The Many Health Benefits Of Apples
Apples are the second most popular fruit in the US, with each American eating about 19 pounds a year. Apples are chockfull of disease-fighting vitamins and antioxidants, easily making them one of the top-ranked fruits for health benefits. When compared to other commonly consumed fruits, apples rank second for highest antioxidant activity. However, they rank the highest for relative amounts of beneficial free phenolic compounds which are not bound to other compounds and are more easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Most of the antioxidants in apples are in the peel, including catechins, procyanidins, chlorogenic acid and ploridizin. This is the main reason why consumption of apples is associated with a decreased risk of many chronic diseases.
For example, three studies have specifically linked apple consumption with lowered risk for cancer. Another study shows that apple and pear consumption is associated with a decreased risk of asthma. Apple consumption has also been associated with lowered risk of coronary heart disease, while reduced risk of type II diabetes was associated with apple and berry consumption in another major Finnish study. Apples, and especially apple peels, have powerful antioxidant activity and can greatly inhibit the growth of liver cancer and colon cancer cells. Based on results from all of these studies, it appears that apples play a significant role in reducing the risk of a wide variety of diseases. For example, eating apples may impact health in a number of beneficial ways, including:
- Protecting brain cells - apples protect brain cells against oxidative stress-induced toxicity and may play an important role in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Eating apples is also linked to a decreased risk of stroke.
- Lowering diabetes risk - consumption of apples and other fruits such as blueberries and grapes is linked to lower risk of type 2 diabetes. This may be due to their beneficial role in blood sugar regulation, since apples contain compounds that reduce glucose absorption from the digestive tract; stimulate beta cells in the pancreas to secrete insulin; and increase glucose uptake from blood by stimulating insulin receptors.
- Reducing cancer risk - apples reduce the risk of cancer, thanks to their anti-mutagenic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative and apoptosis-inducing activities. Apple products have been shown to prevent skin, mammary and colon carcinogenesis in animal models. Epidemiological observations indicate that regular consumption of one or more apples a day may reduce the risk for lung and colon cancer.
- Fighting heart disease - eating apples is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, thought to be related to their content of antioxidant flavonoids.
While applesauce and apple juice do contain some valuable vitamins and antioxidants, eating apples in their whole form provide the best combination of nutrients and fiber the way nature intended. This is important for a number of reasons. For instance, apples are often thought of as a high-fiber food and many of its heart health benefits are linked to a type of fiber called pectin. In reality, apples really only contain about two to three grams of fiber per ounce, of which pectin accounts for about half. Even though this is a modest amount of pectin, it has a powerful impact on health because of its interactions with other apple phytonutrients. In fact, this relatively modest amount of pectin found in whole apples has been shown to interact with other apple phytonutrients to give the kind of blood fat lowering effects that would typically be associated with much higher amounts of soluble fiber intake. In recent comparisons with laboratory animals, the blood fat lowering effects of whole apple were shown to be greatly reduced when whole apples were eliminated from the diet and replaced by pectin alone.
In other words, it's not fiber alone that explains the cardiovascular benefits of apples, but the interaction of fiber with other phytonutrients. For the full cardiovascular benefits of apples, it's the whole food form that is most effective as only this form can provide the unique fiber-plus-phytonutrient combinations. Similarly, research shows that eating a whole apple before a meal results in the consumption of up to 15% fewer calories, which was not seen with applesauce or apple juice. Eating a whole apple was also linked with greater feelings of satiety after a meal.
Many fruit supplement products are also used by health-conscious individuals to help them stay full between meals and reduce unhealthy snacking.
Fructose has been linked to many chronic health problems when consumed in excess, including fructose from whole fruits like apples. Apples are a relatively high-fructose fruit, with approximately 9.5 grams in a medium-sized apple. Apple juice contains considerably more, which is another reason why it?s better to eat apples in their whole form. It is also important to time the consumption of fructose-rich foods like apple correctly. Eating one after a calorie-rich meal for ?dessert? will not have the same effect as eating it after a glycogen-depleting workout. In the former case, the apple?s fructose is more likely to contribute to weight gain and insulin resistance; in the latter case, it will harmlessly replenish glycogen stores within muscles or be burned directly during the workout.
If you?re insulin or leptin resistant - or are overweight, diabetic, hypertensive, or have high cholesterol - then it?s advisable to limit your fruit intake to about 15 grams per day, which would be equivalent to eating approximately one apple and a handful of blueberries - unless you time the fruit consumption as described above and were doing fairly significant exercise in which you were burning a few hundred calories.
If you are not insulin/leptin resistant, are normal weight without diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol and regularly engage in strenuous physical activity or manual labor, then higher fructose intake is unlikely to cause any health problems. In this case, you can probably eat more fruit without giving it much thought.
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