Life

Science shows that an apple a day really can keep the doctor away

It's not just an old wives' tale – research shows that apples really are very good for your overall health when eaten regularly, writes Roisin Armstrong

Apples contain nutrients for advantages distributed throughout your entire body
Roisin Armstrong

WE ALL know that eating fruit and vegetables is the best way to protect our health in so many ways, but what are the best ones to go for? I read an excellent article last week about a gentleman who aims to eat 40 different types every week, to ensure the broadest spectrum of nutrients.

That is very commendable – and an excellent exercise to try when you can't sleep is trying to name 40 – it's possibly tricky enough for most of us to achieve. So is it possible to short-cut things a little?

There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that eating apples on a daily basis may lays the basic foundation for getting a good base range of nutrition. Science backs this up strongly as apples contain an impressive concentration of antioxidants, particularly in the peel.

One of the great strengths of apples is that they contain nutrients for advantages distributed throughout your entire body, from regulating blood sugar to metabolising bacteria in your digestive system to fighting cancer. Impressive indeed, but they do have other benefits which may be helpful to many with specific existing conditions.

For example, one benefit is of particular interest to asthma sufferers. One study found that apples decrease more symptoms than any other fruit and vegetable combination because of their very powerful anti-inflammatory capabilities. Chinese medicine believes that apples moisten dryness when it is a syndrome affecting the body, often in yin deficiency. In particular, dryness can attack the lungs.

Research also shows a connection between apple consumption and a reduced risk of colorectal cancer due to the many flavonoids releasing antioxidant activity. Interestingly, no other fruit has such an ability to alter colorectal cancer risks. The more you eat, the more antioxidant impact you receive. These compounds have also proven beneficial against colon and breast cancers.

One study reported that apple consumption may prevent colon cancer growth and impede colon cancer progression due to the apple oligosaccharides. In tests these natural sugars from apples killed up to 46 per cent of human colon cancer cells in vitro, and outperformed the most commonly used chemotherapy drug by a wide margin at every dose level tested. Many nutrition therapies recommend daily doses of fresh carrot and apple juice when fighting cancer, or better still, use it as a preventative measure.

Apples contain flavonols such as quercetin, kaempferol and myricetin, which impart the most dramatic health attributes according to scientific studies of this fruit. They're the most powerful in the peel and the flesh nearest the peel, while anthocyanins provide the red hue in some apple skins. Apples have been found to help prevent the growth of prostate cancer cells thanks to the quercetin.

Together with a host of other phytonutrients, flavonols boost your cardiovascular system and help prevent the formation of fat oxidation and artery-clogging atherosclerosis. Because apples are high in pectin they are an easy way to lower your cholesterol as pectin is said to help slow or stop the amount of LDL cholesterol into your body.

Apples too, may help keep your bones strong, especially in older women struggling with osteoporosis, and they are a good source of vitamins A and C. I am also really happy to say that apart from lowering the vitamin C content a bit, as cooking can affect heat-sensitive nutrients, overall, the nutritional value of cooked apples is relatively similar to that of fresh apples.

Which is great for me as I love both stewed and baked apples. Good news too, as compared to fresh apples, cooked apples are better tolerated by people with a sensitive digestive tract because of their increased digestibility.

There may additionally be an argument that apples could help in weight control as inhibiting alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase enzymes prevent carbohydrates from immediately breaking down into simple sugars. This reduces glucose absorption in your digestive tract, which lowers the impact of sugar in your bloodstream

By stimulating your insulin receptors these chemicals allow you to absorb more insulin and push sugar from your bloodstream to your cells, effectively regulating your blood sugar levels. In regard to regulating blood sugar levels, polyphenols in apples may play several important roles, such as helping your bloodstream of get rid of excessive sugar and stimulating your pancreas to produce more insulin.

Whatever apple is your favorite from the wide range available, mine are Pink Lady. It is important to say that whatever apple you buy, they can be one of the most pesticide-contaminated foods available, so if at all possible try to buy organic and if you can't, then wash the skins very thoroughly before you eat them.

r.armstrong@irishnews.com

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