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Volume III
September 28, 2012

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

15 Reasons Why You Want Your Apple-a-Day

By Alice Osborne

I was thumbing through a copy of Best Health Magazine the other day and found this intriguing information:

"In 2004, USDA scientists investigated over 100 foods to measure their antioxidant concentration per serving size. Red Delicious and Granny Smith ranked 12th and 13th on the list, respectively. Antioxidants fight disease by helping to prevent and repair oxidation damage that happens during normal cell activity.

Apples are also full of a fiber called pectin - a medium-sized apple contains about 4 grams of fiber. Pectin is classed as a soluble, fermentable and viscous fiber, a combination that gives it a huge list of health benefits. For instance, take a look at just 15:

1. Get whiter, healthier teeth: An apple won't replace your toothbrush, but biting and chewing an apple stimulates the production of saliva in your mouth, reducing tooth decay by lowering the levels of bacteria.

2. Avoid Alzheimer's: Research shows that drinking apple juice helps keep Alzheimer's away and fights the effects of aging on the brain.

3. Protect against Parkinson's: Research has shown that people who eat fruits and other high-fiber foods gain a certain amount of protection against Parkinson's, a disease characterized by a breakdown of the brain's dopamine-producing nerve cells. Scientists have linked this to the free radical-fighting power of the antioxidants contained therein.

4. Curb all sorts of cancers: Scientists agree that the consumption of flavonol-rich apples could help reduce your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by up to 23%. Researchers have identified several compounds - triterpenoids - in apple peel that have potent anti-growth activities against cancer cells in the liver, colon and breast. And the National Cancer Institute has recommended a high fiber intake to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

5. Decrease your risk of diabetes: Folks who eat at least one apple a day are 28% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who don't eat apples. Apples are loaded with soluble fiber, the key to blunting blood sugar swings.

6. Reduce cholesterol: The soluble fiber found in apples binds with fats in the intestine, which translates into lower cholesterol levels and a healthier you.

7. Get a healthier heart: High soluble fiber intake is linked with a slower buildup of cholesterol-rich plaque in your arteries. The phenolic compound found in apple skins also prevents the cholesterol that gets into your system from solidifying on your artery walls. When plaque builds inside your arteries, it reduces blood flow to your heart, leading to coronary artery disease.

8. Prevent gallstones: Gallstones form when there's too much cholesterol in your bile for it to remain as a liquid, so it solidifies. They are particularly prevalent in the obese. To prevent gallstones, doctors recommend a diet high in fiber to help you control your weight and cholesterol levels.

9. Beat diarrhea and constipation: Whether you can't go to the bathroom or you just can't stop, fiber found in apples can help. Fiber can either pull water out of your colon to keep things moving along when you're backed up, or absorb excess water from your stool to slow your bowels down.

10. Neutralize irritable bowel syndrome: Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and bloating. To control these symptoms doctors recommend staying away from dairy and fatty foods while including a high intake of fiber in your diet.

11. Avert hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids are a swollen vein in the anal canal and while not life threatening, these veins can be very painful. They are caused by too much pressure in the pelvic and rectal areas. Part and parcel with controlling constipation, fiber can prevent you from straining too much when going to the bathroom and thereby help alleviate hemorrhoids.

12. Control your weight: Many health problems are associated with being overweight, among them heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. To manage your weight and improve your overall health, doctors recommend a diet rich in fiber. Foods high in fiber will fill you up without costing you too many calories.

13. Detoxify your liver: We're constantly consuming toxins, whether it is from drinks or food, and the liver is responsible for clearing these toxins out of the body. Many doctors are skeptical of fad 'detox' diets, saying they have the potential to do more harm than good. Luckily, one of the best - and easiest - things you can eat to help detoxify your liver is fruits - like apples.

14. Boost your immune system: Red apples contain an antioxidant called quercetin. This helps boost and fortify your immune system, especially when you're stressed out.

15. Prevent cataracts: Though past studies have been divided on the issue, recent long-term studies suggest that people who have a diet rich in fruits that contain antioxidants - like apples - are 10% to 15% less likely to develop cataracts."

Mom must have known all this, because she kept a bowl full of apples always on the dining table and more in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. And she used to insert grated apple into just about everything. She would grate Jonathan apples, with the skin, and add them to pancake batter, muffin batter, spice cake and carrot cake batters, oatmeal cookies, and salads. She would also sprinkle grated apple (with the skin) on top of our wintertime bowls of peaches, pears, plums, and cherries that she'd serve for dessert.

Of course, there was always apple pie. And I conclude with the answer to a common apple question:

Q: What are the best apples for apple pie? Here's what professional chefs, bakers, and seasoned home cooks agree on:

A: Basically, what you're looking for is an apple that'll hold its shape when cooked - you don't want an applesauce pie, after all. Sometimes you'll see apples labeled as "cooking apples" or "baking apples" in the store. While these can be eaten raw, too, they're exactly what you need for pie. Some favorites include Jonagolds, Granny Smiths, Galas, Northern Spys, and Braeburns. If you have particularly juicy apples, cook the filling before adding it to your crust, or add extra thickener (instant tapioca is a perfect thickener as it fades nicely into the background, letting the food shine).


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