Whilst apples are one of our most common ‘go-to’ snacks, they also have a wealth of health benefits. Plus ancient folklore certainly extoled their medicinal benefits. Apples are as popular today as they’ve ever been and even better they’re in season right now!
Clinical Nutritionist shares seven great reasons for grabbing some apples this autumn.
APPLES HAVE A GREAT NUTRIENT PROFILE
Specifically, they’re high in vitamin C – one of the body’s key nutrients because is delivers so many health benefits. Vitamin C is especially important at this time of year because it’s essential for keeping the immune system in good shape; it encourages production of white blood cells which help fight any unwanted bacteria and viruses.
Vitamin C is also important for the skin, hair and nails, primarily because it helps produce collagen, the body’s most important protein. And as collagen is an intrinsic part of skin structure, therefore it may help prevent wrinkles and fine lines.
THEY ARE RICH IN POLYPHENOLS
Polyphenols are plant compounds that deliver some wonderful health benefits. Most importantly, they’re rich in antioxidants which may help prevent some of our nasty degenerative diseases. There are a wide variety of polyphenols and more are being studied all the time. However, we know there are certainly enough in apples to justify ‘keeping the doctor away’ if you eat one daily!
It’s always better to eat apples in their whole form though, as some of the polyphenol content can be lost through juicing, particularly in shop-bought apple juices.
APPLES ARE LOW GLYCAEMIC
The glycaemic index is a measurement of how quickly foods affect blood sugar levels in the body. In general terms, the lower the food on the index, the better (unless quick energy is needed for intense exercise, for example). The lower the food on the index, the less dramatic the effect on blood sugar levels, which will help provide the body with sustained energy and won’t cause mood and concentration dips.
Apples are very low, mainly because they’re high in fibre, which has the positive effect of slowing down absorption.
THEY HAVE MEDICINAL USES
In herbal medicine, ripe, uncooked apples have traditionally been given to treat constipation, whilst stewed fruit can be eaten to help nasty tummy infections such as gastroenteritis.
Interestingly, apples were also used in poultices to ease skin inflammation. Whilst there’s clearly medicines to help all these ills now, the many wondrous health benefits of apples were clearly appreciated hundreds of years ago!
THERE’S PLENTY OF VARIETY
Whilst there’s literally hundreds of varieties of apples, there are around 50 or so grown commercially in the UK so there’s still plenty of choice to suit all tastes. Depending on your preferences, a red delicious apple will have a very different taste and texture to a granny smith for example.
Locally grown apples are stored in a cool environment where the oxygen balance has been chemically lowered; this also helps retain most of the nutrients. When they are put on supermarket shelves though, they will quickly go soft under normal oxygen conditions, so it’s always best to eat them soon after purchase.
APPLES ARE USED IN AYURVEDIC MEDICINE
We know apples can help the digestive system. However, in Ayurvedic medicine they also have a big part to play for their nutritional and medicinal properties.
Apples are often used with cinnamon for a combined anti-inflammatory action; when stewed together with some cloves and mixed with amaranth porridge, you’ve got a hearty and deliciously healthy start to the day.
THEY HELP GOOD GUT BACTERIA TO FLOURISH
There’s so much knowledge now around the amazing health benefits of friendly gut bacteria and a greater understanding of how essential they are to human health.
It seems that some of the polyphenol content of apples can work their way through the digestive tract to encourage production of gut bacteria. Most importantly, they appear to encourage production of one of our key species of gut bacteria being Bifidobacteria.
Apples are certainly great for digestive health generally, plus their high fibre content ensures that bowel regularity is maintained.
There’s certainly no denying the wonderful health benefits of apples! Try to choose apples that are grown as locally as possible to enjoy their benefits even more.
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