An Apple a Day: Health Benefits

Often dubbed “Nature’s Original Superfood,” the nutritional benefits of apples are plentiful. Crunch on an apple a day for these health benefits:

Apples have several qualities that make them a great aid for losing weight and fighting obesity, including 4 grams of soluble fiber (17% of the daily recommended value) which can help us feel fuller, longer and they are naturally free of fat, cholesterol and sodium. In addition, a recent study from Washington State University researchers that linked eating apples (and in particular, Granny Smith apples) to the prevention of disorders associated with obesity. The study found that the non-digestible compounds (fiber, polyphenols) and low carbohydrates in apples remain intact when they reach the colon, where they are fermented by bacteria, which then benefits the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Researchers believe the discovery could help prevent some obesity disorders, including low-grade, chronic inflammation that can lead to diabetes.

In 2007, researchers at Penn State University found that eating an apple 15 minutes before lunch might help one consume up to 190 calories less than that person would without having eaten that apple.  The five-week study of 59 average-weight men and women looked at how calorie consumption fluctuates as people snack on different apple products. Participants ate the same breakfast and lunch throughout the study, and 15 minutes before lunch were either given nothing to eat or about 125 calories of apple slices, applesauce, or apple juice. Those who ate the whole apple consumed fewer calories overall during lunch. Additionally, the pectin found in apples has been found to release fat, and can help to prevent your body from absorbing fat. Pectin also serves as an appetite suppressant to keep you feeling satisfied for long periods of time.

Apples contain a powerful antioxidant, called quercetin, that Cornell University researchers have found to protect brain cells during oxidation. Quercetin is believed to block free radicals from damaging brain cells, as well as other types of cells and can be found in the skin of the apple, so it’s important to eat the entire apple to reap its brain boosting benefits. Other studies have linked apples to reducing memory loss and the onset of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

The antioxidant powers of apples along with the fiber and Vitamin C found in apples can benefit the heart. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found that participants who ate an apple a day for four weeks lowered blood levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) by as much as 40% in comparison to those who did not. High cholesterol increases one’s risk for heart disease, which as noted in this post, is the leading cause of death in the U.S.

People who eat at least two servings each week of certain fruits, including apples, could significantly lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a 2013 study led by Harvard School of Public Health. In the study, those who ate two servings of apples, blueberries, and grapes each week lowered their diabetes risk by 23% in comparison to those who ate less than one serving per month.

Apples are a good source of vitamin C (one medium apple has 14% of the recommended daily Vitamin C value) and also contain Vitamin B. Both of these essential vitamins promote skin health by speeding up skin cell production, and fighting acne and skin irritation. Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples might be extra protective for the skin because they contain high levels of collagen and elastin. Apples also protect the bones thanks to phloridzin, a flavonoid that can protect post-menopausal women from osteoporosis, and bone-protecting boron.

Naturally gluten-free, enjoy your apples plain or with your favorite cheese. Apples also pair well with nuts and nut butters, making for a powerhouse of a snack!