An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right?
No, really, it can. And thank goodness because I love apples. Every year I talk obsessively about going apple picking. Since I don’t actually live near any good apple orchards the reality of this adventure is pretty hit or miss, but when I do make it, I’m in apple heaven. If I don’t eat half of what I pick straight off the tree, I turn the rest into homemade chunky applesauce, no-sugar added apple butter, baked apples, apple oatmeal, apple turnovers, apple pie, and more. You get the idea.
As long as you’re not only getting your apples in sugar-laden form (i.e. pies and turnovers), apples are a great health food. Not only are they full of fiber to keep you full, they provide vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, and more, all packed into a tiny 80 calories.
Now apples alone may not keep the doctor away forever, but they can certainly help. Apples can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, decrease your cholesterol, and stabilize your blood sugar — all things that will help reduce your risk of chronic diseases that will land you in the doctor’s office over and over again.
Now that I have your attention with this seemingly miraculous food, let’s look at why they’re so great. Apples are loaded with water and fiber (about 4 grams in an average size apple) which helps you feel full and thus prevents overeating. This helps you reduce your total caloric intake for the day without feeling hunger pains all day long, and helps you lose weight. Before you jump for too much joy, research that shows apples can help weight loss also found these results for women who ate three apples (or pears) a day. That sounds like a lot, but it isn’t really too much if you consider all the many ways to eat apples.
The soluble fiber in apples helps keep your blood sugar from spiking by keeping sugar from entering your bloodstream too rapidly. By avoiding a sharp rise in blood sugar, you also keep the sugar crash that follows at bay. There’s about a gram of soluble fiber in an apple.
Soluble fiber is also how apples help keep your cholesterol down, especially due to a soluble fiber called pectin (a name you may recognize if you can your own jams and jellies at home). Pectin helps lower LDL cholesterol (the heart-clogging kind) by binding to the cholesterol molecule and helping you excrete it. According to the Journal of Functional Foods, eating an apple a day can lower LDL by 40% in four weeks.
Though scientists aren’t positive, they say it’s likely the antioxidants in the apple’s skin that keeps blood pressure down, so stop chucking the peel! Whatever the exact reason, people who eat apples are 37% less likely to have high blood pressure (called hypertension).
As if that’s not enough reasons to start stocking up on apples this fall, here’s another: apples may help lower inflammation, which can lead to all sorts of problems. By lowering a marker called C-reactive protein (CRP), apples can help with inflammatory diseases like arthritis. One study showed an apple a day can lower CRP by 32%.
Even though we haven’t made it to an apple orchard yet this year (it’s still on my fall to-do list), we have no shortage of apple-eating going on in this house. My 20-month-old loves eating whole apples — I’m always impressed by how little trouble he has taking a giant bite right through the skin. When not crunching on whole apples or slices, applesauce is the clear winner. Though he loves applesauce straight out of a cup as is, we also use it to squeeze in some extra veggies like squash, broccoli, and pumpkin by making our own squeeze pouches.
Have a favorite healthy apple recipe you want to share? Leave a link in the comments!