An Apple A Day: How Apple Makes You Healthier

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Author: Leo Akin
November, 2014

Introduction

In an age of refined and manufactured foods, apple is one of the few fruits that is still commonly consumed. Apple is, however, more than a simple fruit. It is packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to help fight a long list of diseases.

Research on the health benefits of apples revealed that regular consumption of this sweet fruit can lower your risks of certain chronic diseases. But what makes apple special among other nutritious fruits and foods? And what are its specific health benefits?

The Antioxidant Nature of Apples

Apple has a high antioxidant capacity. In fact, among fruits that we regularly eat, it was rated to have the second highest antioxidant power and the highest concentration of free polyphenol antioxidants. Free polyphenol compounds remain unbound in apple. Because of this, they are quickly released from the fruit and rapidly absorbed in the gut. Therefore, the antioxidants in apple are readily available and will reach the bloodstream faster than antioxidants bound to other phytonutrients.

The major examples of apple antioxidants are catechins, procyanidins and chlorogenic acid. However, most of the antioxidants in apple are present in the peel. Antioxidants are needed to mop up harmful free radicals in the body. Basically, they prevent these free radicals from destroying cells and the DNA. Significant oxidative stress due to free radicals is the root cause of cancer, chronic diseases and accelerated aging. Therefore, an apple a day can indeed keep the doctor away by lowering your risks of these diseases simply by its remarkable antioxidant power.

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Apple Against Chronic Diseases

A recent review of the numerous studies investigating the health benefits of apples revealed that the regular consumption of apple was especially an effective protection against chronic diseases. For example, besides its antioxidant properties, apple also possesses additional medicinal properties that can significantly lower your risks of cancers. These include its anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and antimutagenic properties.

In addition, apple contains the right phytochemicals to promote programmed cancer cell death and also modify the immune system to fight cancer cells. Apple is especially effective for lowering the risks of lung and colon cancers. Besides cancer, apple is also associated with lower risks of brain and heart diseases. For these, its antioxidant property plays important roles.

In the brain, the antioxidant power of apple can protect brain cells from oxidative damage and, therefore, protect against neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Yet another important chronic disease that can be prevented with apple is type 2 diabetes.

Apple improves blood sugar control by reducing the amount of glucose absorbed into the blood, increasing the removal of glucose from the blood and improving both the release and sensitivity of insulin.

Apple Juice v. Whole Apple

Apple juice, applesauce and similar derivatives of apple are commonly used as substitutes to the fruit. Even though these contain apple extracts, they are less nutritious and barely medicinal. As mentioned above, most of the antioxidants in apple can be found in the peel rather than the juice of the fruit. In addition, the high fiber content of whole apple is central to its medicinal benefits. Unlike whole apples, apple extracts have little to no fiber content.

Apple fiber or pectin has been proven to interact with certain nutrients in apple to lower blood fat levels. In one study, when apple juice or pectin only was given, the fat-lowering effect of apple was lost. Furthermore, eating whole apples can improve your satiety after a meal and prevent you from binge eating. Researchers demonstrated that eating an apple before a meal can reduce your calorie intake by 15%.

Unfortunately, applesauce and apple juice do not reduce food craving and provide no benefits for reducing your caloric intake.

The Sugar in Apple

Yet another reason to eat whole apple rather than consuming apple juice is the lower concentration of fructose. Apple contains a significant amount of fructose. In the whole fruit, the fiber present can reduce the absorption of this sugar but such protection is lost in apple fruit juice. Therefore, those who are suffering from insulin resistance should avoid apple fruit juice and even limit their consumption of whole apples.

For some people, the high sugar content of apple may pose a problem. People in pre-diabetic states, those with metabolic disorders and diabetics may struggle with blood sugar control if they regularly eat apples or drink apple juices. A moderation in apple consumption is recommended especially for such people.

With its many health benefits, eating apples may well be worth the risk of increased blood sugar. However, such risks can be addressed by regular exercise. This help burn some of the blood sugar obtained from apples leaving you with a good amount of desired apple antioxidants. Therefore, by eating apple just before your workout, you can ensure that the fruit does not raise your blood sugar level even while still retaining all of its health benefits.

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