YES, APPLES KEEP DOCTORS AWAY
Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” That was what Irish literary critic George Bernard Shaw, who won the 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, once said.
It seemed no one heard of Shaw’s statement but everyone knows the age-old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” (for trivia fanatics, the words were first uttered by fruit specialist Professor J.T. Stinson at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition.) There just might be some truth to that saying. In fact, scientific evidence is growing that shows regular consumption of apples can help prevent or control a number of diseases.
What’s in an apple? Apples are a low-calorie snack, high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Nutrition experts claim one large apple has around 130 calories, and none comes from fat. Apples also have no sodium or cholesterol – nutrients many want to expressly avoid. One apple has 34 grams of carbohydrates, 25 grams of which come from the fruit’s natural sugars.
Lisa Sefcik, in an article, wrote: “One apple gives you 20 percent of your daily value (DV) of fiber. You also get 2 percent of your DV of vitamin A, iron, and calcium, and 8 percent of your DV of vitamin C. Almost half of the fruit’s vitamin C content is within the skin, so it’s best to eat apples unpeeled. Apple skins are a valuable source of the fruit’s fiber and also contain pectin.”
Fiber is an important part of your diet. Without fiber, digestion could become difficult. In addition, fiber is effective in filtering cholesterol or unhealthy lipoproteins, which helps to prevent cardiovascular disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, women should eat 22 to 28 g of dietary fiber per day, and men should eat 28-34 grams of dietary fiber per day. A medium-sized apple has 4 grams of dietary fiber.
Apples are good for a number of cancers. A Cornell University study found that rats eating one apple per day reduced their risk of breast cancer by 17 percent. Rats fed three apples per day reduced their risk by 39 percent and those fed six apples per day reduced their risk by 44 percent.
Apples may help to reduce the risk of lung cancer. According to a study reported in the May 2004 Nutrition Journal, researchers found that women who reported consuming at least one apple a day had a reduced risk of lung cancer compared to those who reported eating less than one apple a day. Similar observations were made in Hawaii, where researchers found that people who had the highest intake of apples had a 40 to 50 percent decrease in the risk of lung cancer compared to those with the lowest intake.
Eating apples can help prevent colorectal cancer. According to a hospital-based case-control study reported in the “European Journal of Cancer Prevention,” researchers found that colorectal cancer was inversely associated with the number of apples consumed daily. The report said that consuming more than one apple a day reduced the risk of colorectal cancer by about 50 percent. The authors stated that the protective effect may be due to the high level of flavonoid and other polyphenols in apples, which can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
As for liver cancer, the research found that rats fed an extract from apple skins had a 57 percent lower risk of liver cancer.
Diabetics should eat apples. “The World’s Healthiest Foods” explains: “The phytonutrients in apples can help you regulate your blood sugar. Recent research has shown that apple polyphenols can help prevent spikes in blood sugar through a variety of mechanisms. Flavonoids like quercetin found in apples can inhibit enzymes like alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase. Since these enzymes are involved in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simple sugars, your blood sugar has fewer simple sugars to deal with when these enzymes are inhibited.
“In addition, the polyphenols in apples have been shown to lessen absorption of glucose from the digestive tract; to stimulate the beta cells of the pancreas to secrete insulin, and increase uptake of glucose from the blood via stimulation of insulin receptors. All of these mechanisms triggered by apple polyphenols can make it easier for you to regulate your blood sugar.”
Apple is also good for your heart. Some studies have shown that women who ate a cup of dried apples daily for a year lost some weight and lowered their cholesterol and heart disease markers. Florida State University researchers think apples antioxidants and pectin are responsible for the benefits and think that fresh apples would be even more effective.
The Florida State study, however, is not the only one to link apple consumption to heart health. A few years back, the Iowa Women’s Health Study reported that among the 34,000-plus women it’s been tracking for nearly 20 years, apples were associated with a lower risk of death from both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
Some years earlier, Finnish researchers studying dietary data collected over 28 years from 9,208 men and women found that frequent apple eaters had the lowest risk of suffering strokes compared with non-apple eaters.
Experts attribute the heart-healthy benefits to antioxidant compounds found in apples, which help prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and inhibit inflammation. Plus, the soluble fiber in apples has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
“The World’s Healthiest Foods” also reports that apples have some anti-asthma benefits. It says: “Multiple studies have shown apple intake to be associated with decreased risk of asthma. However, in some cases, the study findings have been even stronger. In one study, apples showed better risk reduction for asthma than total fruit-plus-vegetable intake combined!”
Like the anti-cancer benefits of apples, apples’ anti-asthma benefits are definitely associated with the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients found in the fruit. However, there is very likely to be something else going on as well since apples appear to be a truly standout fruit in this regard.
Looking for something to help you lose some weight? Try eating apples, which may help to increase weight loss, according to a study involving about 400 women in Brazil. Women ate either apples or oat cookies for a period of 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, the researchers found that the women who consumed the apples had a significant weight loss of 1.21 kilograms, while the group of women who ate the oat cookies showed no significant weight loss.
Now, we know why Martin Luther said these words: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”