'An apple a day' is more than a silly rhyme


The statement, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is more than just an old wives’ tale. Apples contain several things that contribute to good health and may actually help to stem obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and colorectal cancer.


Eating an apple 30 minutes before a meal is one of the best appetite suppressants available. Apples contain a soluble fiber known as pectin. Pectin becomes gelatinous when heated, and it is the substance that is instrumental in firming jelly and jam.


When pectin is ingested, it creates a gooey coating within the digestive tract that fools the body into feeling full and decreases the production of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. This pectin coating also prevents the sudden release of sugars into the bloodstream. Blood sugar spikes contribute to a cycle of fatigue and overeating that are related to obesity and the onset of type 2 diabetes.


Acetic acid is another chemical compound found in apples. Research done in Japan suggests that ingesting acetic acid regularly triggers genes in the body to oxidize fatty acids more quickly. This suggests that people who ingest acetic acid while on a calorie-restricted diet will burn body fat more quickly.


As the oxidation of fatty acids takes place in the liver, ingestion of acetic acid also affects blood lipid (cholesterol) levels in a beneficial way. The physical reaction to acetic acid is the basis of the “apple cider vinegar” diet. Acetic acid also tends to slow gastric emptying, thus blunting blood sugar spikes after a meal that is high in carbohydrates.


The antioxidant quercetin is found in abundance in fresh apples, and according to researchers at Cornell University, this chemical appears to help protect brain cells from neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Quercetin is found primarily in the skin of the apple, so eating unpeeled fresh fruit is the best source of this chemical.


Finally, apples are a terrific source of the fiber, cellulose. Cellulose is an indigestible fiber and its presence in the diet has been linked to reduced rates of colorectal cancer. Cellulose keeps a person regular, and regularity without drug usage not only increases a person’s feeling of well-being in general, it also minimizes gastrointestinal disorders such as diverticulosis and irritable bowel disease.


There is also an inverse relationship between fiber intake in general and the growth of polyps in the digestive tract.


According to the 2011 International Food Information Council, only 3% of adults follow a diet that meets their daily fiber needs. Adding an apple a day is a safe, delicious way to reverse this trend, improve health and if purchased directly from an orchard or farm market, support local business.

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