What Are Apples?
Apples are a fruit grown on trees all over the world. Many of them are about the size of a baseball, and they come in red, green, and yellow. An apple can be consumed fresh off the tree, cooked, added to salads and sauces, or made into various sweet dishes.
The most popular varieties of apples are Gala, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Fuji, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Ambrosia. Apples aren’t only delicious to eat—they’re also part of good nutrition as well.
History Of Apples
Every day, archaeologists find ancient preserved apple cuttings, trees, or seeds. The fruit originated in Kazakhstan in the Tien Shan mountains. The seeds were carried across Asia and Europe, first by birds and animals. Apples then made their way around the continent from traders on the Silk Road.
Although the apple that caused trouble in the Bible is dated at around 3,000 years ago, it’s older than that by around 10,000 years. Archaeology can date ancient apple seeds, but it can’t tell us how the people who grew them processed them or created new forms of apples.
Wild apples have grown for millions of years, as far back as the Ice Age. They were quite large at one time, as proven by archaeological findings. Consumed by the enormous animals living at that time, the seeds were then dispersed over the landscape by said animals.
Once the huge animals died, the seeds could not be spread by the animals left to eat them. They were too big to eat. Humans noticed the large fruit and traded it. They grafted the most promising types of trees, which then became the progenitors of the fruit we use today.
The modern apple has been subjected to countless genetic studies. The studies have found that ancient wild apples were hybridized to form the ancestors of today’s fruit. Nuts and fruits were among the most traded commodities from the Silk Road, with at least four wild apple types in the mix.
Cultivation of Apples
Fast forward to the 1600s. Europeans brought cuttings and seeds of plants and trees to the New World, which is how things not native to the Americas arrived here. Apples were one of them. The thing is that the fruit was not eaten for itself. It was made into cider, then a huge thing in Europe.
Today’s apples are grown from budding or grafting. Twenty-five hundred varieties of apples are grown in 36 states commercially, but in all 50 states for other reasons. The majority of them are used as fresh fruit, with a certain percentage used as applesauce, apple juice, apple cider vinegar, and baby food.
Cooking with Apples
Everyone has eaten a bright red candied apple at the county fair. We’ve eaten apple butter on our breakfast toast, applesauce, and apple fritters. There are as many ways to cook with apples as there are apples themselves.
Apples are added to salads, cooked cabbage, many varieties of bruschetta, meat and vegetable skewers, garnishes like chutney, bread stuffing, pancakes and waffles, apple pies and turnovers, and the list goes on.
The fruit can be mixed with meats to make patties, giving them texture and a little sweetness. They are often mixed with vegetables for slaw and salads or with bread, cakes, and pies. They are also juiced to make sauces and drinks.
Cooking with fruits adds texture, color, and flavor to any dish. The added nutrition isn’t a bad idea, either. The fruit is versatile and healthy, so add some to your favorite dishes.
Apples’ Benefits to Health and Body
Doctors have, for many years, been telling us that health and fruit go hand in hand. While health and fruit go well together, they add vitamin(s), minerals, and other nutrients to the body to form the basis of good nutrition. It’s this nutrition that strengthens the body’s systems, contributes to bone health, and fights off heart disease and medical conditions.
Apples and Bone Health
The fruit does vital things for bone health. A French study found that only apples contain a flavonoid named phlorizin. Flavonoids give fruits and vegetables their bright colors. Inside the body, flavonoids strengthen the immune system and act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. This helps to fight cardiovascular diseases as well as some types of cancer.
The flavonoid phlorizin might protect women in post-menopause from osteoporosis. Medium apples contain the necessary daily fiber, Vitamin C (which helps the body form collagen or a bone-strengthening substance,) and many polyphenols (which protect tissues and organs from oxidative stress), all of which contribute to strong bone health.
Apples and Cardiovascular Health
Each organ is part of a system, such as the lungs and heart being part of the cardiovascular system. The endocrine system is the seat of diabetes. Apples contain quercetin, a flavonoid renowned for its anti-inflammatory compounds. In heart disease, for example, the enemy is cholesterol. When cholesterol finds its way into the arteries, the arteries respond by using inflammation to block its advance.
However, when this happens, it simply allows more cholesterol to build up, which ends up in a trip to the ER with heart disease or an attack from blocked arteries. Quercetin prevents LDL or bad cholesterol from doing its work in the arteries. The majority of the nutrition in apples and their health benefits lie in the peel components, so eating the apple whole without peeling allows you to get those health benefits and control cholesterol.
Apples and Diabetes
When food is eaten, it’s used by the body for energy. When it gets into the bloodstream, it’s called glucose or blood sugar. The endocrine system produces its own insulin with which to process the glucose. When the glucose is too high for the insulin to process, the body runs out of insulin, which results in diabetes.
A diabetic has to balance his or her food intake to match the medications controlling glucose or blood sugar. This keeps diabetes under control. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables provides fiber that helps control the absorption of sugars, thereby controlling glucose or blood sugar.
Fiber can be soluble or insoluble, meaning that the fiber remains whole (insoluble) or mixes with water (soluble.) Apples are the best of both, with the peel rich in insoluble fiber and the meat of the fruit rich in soluble fiber. For the diabetic, this means that one of the health benefits of apples is that the soluble fiber found in the meat of the apple controls the glucose in the bloodstream.
One of the problems with diabetes is blood sugar spikes. This occurs when food is eaten and not processed right away. It sits in the bloodstream, raising blood sugar. Apples contain polyphenols or plant-based micronutrients. They’re chock full of antioxidants that help cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, weight control, and more. Polyphenols also work to absorb sugars, so the glucose or blood sugar doesn’t spike.
Diabetes is also a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Eating an apple not only keeps the blood glucose under control, but it also prevents the health conditions to which diabetes is a contributor.
Apples and Allergies
When we breathe dust mites, pollen, pet dander, and mold spores, the immune system reacts by releasing a hormone called histamine to battle them. These are called allergens. When we feel itchy skin, watery or itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, and itchy nose and throat, we are having an allergic reaction.
The quercetin and polyphenols in apples are antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Histamine, although it does fight allergens, also causes its own inflammation. This just makes everything worse, from itching to secretions to tightened airways. The anti-inflammatory compounds in apples take care of all this.
Apples and Weight Loss
The body’s metabolism burns calories. The fiber in our foods stimulates metabolism. Apples are full of fiber and help with weight loss in three ways:
1. Fiber aids indigestion. It delays the absorption of fats in foods, which leaves you feeling fuller longer. Satisfied diners don’t binge on sugary fatty foods. Fiber also adds flora or good bacteria to the gut, which further aid in weight loss.
2. Poor processing happens when the body can’t burn off the calories from food intake. If the body is unable to absorb nutrients, then weight gain follows. Improper waste elimination also adds to weight gain. Apples offer malic acid, which helps stomach acid digest foods. All this combines to help the body with weight loss.
3. Along with roughage to keep you full, apples are also 85 percent water. Any food that high in water content will fill you up. Since apples are low in calories, you can eat as many of them as you wish. Weight loss could follow.
Apples and Cancer
Cancer is abnormal cells that divide and reproduce out of all control and then go after normal cells to destroy them. A Cornel study isolated the compounds in apples, finding that the polyphenols and flavonoids stopped cancer cell and/or tumor growth.
Other studies have seen apple components inhibit or stop the signaling of cancer cells, their growth, as well as reproduction. Apple polyphenols have been shown to kill cancer cells by choking off their glucose consumption.
This means the antioxidant properties in apples protect the cells of the body from oxidative stress. That’s a little like something rusting over. Cells like that are wide open to the damages done by the abnormal or cancer cells. The antioxidants in apples give strength to these cells, giving them a chance to fight off the abnormal or cancerous cells.
Many a study has been performed to find the effects of apple components against varying types of cancer. Breast, colorectal, liver, digestive tract, lung cancers, and leukemia have been tested against both rats and the odd human study. Almost all have found the components of apples to be beneficial in killing cancerous cells.
Apple Side Effects
While we’ve seen apples to be a good thing with some pretty important health benefits, they can also cause damage when taken to excess. For example, apple seeds contain cyanide. The amount is so small as to be insignificant, but ingesting a cup of apple seeds would cause side effects.
Apples are also acidic. This can cause side effects in two ways: the acid can eat away the enamel of teeth, and it can make the stomach more acidic than it already is. Taken in moderation, apples won’t contribute to an overly acidic stomach. Brushing your teeth following the consumption of apples will protect the tooth enamel.
Many people think that if something is good, more is better. Food overindulgence causes weight problems. Obesity as side effects lends itself to cancer, diabetes, heart attack and stroke, and a host of other medical problems and health conditions. By all means, have an apple whenever you want one. Just don’t eat a whole bushel of them at one sitting.
Fiber is undoubtedly good for us, as we’ve discussed above. However, if you’re not used to roughage in your diet (eating the jacket of potatoes or the skin of tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, and other fresh fruits and vegetables), diarrhea would be a side effect of apples. It will clear up, though, once your body is accustomed to eating fresh fruits and veggies with skin on.
Almost every American has had an apple in some form since childhood, when we were given apple juice as a changeup from formula. It’s acidic but not as bad as orange juice, so parents feel good giving apple juice to their babies. As we grow into toddlerhood, it’s applesauce. After that, we can eat apples any way we want, including caramel apples at the county fair.
Socrates said, “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be food.” He was right. Food contains all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients our bodies need. While it’s true that the heat from cooking destroys some of them, eating what food we can raw and fresh does more good for our bodies than otherwise.
Research has shown how the components in food help the body. We’ve shown you here how apples do it. Do some research of your own to see how health and fruit go together and what health benefits fresh fruits and vegetables can give you.