As one of the most cultivated and consumed fruits in the world, apples are continuously being praised as a “miracle food.” “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is an old proverb that most of us are familiar with, but is this fruit really special? In fact – it is!
Nutritional Profile of Apples
In 2010, the complete genome of the apple was decoded, which led to an increase in research and understanding of why apples are so beneficial for our health, and what specific components are responsible for the boost they provide.
In June 2017, an article in Medical News Today included apples on its list of the top 15 foods considered to be the healthiest, according to surveys and sources from across the United States and Western Europe. Quoting researchers at Florida State University, the article says that “older women who started a regime of eating apples daily experienced a 23 percent drop in levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and a 4 percent increase in good cholesterol (HDL) after just 6 months.”
Apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavonoids, and dietary fiber. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in apples can help reduce the risk of developing cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Flavonoids can help prevent heart disease by lowering blood pressure, reducing LDL oxidation and acting as antioxidants.
Apples also contain a hefty dose of Vitamin C, a powerful natural antioxidant capable of blocking some of the damage caused by free radicals, as well as boosting the body’s resistance against infectious agents, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. They also contain B-complex vitamins (riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B-6), which are key to maintaining red blood cells and keeping the nervous system in good health. Apples also contain minerals such as calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Apples have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. One reason may be that apples contain soluble fiber, which is the kind that can help lower your blood cholesterol levels. They also contain polyphenols, which have antioxidant effects. Many of these are concentrated in the peel.
At the same time, apples contain almost no fat, sodium or cholesterol, making them a sort of nutritional superstar.
What Are Apples?
Apples are one of the most popular and delicious fruits on the planet. There is nothing like biting into a bright, juicy apple to quench your thirst and satisfy your sweet tooth while boosting your health in a major way. Apples have been cultivated for thousands of years throughout Asia and Europe, and they make appearances in the cultural history of many ancient civilizations, including the Greeks and Romans. Apples gradually made their way to the Americas with the help of European colonizers and are now grown extensively in the United States.
There are more than 7,500 varieties of these delicious fruits and they come in a variety of colors namely red, yellow, and green. The skin of apples is thin but sturdy and the inner flesh is thick and juicy, and it softens as it ripens. The inner core holds the seeds, which are dangerous for your health. The nutrients are in the flesh and the skin.
Apple Popularity Contest
In the United States, the five most popular varieties of apples are Red Delicious, McIntosh, Golden (or Yellow) Delicious, Gala, and Granny Smith. Red Delicious apples top the list; however, many apple lovers will argue that, after years of breeding for longer shelf life and cosmetic stability, most of the flavor has been cultivated out of the Red Delicious. The McIntosh apple, with its softer skin and flesh, strikes a better balance between sweet and acidic, and are great eaten raw.
Golden (or Yellow) Delicious apples are all-purpose fruits that are commonly found in the produce section of all supermarkets. The flavor is mild and sweet, and the flesh is juicy. Gala apples were born and bred in New Zealand but they have gained in popularity in the U.S. in recent years (and are now grown in just about every state in the country). Closing out the top five are the bright green Granny Smiths, probably the most readily recognized of all apple varieties. Tart, crisp, and juicy, Smiths are the go-to fruit for apple aficionados everywhere.
Apples: Great Eaten Raw and Fabulous in Sauces and Desserts
Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce
Applesauce – especially when spruced up with cranberries – is a crowd pleaser, particularly after a heavy meal.
- 1/2 orange
- 2 cups water
- 1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith
- 3 cups fresh cranberries
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- Squeeze the juice from the orange and set the juice aside. Remove and discard the membrane from inside the orange rind and cut the rind into small dice.
- In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the rind and the water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, drain and set aside.
- Peel, core and quarter the apple. Cut into 1/2-inch dice and place in a saucepan.
- Sort the cranberries, discarding any soft ones. Add to the apples along with the orange juice, orange rind, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.
- Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and partially cover the pan. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, and the apple is tender and the cranberries have burst, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Transfer the applesauce to a heatproof bowl and let cool for 1 hour before serving. Or cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving.
Best Apple Crisp Ever
Using green, tart apples cuts down on the sweetness of this fantastic apple-based dessert. It pays to double this recipe as you can count on everyone asking for seconds.
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (not instant)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chilled butter or margarine
- 6 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a square baking pan.
- Combine brown sugar, flour, sugar, oats and cinnamon in large bowl.
- Cut in butter/margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs
- Place sliced apples in large bowl. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture, and toss to combine.
- Transfer apples to prepared baking dish.
- Mix orange juice and vanilla in small bowl. Pour over apples.
- Add optional pecans to remaining crumb mixture and sprinkle over apples.
- Bake until juices bubble and topping is dry, about 40 minutes. Serve warm.
Every Day is Apple Day
One of the great joys of living in the United States during the autumn months is going apple picking. But even if the only picking you’ll be doing is at your local grocer, don’t overlook the common apple in favor of flashier fruits. Apples have surprising nutritional benefits that justify the “apple a day” adage. Straight from the fruit bowl, or cooked into crumbles and sauces, apples are nature’s candy.