15 health benefits of eating apples
Reviewed by George Zimeister, MD
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Who ever originally coined that phrase probably got it right. Full of goodness and a healthy snack, apples come in many different varieties and tastes but all of them really are what the doctor ordered.Unlike many of the more exotic fruits, apples have always been around in the cooler areas of the world. People from countries growing apples learned over the years how to cook them into pies and crumbles and make them into drinks and purees without realizing all of the goodness present in one apple.In more recent times the apple has been found to be a great source of antioxidants. When compared to other foods apples are always near to the top of the list of the foods containing the most antioxidants. And as everyone knows, antioxidants defend the body against free radicals which can damage us at the cellular level contributing to our resistance against diseases.But that’s not all the humble apple has going for it. We all have to eat fiber daily and an average size apple has about 4 grams of pectin on board. Pectin is a soluble fiber, it’s also viscous and fermentable and all of these things add to the benefits we can gain by eating it. So what can an apple do for you? Older research has shown that eating an apple causes the mouth to produce a lot more saliva and this effectively dilutes down any sugars left around your teeth from the previous meal. Although not as effective as a toothbrush it can certainly produce a cleaner mouth than before by lowering the amount of bacteria present.For the older person, eating an apple has been found to aid two conditions, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. A study has found that people who eat a high fiber diet with lots of fruit receive some protection from Parkinson’s disease. This condition is caused by nerve cells in the brain which produce dopamine, in some way, misfiring. It is believed that the antioxidant effects of the apple in some way repair or minimize the damage caused.The effects of Alzheimer’s disease in mice were lessened when the mice were fed on a diet fortified with apple. In tests in a maze the mice that had the apple enriched diet performed better than their peers on the ordinary diet. The antioxidant effects are being given the credit for apples having the power to reduce the risk of developing cancer too. The American Association for Cancer Research acknowledges that eating apples high in flavanol may cut the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 23%.Other scientists at Cornell University have found that the apple skin, or peel, can reduce the risk of colon, breast and liver cancer because it contains triterpenoids which is a substance with the power to stifle growth of tumors. In earlier work on rats the scientists saw that extract of apple could reduce the numbers and sizes of mammary tumors.The antioxidants present in an apple also have the power to aid your liver in detoxifying itself. To help clear out all of the toxins we consume in the form of alcohol and other foodstuffs eating lots of fruit like apples are beneficial and it avoids detox diets which are frowned upon by the medical profession.Meanwhile high fiber diets have been recommended by the National Cancer Institute in the U.S. as a way to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.Other interesting findings promoting apples include the finding that the soluble fiber present in an apple joins the fats in the stomach which then produces decreased cholesterol levels. And females are about 28% less likely to have type 2 diabetes if they eat an apple a day according to research. Again the soluble fiber appears to produce the benefit by slowing swings in the blood’s sugar levels.Another effect of reducing cholesterol is that it cuts the risk of having gallstones. Gallstones are solidified cholesterol, and if cholesterol levels are lower then so is the risk of developing gallstones.The fiber is also very good at regulating bodily functions. If someone is constipated it can help release liquid into the waste or if you are too loose then it can absorb more liquid to balance the body. Because irritable bowel syndrome symptoms include diarrhea and constipation, as well as bloating and pain, the fiber in an apple helps to calm the bowel.One of the types of antioxidant found in apples is called quercetin. It appears that this type of antioxidant is especially good at protecting your immune system. And further research has shown that eating foods with lots of antioxidants can cause a drop of 10 to 15% in your chances of developing eye problems such as cataracts.At the other end of the body the benefits of high fiber foods cannot be understated when dealing with hemorrhoids. This condition is not dangerous but it is one of the most disliked by its sufferers because of the pain and discomfort involved. Remaining loose and regular is a large part of a quick recovery. Avoiding the need to strain helps hemorrhoids to recovery quickly and lots of fiber, as found in apples is a great help.Apples can also play a major role in changing to a healthier lifestyle. To avoid all of the conditions associated with being unfit and overweight, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers a healthy diet has to be adopted. Eating more apples can be part of that.Recent research has also shown that apples have a quality which can slow down the build up of cholesterol plaque in the arteries. Scientists have found that the soluble fiber contains a phenolic substance that blocks the cholesterol hardening on artery walls. By reducing the likelihood of blocked arteries means that the likelihood of heart disease or heart attack is also reduced.