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There’s a reason that the old saying about “an apple a day” is still around.
Apples are one of the least expensive, healthiest fruits out there, and they’re available year-round.
We have plenty of proof that eating apples lowers cholesterol and guards against diabetes.
An average apple contains 10mg of quercetin, the antioxidant that inhibits the production of inflammatory cytokines, helping to guard against clogged arteries and stroke.
There are many ways to enjoy apples, but they’re not all created equal when it comes to nutritional value.
A recent review of research brings together information on the best ways to get your apple a day, and the relative benefits of each.
Raw is best … with one caution
As you might expect, apples in their “natural state” are your best bet to reap their health benefits.
A raw apple has 2.5g of fiber and only 50 calories, making it the ideal “pre-meal snack.” Scientists have found that eating two apples fifteen minutes before a meal could cut calorie intake from the meal by fifteen percent.
And don’t peel that apple. You’ll be losing about half the fiber the fruit contains, along with polyphenols that may prevent colitis.
One word of caution:
Apples are #5 on the Environmental Working Group’s 2022 Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables most exposed to pesticides. So, wash your apples with soap and water, then rinse before eating.
Baked apples: Do it right to get 3 times the nutritional value
Many people boil apples to soften them for baking. When you do this, you lose much of the B and C vitamins in the cooking water.
Liangzi Zhang, a nutritional scientist with a research center funded by the British government, says that grilling, roasting, steaming or microwaving will generally preserve more nutrients.
And studies show that lightly cooking apples can release the nutrients from the fiber in the peel and make them easier for your body to absorb, potentially giving you three times more nutritional value.
Cooking apples also destroys an enzyme that depletes polyphenol levels. You don’t want to do that! When it comes to polyphenols — you want all you can get. The polyphenols in apples have been found to have anti-aging properties, and in general protect the body from oxidative stress.
Also, stewed or baked apples release pectin, a prebiotic fiber that your gut bacteria feed on.
Dried apples have big benefits, too
Just like cooked apples, dried apples have their pluses and minuses…
They contain less vitamin C than fresh apples, but more available fiber since it is concentrated in the drying process.
One study, in particular, illustrates why dried apples are a good way to get your “apple a day.”
In 2011, researchers at the University of Florida gave a group of post-menopausal women 75g of dried apple a day (equivalent to two fresh apples), and another group 100g of prunes.
After six months, the dried apple group had a 23 percent drop in ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. The prune eaters did not.
The apple group also had a bigger drop in C-reactive protein. Just like cytokines, C-reactive protein is an inflammatory marker associated with cardiovascular disease.
Although the dried apple added an extra 240 calories to the women’s daily energy intake, they still lost an average of three pounds, possibly because the fiber in the dried apples helped to fill them up.
A few delicious ways to get your apple a day
Now that you know your options, here are a few recipes you can use to make sure you get that apple a day!
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Apple intake and cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies — Public Health Nutrition‘Apple a day’ advice rooted in science — Science Daily