It must be a right of passage for most kids, watching classic Disney films like Cinderella, Snow White, Dumbo, and Pinocchio, just to name a few. In true Disney form, there is always a hero or heroine who must overcome his or her fears to defeat the evil witch, monster or various inanimate objects brought to life by overzealous animators. To this day I can’t tell you everything that happened in those movies as my view was inevitably obstructed by the clever hands-over-eyes technique employed whenever something scary was about to happen like the Evil Queen who tempts innocent Snow White to bite into a poisonous apple. “This is no ordinary apple. It’s a magic wishing apple,” says the queen, enticingly. Fortunately, for us, our apple crunching outcome is far more positive. As apple trees begin to blossom, check out the amazing health benefits of apples.
From ancient history to modern fiction, apples have been symbolic of everything from knowledge to temptation. According to VermontApples.org, apples were heralded in Greek and Roman mythology as “symbols of love and beauty.” Interestingly, only the crabapple is native to North America. Early colonists in Massachusetts were the first to plant imported apple trees on our shores. It was considered one of the hardiest fruits as it blossoms in late spring and is less likely to be damaged by frost. Because it was harvested in Autumn, early settlers called them “winter bananas” and even “melt-in-the-mouth,” more than likely because of their sweet juicy flavor. And, thanks to technology, apples even enjoy their place as iconic symbols of innovation from computers to mp3 players to smart phones. The apple sure does get around these days and, no wonder, it is chock full of health benefits.
Get your Pomology On
Did you know that the science of apple growing is called Pomology? There are over 2,500 varieties grown on our soil and an additional 5,500 varieties worldwide. Apple orchards can be found in all 50 states and over 36 states grow apples for commercial distribution. Why all the fuss over apples? They are nature’s little powerhouses when it comes to satisfying our taste buds and nourishing our bodies on numerous levels. Here are a few of their benefits (Source: University of Illinois Extension):
- Soluble Fiber — apple pectin may improve your heart health by helping to prevent the buildup of artery clogging plaque. It may also help prevent colon cancer.
- Insoluble Fiber — the roughage in fiber helps to support digestion by providing bulk which helps cleanse the intestinal tract. The skin of an apple provides the most insoluble fiber so enjoy them skin-on.
- Low calorie — at only around 80 calories per medium sized apple it’s a perfect snack that won’t add to your waistline.
- Nutrient Dense — apples also contain vitamin A, C, Folate, Potassium, Calcium, Phosphorus and Iron.
Like most fruits and vegetables, apples are chock full of phytonutrients — natural chemicals in plants that protect them and, in turn, us from bacteria, germs and other potential health threats. Research has found a group of phytonutrients in apples that:
- Protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- Fight bacterial and viral infections.
- Provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
Quercetin is proving to be one of the apple’s best nutritional weapons. It has even more antioxidant protective benefits and stronger anti-cancer activity than vitamin C. Additionally, it has been shown to reduce the risk for
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Certain Cancers
- Heart Disease
It also has shown benefits in improving
- Chronic Fatigue symptoms
- Gout flair-ups
- Prostate inflammation
Before you get ready to take a bite out of this big apple, here are some tips to get your best benefits out of nature’s ultimate fast food:
- Stay Local — find local orchards for increased freshness
- Wash First — just like our hands need a good scrubbing, the skin of the apple may contain pesticides, wax or other undesirables, so wash and dry apples before eating. Even organic produce should be washed before eating.
- Choose Wisely — the best apples for eating are Delicious, McIntosh, Granny Smith, and Fuji. Other types like Cortland and Rome Beauty are best for baking. I like Gala apples as well which make a sweet snack and work well in applesauce.
- Skin On — since apple skin is loaded with nutrients, keep the skin on when eating raw and baking. An easy trick is to get an apple slicer which cores the apple and creates neat wedges for easy snacking.
With all of its health benefits and convenience, eat an apple a day and you’ll be on your way to better health — oh, and you can look now, the scary part is over!
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“Some day when spring is here, we’ll find our love anew…Some day when my dreams come true.” Snow White
Copyright © 2013 by Christine A.Toriello, all rights reserved.