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What You Need to Know About Apples
Apples are one of the few fruits that you can buy fresh any time of the year, but autumn is the time for apples that are particularly scrumptious and crisp. They are plentiful and inexpensive and a perfect way to start making good on your promise to yourself to eat more fruit.
The Many Health Benefits Of Apples
Apples help protect the body from cancer and heart disease. Animal studies have shown that apple pectin and polyphenols improve the breakdown of fats like lipid and lower the production of molecules that promote inflammation. (1)
It's the fiber and phytochemicals found in apples that probably have the biggest impact on health. Nutritionally speaking, this fat-, sodium-, and cholesterol-free fruit provides small amounts of several important nutrients, including vitamin C (some experts believe that the antioxidant power of a single apple is equal to more than 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C), B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium. And of course, apples are low in calories, at least when eaten without added fat or sugar.
Apples are also good sources of food compounds that act as antioxidants in the body, providing protection from the damaging effects of free radicals. The antioxidant activity of vitamin C and beta-carotene contribute to these protective effects, so do two classes of phytonutrients found in apples: flavonoids and polyphenols. And they offer an extra benefit -- a compound in apples, ursolic acid, can prevent the muscle atrophy that comes from many illnesses and the wasting that accompanies aging.(2)
A study published in October 2012 reports that the polyphenols in an apple a day regimen lowered blood levels of oxidized LDL -- low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" cholesterol. Otherwise when LDL cholesterol interacts with free radicals to become oxidized, this bad cholesterol is more likely to promote inflammation and cause tissue damage.(3)
"When LDL becomes oxidized, it takes on a form that begins atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries," said researcher Robert DiSilvestro, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University in a press release. “We got a tremendous effect against LDL being oxidized with just one apple a day for four weeks.” The consumption of one apple a day lowered the substance linked to hardening of the arteries by 40 percent. The difference was similar to that found between people with normal coronary arteries versus those with coronary artery disease.
What's Inside That Apple
Apples contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps to lower blood cholesterol levels, thus reducing the incidence of atherosclerosis and heart disease. There are about four grams of fiber in a medium-sized apple, and most of it is soluble. The insoluble fiber provides bulk in the intestinal tract and binds to cancer-causing chemicals in the colon, protecting the mucous membrane of the colon from exposure to toxic substances.
Riboflavin, thiamin, and pyridoxine, the B vitamins present in apples, act as coenzymes in metabolism, helping your body's enzymes work. Folate, another B vitamin in apples, is particularly important for protecting pregnant women from the risk of having a low birth-weight baby and/or an infant with spinal cord defects.
Apples' contribution to heart health comes in large part from the potassium found in them. Potassium is important in maintaining fluids in the body, which in turn helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Diets that are too low in potassium promote high blood pressure, and diets designed to help people control blood pressure, such as the DASH diet , encourage an increased consumption of high potassium foods.
These much-needed nutrients come packaged in a fruit that contains only about 80 calories. Plus, one medium apple counts as a serving of fruit (one cup), so after eating one apple you’re halfway to the recommended two cups of fruits that most adults should eat each day according to the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate daily food plan.