Apples, perhaps more than any other food in history, have been almost universally recognized as a healthy food. Each one of its several thousand varieties, or “cultivars”, as they’re known in the plant world, has the same beneficial properties. Though it originated in Asia, the domesticated apple tree is grown across the globe – from northern Europe to the United States’ Pacific Northwest. Their delectable taste and filling consistency have provided sustenance to millions – and, as doctors are still discovering today, they’re also providing some truly incredible health benefits.
Pectin: the Heart Protector
In terms of importance, no muscle in your body takes precedence over the heart. It controls and maintains the most basic bodily function we have as humans. And a good step to take in maintaining its health, as it turns out, is eating apples. The thick, sturdy cell walls of the fruit contain a substance called pectin. While it acts as a support mechanism for the plant, it also does some pretty amazing things when consumed by humans. Biologists call pectin a “soluble fiber”, which simply means we are able to digest it. Once digested, pectin actually works to lower levels of LDL, or “bad cholesterol” in the blood. In medical studies, it has been consistently found that those who consume apples regularly have a high probability of lowering their overall cholesterol levels. This, in turn, lowers the risk of clogged arteries and heart attacks for those vulnerable to such conditions.
Apples and the Respiratory System
In addition to cholesterol-busting pectin, another set of key ingredient that gives apples their healthy reputation are micronutrients called antioxidants. Though studies on these substances are still preliminary, they’ve been demonstrating with high reliability that antioxidants such as quercetin (which coincidentally is found in an apple) are great for the respiratory system. Apparently, they work as both anti-inflammatory agents and preventers of cell death and damage through a process called oxidation. One such study involving hundreds of subjects has recently indicated that apple consumption might be linked to a reduction in the risk of lung cancer. Other cancers, including colon and breast cancer, may also be negatively correlated with apple eating. The fruit’s anti-inflammatory properties are also believed to be useful for preventing the onset of Asthma. In one specific study, data collected showed that eating apples alone was just as effective, if not more effective, than eating a combination of other fruits and vegetables. And, needless to say, it’s much easier to get a child at risk for Asthma to eat a fresh apple than a plate-full of broccoli.
Watching Your Weight With Apples
While apples aren’t the best source of dietary fiber out there, they do contain a considerable amount of the filling, digestive system clearing substance. In addition to this, they’re made up mostly of water packed into a big, fleshy body. To put it simply, apples fill you up without contributing many calories to your diet. The average medium sized apple, for instance, contains only around 100 calories – but it weighs 200 grams (7 ounces). In a medical study conducted to see how an apple might affect calorie consumption, it was shown that those who ate an apple roughly fifteen minutes before a meal consumed, on average, about 190 calories less than those who didn’t. And while the apple itself does have calories, the net difference still equals out to about 100 calories per meal. A separate study conducted in Brazil supported this conclusion, demonstrating that women who consumed three apples per day in addition to dieting lost weight more effectively than those who dieted alone.
Apples as Vitamin Enhancers
Of the many health benefits related to apples, high Vitamin C content is somewhat surprisingly not among them. Regardless, apple consumption may assist our bodies in the way they use Vitamin C. The body’s vitamin recycling process is reliant on substances called flavonoids, which apples are quite heavy in. In fact, they’re one of the most flavonoid rich foods you can eat. So, despite the fact that apples don’t necessarily contribute much Vitamin C to our systems, they are believed to help us use those vitamins that we do consume in a more efficient and effective manner.
Apples and Blood Sugar
Though when broken down an apple is mostly sugar and water, it may be an effective tool for blood sugar control. This is due to substances called polyphenols that are present in the fruit. When eaten, these polyphenols are believed to slow down the speed at which our digestive system pumps sugar into the bloodstream. In essence, this gives our body’s cells more time to absorb that sugar, keeping the leftover sugars in the bloodstream at reasonable levels. In medical tests, polyphenols were shown pull this off by acting as a stimulus for the pancreas. The pancreas, in turn, pumps insulin into the bloodstream, which facilitates the flow of glucose molecules into the cells and out of the bloodstream. From a wider-framed perspective, this translates to more consistent and well-controlled blood sugar levels overall.
Bone Health and Apples
When most people think of bone health, they automatically think of the micronutrient calcium. Apples, of course, do not contain much of it. They do, however, have two substances that help protect our bones. The first is a flavonoid named phloridzin. Medical studies on animals have suggested a link between the consumption of phloridzin and increases in bone density. While still preliminary, this is potentially great news for apple-lovers concerned about bone loss and Osteoporosis.
As you can hopefully see by now, if a miracle fruit exists, it is most likely the apple. From the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to weight loss and blood sugar control, this tasty, simple little sphere has some genuinely impressive health benefits. And in addition to what we already know, new studies focused on the micronutrients in apples are revealing more and more truly impressive qualities at a breakneck pace. So don’t be surprised if the list of apples’ health benefits grows quite a bit longer in the coming years.