“It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man.”
Henry David Thoreau
So I thought I’d pick something a bit less exotic, like apples, a commonly eaten fruit, and sing their praises a bit. A life-long apple-lover myself, I never realised how great they really are until now.
Originally from Kazakhstan, they have been a staple of the human diet over many millennia. The original, the Eve of all apples, still lives on there, in the wild, and has given rise to the varieties we buy in the supermarkets: Fiji, Granny Smith, Jazz, etc. 1
So what’s so great about apples?
- Well, they are inexpensive (yes, there are expensive ones, too, but a five-pack for £1.60 is pretty good, I reckon.)
- With hundreds of different kinds there’s something for everyone, from sweet to tart or something in-between.
- They contain fibre1. Its job as bulker-upper may not be glam but very important. Bulkier stools are easier to pass and pass through quicker.
- And, let’s not forget, fibre encourages the growth of friendly gut bacteria which help you stay healthy by keeping the bad guys in check3.
- They are chockful of vitamins A, C, E, and B9 (folate) as well as potassium, an important electrolyte1.
- They contain flavonoids, plant chemicals that have antioxidant- and other health-promoting properties3.
- They contain loads of good bacteria, especially the core (which most people throw away). Some evidence suggests organic apples have a greater diversity of health-promoting bacteria than conventional ones4 .
A bit more about flavonoids
Like our immune system, the function of flavonoids is to protect against disease-causing organisms, like bacteria and fungus. They also protect against damaging UV-light. And like antioxidants, flavonoids are able to neutralise free radicals2, those pesky unpaired electrons I wrote about in Eat This To Slow Down The Rusting.
Most flavonoids are concentrated in the skin, which is usually discarded by peeling. Some are found in the seeds2. Studies show that the peel contains at least twice the amount of flavonoids compared to the flesh, even up to six times more7, depending on variety.
Can flavonoids help prevent disease?
Since the first discovery of flavonoids in the 1930s2, thousands have been identified; many have not7. And as more research is done, it seems these plant chemicals may be playing a key role in disease prevention7, alongside their more well-known colleagues: the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
But back to apples. Evidence suggests that the flavonoid-rich apple peel can contribute to better heart health. Eat an apple, unpeeled, and hey presto, within hours artery function is improved3. Better functioning arteries means lower blood pressure and better blood flow around the body and to the brain. What’s not to like?
Another study using dried apple peel ground into a powder improved arthritic joint pain in the subjects8. Maybe just eating the apple would have the same effect?
Of course, no food is ever a cast-iron guarantee you’ll never get ill; but decades of studies have shown that those who eat lots of fruit and veggies have a lower risk of disease than those that don’t. Fact.
So next time you’re reaching for an apple, leave the peeler in the drawer.
Until next time,
- Clayton P Health Defence, 2nd edn, Accelerated Learning Systems Ltd, 2004, Aylesbury, pp. 82; 107
- Clayton P Health Defence, 2nd edn, Accelerated Learning Systems Ltd, 2004, Aylesbury, p. 89
- Boyer J, Rui HL Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov