‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is certainly no exaggeration, for the mighty apple is indeed a storehouse of vitamins, minerals and many other valuable substances. In fact, apple consumption has been associated with reduced risk for a number of diseases, including cancer, particularly lung cancer, as well as cardiovascular diseases, asthma and type 2 diabetes.
Apples are rich in vitamin C and vitamin E the content varying with the 7000 varieties known. Vitamin C and E are powerful antioxidants, help to build a strong immune system, fight chronic diseases and slow aging.
Apples are also an excellent source of disease-fighting soluble fibre — pectin. Its high pectin content helps to lower cholesterol and acts like a laxative by bulking the stool and maintaining intestinal balance. Pectin also helps to bind toxic metals such as mercury and lead and excrete them.
Cooked apples also known to relieve diarrhoea, dysentery and colitis. One large apple a day has been shown to reduce serum cholesterol levels by 8-11 per cent. The pectin in apples supplies galacturonic acid to the body, which lowers the body’s need for insulin and may help in the management of diabetes.
In fact, apples and apple juice are rich in phytochemicals (plant chemicals) including flavanoids and polyphenols. Polyphenols such as tannins (tannic acid) are potent enemies of viruses particularly herpes simplex virus. Two polyphenols found in apples — phloridzin and phloretin xyloglucoside — have to date not been found in any other fruits.
Not only are apples exceptionally rich in phenols, they also have the highest concentration of “free phenols”, which means they are more available for absorption into the blood stream. Quite impressively, the anti-oxidant capacity of approximately one apple is equivalent to about 1500 mg of vitamin C (although one apple has only about 5 mg of vitamin C). Tannins have anti-oxidant properties, which help in disease protection including cancer prevention. A recent study reported that risk of colorectal cancer was reduced by about 50 per cent on intake of more than one apple a day.
Tannins are also astringent in nature which may be the reason why cooked apples help in diarrhoea management. Apple peels contains more anti-oxidant compounds, especially poly-phenols and vitamin C, than the flesh. A peel provides anywhere two-six times (depending on the variety) more phenolic compounds than the flesh, and about 2-3 times more flavanoids. The antioxidant activity of apple peal is about two to six times that of apple flesh. Quercetin, a flavanoid present in apples in high concentration has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-diabetic, cholesterol lowering and anti-cancer It has also been reported that people with the highest consumption of apples had a lower risk of thrombotic stroke compared to the ones with the lowest consumption. Interestingly, apple consumption has been inversely linked with asthma and has also been positively associated with pulmonary health.
Apart from being high in nutrients, they are also a great bonus for weight watchers and diabetics. With a glycemic index of about 50, apples dampen appetite, keep you going for longer and are low in calories. They contain a high proportion of fructose a sugar metabolised slowly in the body and help to maintain blood sugar levels.
Apples also are wonderful aid to digestion. Malic and tartaric acid regulate stomach acidity and help in digestion of protein and fat. Apple cider vinegar has been used by naturopaths for curing hyper acidity, asthma, arthritis, sinusitis and improving absorption of nutrients particularly calcium.
Ishi Khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being, one should integrate physical, mental and spiritual health. According to her: “To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines