Originally published December 7 2008
An Ordinary Apple Holds Many Secrets
by Maryann Marshall
(NaturalNews) Apples are an important source of phytonutrients. These plant-derived chemical compounds are associated with positive health effects. Many of the phytonutrients found in apples are strong antioxidants, fighting free radicals. When people in the United States consume fruits, 22% of antioxidant compounds (also called phenols) come from apples. This makes apples the greatest source of phenols in the American diet.
You have heard the old saying: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." The original version of that is actually: "An apple before going to bed makes the doctor beg his bread." In our day with out-of-control health 'care' costs, the picture this saying evokes is an attractive one (not that we wish anyone ill).
Apples have many benefits. They are not hearty suppliers of many of the well known nutrients, like vitamin C or folic acid. However, they are a good source of fiber, antioxidants, and potassium. In fact many old herbalists recommended apple cider vinegar precisely for the benefits of its potassium content.
They are an excellent source of antioxidants (phenols). Compared to many other commonly consumed fruits in the United States, they have the second highest level of antioxidant activity. Perhaps more importantly, they have the highest ratio of free phenols. Free phenols are not bound to other compounds in the fruit. That allows them to be more available for absorption into the bloodstream.
Whole apples, especially with their peels, have been found to have a number of powerful antioxidant effects. The total antioxidant activity of 100 grams of whole apple is equivalent to the antioxidant effect of about 1500 mg of vitamin C. However, 100 g of apples has only about 5.7 mg of vitamin C. Clearly, the antioxidant activity of apples comes from other nutrients like quercetin, catechin, phloridzin, and chlorogenic acid.
Studies have found numerous health benefits related to the consumption of apples:
★ Apple's two types of fiber help regulate the movement of the bowels – in both directions. Both insoluble fiber and soluble fiber (pectin, found primarily in the skins) help relieve constipation. The insoluble fiber works like roughage, sweeping debris from the digestive tract. Pectin acts as a stool softener, drawing water into the stool, increasing stool bulk, and making it easier to pass. On the other hand, because pectin firms up an excessively loose stool, it's also used to treat diarrhea.
★ Both soluble and insoluble fibers in apples have cancer-protective activity since they relieve constipation and send potentially toxic substances out with the stools. Pectin grabs toxins (heavy metals like lead and mercury), and flushes them out of the body.
★ Researchers found a positive relationship between apple consumption and lung functioning, showing lower incidence of asthma and reduced risk of smokers developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
★ Quercetin (a flavinoid or pigment which gives apples their color) from apples has shown in studies to inhibit growth of cancer cells in the lungs, breast, prostate, liver, and colon.
★ British researchers found that ½ to 1 liter of apple, grapefruit, or orange juice daily, increased urinary pH value and citric acid excretion. These factor significantly decrease the risk of forming calcium oxalate kidney stones.
★ Finnish epidemiologists (scientists who study the effects of substances on large populations) concluded that high consumption of flavonoids and fiber from apples, tea, onions, and broccoli were directly associated with the lowest risk for coronary disease mortality and thrombic stroke. Again, apples were featured as the most closely associated with these benefits.
★ Animal studies show that apples lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol. At the same time, they raise beneficial HDL cholesterol. The laboratory animals studied produced less cholesterol. They also excreted more cholesterol in their feces when fed apples, pears and peaches. Apples, however, had the greatest cholesterol-lowering effect.
★ Daily consumption of quercetin from apples and cloudy apple juice may help reduce the damage caused by the "bad" type of cholesterol and protect against heart disease by slowing the oxidation process involved in the build-up of arterial plaque.
★ The two types of fiber in apples provide a double whammy on cholesterol. Insoluble fiber latches onto LDL cholesterol in the digestive tract, sweeping it out of the body. Its soluble fiber (pectin) reduces the amount of LDL cholesterol produced in the liver.
★ Apples' antioxidants protect VLDL and LDL ("bad") cholesterol from oxidation. Adding just one large apple (about 2/3 of a pound) to the daily diet has been shown to decrease serum cholesterol 8-11%. Eating 2 large apples a day has lowered cholesterol levels by up to 16%!
★ Apples derive most of their natural sweetness from fructose (not the same as in high fructose corn sweetener). Natural fructose is a simple sugar, but one which is broken down slowly. This property, especially when combined with apples' hefty dose of fiber, helps to keep blood sugar levels stable for type 2 diabetics.
★ Phenols in the skin of certain cultivars of apples (Braeburns fared better than Granny Smiths) may provide a hefty dose of UV-B protection.
Choose organically grown apples whenever possible. Most of the apple's fiber is contained in its skin. The skin also stores the majority of its quercitin. Unfortunately, conventionally grown apples contain pesticide residues which accumulate in apple skin. Petroleum-based waxes, used to keep the apples looking fresh, also add toxic residues. Peeling apples results in the loss of flavonoids and most of its valuable fiber. Purchasing organic apples allows you to eat the whole apple without throwing away a major portion of its nutrition.
Eat the whole fruit instead of simply drinking apple juice, eating peel-free applesauce or taking fiber supplements. Single nutrients are not found in whole, natural foods. There is a beneficial synergy between the many healthful compounds found in apples. They act in together for your greater benefit. The complete system, designed by God, is the source of their effectiveness in promoting health.
★ When researchers put together a mixture containing only the currently identified bioactive compounds in apple juice (chemicals like proanthocyanidins and quercetin). The chemical mixture was ineffective in inhibiting the growth of colon cancer cells.
★ Quercitin, one of the most important antioxidant flavonoids in apples, was tested by itself in laboratory animals. It had no protective effect.
★ Apple flesh and apple juice were tested separately. They provided less than a tenth the benefit of the whole apple.
★ A combination of apple pectin and apple phenols lowered cholesterol and triglycerides to a much greater extent than either apple pectin or phenols alone in recent studies.
A review study looks at the results of many other studies. One such study published in Nutrition Journal analyzed 85 studies. Apples appeared most consistently linked to reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, asthma, and type 2 diabetes as compared to other fruits and vegetables. Eating apples was also associated with increased lung function and increased weight loss.
Apples' protective effects against free radical damage to cholesterol reach their peak at three hours following apple consumption and drop off after 24 hours, providing yet another good reason to eat a whole fresh apple a day. In many studies, apples worked in a dose-dependent manner: the more apples eaten, the more protection.
So add an apple (or two, or even three) to your daily regimen and reap the benefits.
About the authorMaryann Marshall is a fourth generation herbalist. She taught "Herbs and Your Health" classes for 25 years. Currently she is developing these classes into an online course. See http://www.grainsofhope.com for more information.
Eight years ago, her eldest son suffered a severe brain injury in an auto accident. His journey to wellness continues today. The family struggles through the government and medical labyrinth to assist his healing through prayer, nutrition, herbs, and other natural methods. Maryann is currently writing a book about the accident and its aftermath. You can read it in progress at: http://MiracleBoyArif.blogspot.com/ .
Her websites can be found at: http://www.agglom.com/agglom/36788/Maryann_M.... Also check http://www.mymoxxor.com/grainsofhope for the most powerful concentrate of all-natural omega-3's and antioxidants on the planet and http://www.youngliving.com/grainsofhope for therapeutic grade essential oils.
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