Apples are great! And North America is really great for growing apples, with the US being the second-largest producer of apples in the world.
Thousands of apple varieties exist in the world, and a small amount of those are good for consumer eating and sold in stores. This article will go over the nutritional benefits of these American icons and the different uses for different varieties.
Beneficial Nutrients in Apples
Almost everyone has heard the aphorism “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. It’s true that apples are extremely nutritious and even more so, have many phytochemicals which researchers don’t necessarily understand yet, but could have disease-fighting properties.
Some of the nutrients present in high amounts in apples are fiber, vitamin C, polyphenols, and potassium, which I have described in more detail below.
How Apples Promote Good Health
- Fiber: As many of you know, fiber is very important in gut health, balancing cholesterol, and reducing risk of colon cancer. Apples contain high amounts of both soluble (pectin on the inside) and insoluble fiber (if you eat the skin) which are both important for health. Here is a website that goes into detail about different types of fiber.
- Vitamin C: This is the highest content vitamin in apples, which is very important for general immune and antioxidant functions in the body.
- Polyphenols: Polyphenols are a group of phytochemicals (plant nutrients) that function as antioxidants. They are thought to reduce risk for many chronic diseases and cancer. Since the polyphenol research is new, their function in cancer risk reduction is not very well-understood. Go here for the most recent comprehensive understanding of polyphenols in research.
- Potassium: This highest content mineral in apples is also very important for many functions in the body. It’s important for brain connections, blood composition, and maintaining healthy heart function.
Evidence for Cancer Risk Reduction
In general, any food high in vitamin C and fiber could help reduce cancer risk. Both fiber and vitamin C are crucial to an overall healthy body and function. Fiber is crucial to gastrointestinal and colon health and proven to be key to reducing risk of colon cancer.
Vitamin C is a critical part of immune function and regulating free radicals via it’s antioxidant properties. Free radicals can be the cause of many chronic health problems like atherosclerosis and cancer due to their tendency to damage cells, DNA, and tissues. It’s best to get vitamin C from the foods you eat, rather than in pill or powder form.
The antioxidant polyphenols in apples function to prevent cancer-forming damage from free radicals in the same way as Vitamin C.
These nutrients are important for reducing cancer risk, but research does not show that it has a curative effect on cancer.
We do know that antioxidants specifically are NOT helpful for treating cancer. Some studies have shown that once a cancer is formed, the cancerous cells will use high doses of antioxidants to their benefit to keep growing faster.
The recommendation for people during cancer treatment is to avoid supplement versions of antioxidants. However, consuming food forms of antioxidants during treatment is definitely recommended!
More detailed helpful information can be found on the AICR website describing the benefits of apples and the current evidence on their possible cancer risk mitigation effects.
Future Cooking Class
The cooking class for October will be on Nutritious Desserts, featuring a brand-new homemade Whole Grain Apple Crisp recipe! Come and enjoy watching Julie cook and learn more about this wonderful fruit!
Register for the class which takes place on October 28th @ 11 am here!
- Video on free radicals and reactive oxygen species
- Antioxidants and Cancer prevention from the National Cancer Institute
- Further information on fiber from AICR