Published Oct 10, 2014
Sweet but with a lemony finish. Crisp, tangy to the point of tartness. Spicy and fragrant. No, we’re not discussing the merits of fine wines. We’re talking apples!
October is National Apple Month, the time to celebrate the glory of the fruit, as the nation has been doing since 1904 when National Apple Week was born. In 1996, October became National Apple Month.
Domesticated some four thousand years ago in the fruity forests of what is now Kazakhstan, apples became a part of the human diet a long time ago. With flavors shaped by their respective climates — the shorter the growing season the tarter the fruit — apples have been grown across the United States for centuries. But not until the last few decades, starting in the 1980s, have apple breeders offered such a variety and explosion of flavors: Fuji, Gala, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, SweeTango, and many more. Remember when there were only a few like Red Delicious or Golden Delicious or McIntosh to be found in grocery stores?
But the history and diversity of apples is not the only thing to celebrate. Apples also can be credited with delivering an amazing number of health benefits, such as:
1. Fighting bad breath. Apples contain pectin, which helps control food odors. Pectin also promotes saliva, which cleanses breath.
2. Preventing asthma attacks. Asthma sufferers often have low levels of antioxidants. Apples are high in vitamin C and flavonoids (beneficial, water-soluble plant pigments). Both are antioxidant. One study found that vitamin C supplements helped protect against exercise-induced asthma.
3. Reducing the risk of stroke. A study involving 9,208 men and women showed that those who ate the most apples over a 28-year period had the lowest risk for stroke. Researchers concluded that the results suggest the intake of apples is related to a decreased risk of thrombotic stroke.
4. Preventing constipation. Fresh apples are high in fiber, which adds bulk to the stool. Apples contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, or roughage.
5. Combating fatigue. The high vitamin C and antioxidant content in apples counter the free radicals leading to oxidative stress, which has been linked to fatigue.
6. Reducing the risk of diabetes. The phytonutrients (beneficial substances found in various plants) in apples help regulate blood sugar.These compounds help prevent spikes in blood sugar in a variety of ways: by inhibiting enzymes involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates into simple sugars; by stimulating pancreatic cells to produce insulin; by decreasing the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream.
Compared to other commonly consumed fruits in the U.S, these nutritional powerhouses ranked second for highest antioxidant activity. However, they ranked highest in the proportion of free phenolic compounds—substances not bound to other compounds in the fruit and thus more easily absorbed into the bloodstream. So stock up on a good supply of apples for this season. And don’t cut off the peels. They contain much of apples’ fiber and antioxidant power.