Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Apple a Day...

Health Benefits of Apples

The old saying "An apple a day keeps a doctor away" is not just a worn out phrase. The modern research confirms what our grandmothers knew about this amazingly versatile fruit.

Apple is the fruit of an apple tree that belongs to the species of Malus domestica in the rose family or the Rosaceae. Apple tree is not only one of the most widely cultivated fruit trees but also the best known one among all the members of the genus Malus. There are more seven thousand varieties of apples known to us and most of them have been cultivated since the Iron Age (around 1200 B.C.) Older archeological evidence suggests that apple trees might have been known in Ancient Egypt much earlier than that.

In ancient Greece apple was attributed to the goddess Aphrodite and, thus, was considered to be a fruit of love and passion. In the Norse mythology, on the other hand, apples were the symbol of eternal youth.

Although those who consume apples cannot expect to stay young forever, the health benefits of apples cannot be underestimated as the apples are most certainly one of the healthiest foods easily available to us all year round.

Apples are nutritional powerhouses. They contain powerful nutrients such as vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and various phytochemicals that have an incredible disease fighting potential. Research shows that apples may help prevent many diseases including lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.

The apple peel contains triterpenoids which possess strong anti-cancer activity and may help prevent breast, colon, and liver cancer.

Apple stem cells from a rare species of a Swiss apple were found to stop skin cells from dying and are currently used in topical solutions to prevent wrinkles. The reported test results are quite spectacular.

So, what exactly can apples do for our health?
  • In Chinese Medicine apples are believed to strengthen the heart, quench thirst, lubricate the lungs, decrease mucous, and increase body fluids, while in the West apples are most often used to help digestion. The high fiber content helps regulate the bowel movement and prevents many digestive disorders such as chronic constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and possibly even the cancer of the colon. Apple pectin helps the intestinal flora to multiply thus improving the overall digestive health.
  • Apples can help regulate blood sugar through a variety of mechanisms. The apple pectin, for example, delivers galacturonic acid to the body - a compound known to lower the body's need for insulin. The flavonoid quercetin can inhibit enzymes such as alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase which are involved in the metabolism of complex carbohydrates into simple sugars. This results in fewer sugar spikes in the blood. The apple polyphenols also reduce the absorption of glucose from the digestive tract. They stimulate the beta cells in the pancreas to secrete insulin and help increase the glucose re-uptake from the blood through stimulation of the insulin receptors in the body. 
  • Research shows that apples and fresh apple juice may help prevent cardiovascular disease by reducing the levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, in the blood and improving the function of blood vessels. Both, the fiber and the flavonoids in apples, improve the overall heart health. 
  • Apple flavonoids may help reduce the risk of asthma. Researches found out that people who consumed at least two apples per week had reduced bronchial sensitivity and decreased risk of asthma. Apple consumption reduced the overall susceptibility to respiratory diseases.
  • Apples may help reduce weight in many ways. As mentioned above, apples help improve digestion. The apple fiber is also responsible for the feeling of satiety and help reduce craving. With about 80 calories per fruit, apples deliver so called negative calories. This means that the body uses more calories to digest apples than the amount of calories that apples provide.
  • Researchers found out that apples can prevent breast cancer and the cancer of the colon. Countless studies also demonstrated that apple is the only fruit that can inhibit lung cancer. Scientists suspect that it is the anti-oxidadative and anti-inflammatory action of various compounds working in synergy that is responsible for the anti-tumor activity. 
  • Recent studies demonstrated that the bioflavonoid quercetin in apples may prevent Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Apples may also increase production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine thus preventing cognitive decline in aging adults. 

Other health benefits include improved immune system, effective detoxification of toxins from the body, improved vision, and better dental health.

Unless you are allergic to apples, an apple or two a day will certainly contribute to a better overall health and prevent many ailments and conditions associated with aging.

Buy organic apples whenever you can. Wash them well and eat with skin for maximum health benefits.

By Dominique Allmon

*This information is for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

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