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What Can Eating an Apple a Day Actually Do?

Okay, you've heard it said time and time again, but what can eating an apple a day actually do? Oh, you'd be surprised! Read on!

Historically, apples have always been an American favorite.

Writer Henry David Thoreau waxed poetic in calling apples “the noblest of fruits,” while Thomas Jefferson was frequently seen eating apples while strolling around the White House.

In fact today, statistics report that the average American eats 17.8 pounds of apples a year.  And at the start of apple breeding season, growers and enthusiasts across the country race to create the perfect hybrid–with varieties currently numbering over 7500.

But beyond the delicious excitement apples bring to our taste buds, what is it about them that make them America’s best selling fruit?  Well, that may have a lot to do with the apple being advocated as a source of health and well-being since first brought to prominence by Johnny “Appleseed“ Chapman.  But was that just a bunch of hype to sell seedlings, or do apples genuinely have special preventative healing qualities?

According to the FDA, despite what the old adage ‘an apple a day’ may suggest, while apples do provide 8mg of vitamin C (compared to 45mg in a common orange), they really aren’t very rich in either vitamins or minerals.  But does that mean that apples do little for the body?  Au contraire!

The skin of an apple provides ample amounts of beta carotene, and the pulp adds a healthy dose of potassium and iron. Additionally, apples have virtually no saturated fat, cholesterol, or sodium.  But most importantly, apples benefit us in a way that until recently was only marginally appreciated by the health care profession: as a source of fiber.  And not just any fiber, but a form of soluble fiber that is thought to play a major role in treating digestive disorders, preventing cancer, and controlling the effects of diabetes.

Unlike insoluble fiber which interacts with the digestive system quickly, fructose, the soluble sugar that occurs naturally in apples, is absorbed into the bloodstream much more slowly than sucrose (table sugar), allowing diabetics to enjoy an apple without having to worry about sharp swings in blood glucose levels.

Image via Geochembio.com

Of particular interest to researchers like James. W. Anderson, M.D. of the University of Kentucky School of Medicine, is that while treating diabetics with high-fiber diets (including lots of apples), blood cholesterol levels fell an average of 30% when patients switched to high-fiber, apple-rich diets.  And in terms of diabetes sufferers, 30% is highly significant.

But even in terms of everyday, less preventative measures, an apple a day does wonders in a number of other ways including preventing constipation.  Soluble fiber as found in apples absorbs large amounts of water from the intestinal tract–which prevents blockage.

Additionally, apples have long been touted as “nature’s toothbrush”–to be used in a pinch when no brush is handy.  While eating an apple doesn’t actually clean your teeth per se, biting and chewing an apple stimulates the gums–thus enhancing dental hygiene.  And the sweetness of most apples prompts an increase of saliva, which reduces tooth decay by lowering levels of bacteria in the mouth. Additionally, it helps freshen breath!

So, while “an apple a day” may not keep the doctor away in every circumstance, current research shows that it does have the capability to dramatically affect basic functioning of our physiology, and that may indeed prevent many diseases from ever invading or becoming chronic.

References:

http://www.fruitandveggieguru.com/Apples.html?pccid=1&tabid=70&kw=Apples

FDA Website

University of Kentucky School of Medicine: UK.edu

http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/10-health-benefits-of-apples.html

Images via:

Wikipedia.org

Southernhighroads.org

Anatomy of apple image: Geochembio.com

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