two weeks.
There are hundreds of varieties of apples on the market today. There is an apple to suit almost everyone’s taste, so why not have an apple today? For more information about apples, visit the University of Illinois Extension website at rbanext.uiuc.edu/apples. The Apples and More website provides folklore, nutrition information and recipes.
More reasons to eat apples:
* Your heart—Research confirms it! The antioxidant phytonutrients found in apples help fight the damaging effects of LDL (bad) cholesterol; reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Phytonutrients in apples have also been found to reduce the risk of thrombotic stroke.
* Your digestion—Just one apple provides as much dietary fiber as a serving of bran cereal. That is about one-fifth of the recommended daily intake of fiber.
* Your lungs—An apple a day strengthens lung function and can lower the incidence of lung cancer, as well. Some studies suggest they cut the risk of lung cancer in half. Apples appear to improve lung function in general, because they contain antioxidants.
* Your bones—Apples contain the essential trace element boron, which has been shown to strengthen bones—a good defense against osteoporosis.
* Your arthritis—Apple antioxidants fight inflammation, pain and swelling of arthritis flares.