- Written by Nancy J. Schaaf, RN Nancy J. Schaaf, RN
Does eating an apple every day really keep the doctor away? October is National Apple Month, dedicated to celebrating the delicious fruit.
With over 7,000 varieties available worldwide, apples are the most widely consumed fruit. From sweet red varieties, like Red Delicious, Fuji, or Gala, to tangy green ones, like Granny Smith, there is an apple for everyone.
Select a favorite type of apple and enjoy, or try a new kind, such as the crispy, bright-yellow, non-browning Opal® apple, which boasts both a tart and sweet flavor with a big crunch and is grown exclusively in the U.S. in Washington state.
According to the USDA, China is the top grower of apples at 44 million tons produced annually, followed by the U.S. and Poland.
The average American eats 16 pounds of fresh apples each year. The Gala apple is now America’s most-grown apple, followed by the Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji, and Honeycrisp, according to the U.S. Apple Association.
Apples come in a variety of shapes, colors, and flavors. We can consume them raw; as applesauce; chopped in salads; baked whole; in pies, pastries, and cakes; dried in slices; added to smoothies; and as juice.
Some types are best for cooking and baking, while others are enjoyed raw for snacking. The flavor profile ranges from sweet to tart and may produce a hearty crunch or a light, crispy bite.
Tart and tangy apples with firm, crisp flesh are best for baking. Excellent choices are Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and Cortland. Juicy and sweet flavors like Gala, Red and Golden Delicious, Fuji, and McIntosh are great for eating. If tart over sweet is preferred, we can eat baking apples.
In addition to their culinary versatility, apples are an incredibly nutritious fruit that offers multiple health benefits. Apples are linked to a lower risk of many chronic conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.
“Apples have been linked to numerous health benefits, including improved gut health and reduced risk of stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and some cancers,” says Jessica Levinson, RDN, a culinary nutrition expert.
Apples are considered a nutrient-dense fruit, meaning they provide a lot of nutrients per serving. The fruit is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, polyphenols, antioxidants, and flavonoids.
Quercetin is a flavonoid, a naturally occurring plant chemical with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have found that eating apples is associated with a reduction in Type 2 diabetes risk due to their high content of such antioxidant polyphenols, which may reduce insulin resistance, a significant diabetes risk factor.
Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals, harmful molecules that contribute to the development of chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer. Much of the fiber and the polyphenols are contained in the skin, so eat the peel.
Apples promote heart health because they contain soluble fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol levels. Research links high soluble-fiber intake with a slower buildup of cholesterol-rich plaque in arteries.
The phenolic compound in apple skins also prevents the cholesterol that gets into the system from solidifying on artery walls. When plaque builds inside arteries, it reduces blood flow to the heart, leading to coronary artery disease.
Additionally, the Mayo Clinic states that the soluble fiber in apples slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, improving blood sugar levels.
Even though more studies are necessary to determine all the benefits of apples on human health, the current research indicates we achieve many benefits with this tasty, versatile, and easily accessible fruit.
Make today the day to keep the doctor away and enjoy a crisp, juicy apple.