2018-03-01 / Health & Fitness

Healthy CHOICES: An apple a day keeps the pharmacist away


“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is an old Welsh proverb that first appeared in a publication in 1866 in a different rhyming format: “Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

A 2015 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked directly at the relationship between apple consumption and physician visits and found the proverb wasn’t entirely accurate. The study found that people who ate an apple a day used fewer prescription medications; perhaps modifying the saying to “an apple a day keeps the pharmacist away” would be more appropriate.

Modern research studies support the proverb that apples may well be one of the healthiest foods for you to include in your daily diet.

Apples have a long, interesting history.

In Greek mythology, the golden apples are the source of the gods’ immortality and perpetual youth. Artists commonly depicted Aphrodite, goddess of love and marriage, holding an apple. In the seventh century B.C. a couple might have shared an apple as a symbol of their marriage and hopes for a fruitful union. The phrase “the apple of your eye” comes from verses in the Bible, describing an object or person who is greatly valued. The game of apple bobbing began as a Celtic New Year’s tradition for trying to determine one’s future spouse.

The apple’s nutritional profile includes powerful natural antioxidants such as vitamin C that helps protect the body from damaging free radicals. It has B-complex vitamins (riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B-6) helpful in maintaining red blood cells and the nervous system in good health.

Apples provide both insoluble and soluble fiber. The fiber along with the phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients) may help prevent the amount of bad cholesterol in your blood from rising. Ohio State University reported that eating one apple a day for four weeks lowered blood levels of oxidized LDL, the “bad cholesterol,” by 40 percent.

Research from University of Illinois suggests soluble fiber, like pectin from apples, may strengthen the immune system. The fiber also helps stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of the carbohydrate. Apples contain plant compounds that may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance. The Journal of Molecular Sciences reported that polyphenols found in apple skins and other foods stimulate your pancreas to release insulin and help your cells take in sugar. One study published in Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that women who ate an apple per day had a 28 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than women who didn’t eat any apples.

Organic is a good choice as apples ranked No. 4 in the Dirty Dozen shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce. Organic is a good choice as apples ranked No. 4 in the Dirty Dozen shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce.

The apple skin contains ursolic acid, which may prevent the muscle wasting that can result from aging or illness and has been researched as a way to suppress tumor formation. University of Denmark researchers discovered apple consumption increases the number of good gut bacteria.

Apples also contain minerals such as calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Another study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests older women who eat plenty of fruits (including apples) may have a lower chance of bone fractures.

According to U.S. Apple Association, the United States is the world´s second-largest producer of apples behind China and grows about 200 unique apple varieties, with more than 100 available in retail stores.

Numerous apple varieties are grown in fall and winter and some year- round. The top 10 varieties produced in the United States are: Granny Smith, McIntosh, Cripps Pink/Pink Lady, Rome, Fuji, Honey Crisp, Empire, Gala, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious. Granny Smith apples are the most tart. McIntosh and Pink Lady are tangy. Rome and Fuji apples are a bit sweeter. Honey Crisp and Empire are sweet and tart. Gala is sweet and spicy. Golden and Red Delicious are among the sweetest varieties.

When buying, look for apples that are firm, richly colored and unbruised. Organic is a good choice as apples ranked No. 4 in the Dirty Dozen 2017 Environmental Working Group shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce. Make sure to wash well and eat the peel but avoid the seeds. Properly refrigerated apples can keep anywhere from four to six weeks.

The information in this column is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Susan Summerton, OD, is a board-certified optometrist at Tyson Eye, a certified nutrition specialist and an adjunct professor of nutrition at Hodges University. She can be reached at susan.summerton@tysoneye.com.

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