Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.
English proverb, 1866
Recently, concept of “superfood” preoccupied media and Internet. While the potential health benefits of the products in this category might indeed be significant, we have to admit that there is no scientific definition of what it means.
“The term "superfoods" is at best meaningless and at worst harmful,' said Catherine Collins, chief dietician at St George's Hospital in London. “There are so many wrong ideas about superfoods that I don't know where best to begin to dismantle the whole concept.” Some experts claim that usual apples and oranges may be as useful to keep you healthy and fight our aging, as some mysterious tropical fruits. “On a restricted budget, it is even more important to ignore dubious, expensive products in the belief you can take short cuts to a good diet. Rather than buying some ridiculous African algae, with all the CO2 emissions associated with travel, eating a cheap British apple would be better for the environment too.”
So, we will review the health benefits of apples today. In 2004, USDA scientists investigated over 100 foods to measure their antioxidant concentration per serving size. Two apples—Red Delicious and Granny Smith—ranked 12th and 13th respectively. Antioxidants are disease-fighting compounds. Scientists believe these compounds help 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. This fruit is low in calories (about 80 calories each), rich in fiber including cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin (the latter is in the peel), besides pectin.
So, we are told that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what exactly are the health benefits of apples?
1. Anti-aging effect. Quercetin found in apples is an important plant pigment flavonoid that serves as a building block for other members of the flavonoid family. Quercetin combats the "free radical" molecules that play a part in many diseases and aging. Including this fruit in your diet every day is a practical anti-aging diet activity.
2. Bone protection. French researchers found that a flavonoid called phloridzin that is found only in apples may protect aging people from osteoporosis and may also increase bone density. Boron, another ingredient in apples, also strengthens bones.
3. Anti-cancer properties. In 2006 scientists from The Institute of Nutrition at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that "apple flavonoids modulate toxicological defense against colon cancer risk factors. In addition to the inhibition of tumor cell proliferation, this could be a mechanism of cancer risk reduction." A study found that rats fed an extract from apple skins had a 43 percent lower risk of colon cancer. Other researches confirm that the pectin in apples reduces the risk of colon cancer and helps maintain a healthy digestive tract.
Also, apples are one of the few fruits that provide ellagic acid which blocks the cancer causing effects of many pollutants including benzene compounds.
Apples have been shown to be effective in reducing others forms of cancer such as lung, breast cancer.
According to one of recent studies of 10,000 people, those who ate the most apples had a 50 percent lower risk of developing lung cancer. Researchers believe this is due to the high levels of the flavonoids quercetin and naringin in apples. A Cornell University study found that rats who ate one apple per day reduced their risk of breast cancer by 17 percent. Rats fed three apples per day reduced their risk by 39 percent and those fed six apples per day reduced their risk by 44 percent.
Another research found that rats fed an extract from apple skins had a 57 percent lower risk of liver cancer.
4. Blood sugar regulation. Apples are also useful in the management of diabetes. Galacturonic acid, found in apples, lowers the body’s need for insulin. Eaten in moderation, apples can be a real treat for somebody living with diabetes because of the limited choices in the diet, it can be the solution to a sweet tooth. It has been shown by other study that the pectin in the apple helps to regulate blood sugar - even for insulin dependent diabetics.
5. Alzheimer’s prevention. A new study performed on mice shows that drinking apple juice could keep Alzheimer’s away and fight the effects of aging on the brain. Mice in the study that were fed an apple-enhanced diet showed higher levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and did better in maze tests than those on a regular diet. A study on mice at Cornell University found that the quercetin in apples may protect brain cells from the kind of free radical damage that may lead to Alzheimer's disease.
6. Parkinson’s prevention. 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.
7. Cholesterol reduction. Studies show that 2 large apples a day causes a 16% drop in cholesterol levels. That is a much less expensive way to reduce your cholesterol - and you do not risk negative side effects of drugs. It appears that it is the high amount of pectin as well as the flavonoids in apples that makes for cholesterol reduction.
8. Heart protection. An extensive body of research has linked high soluble fiber intake 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. Also, apples provide a source of potassium which may promote heart health.
9. Gallstones prevention. 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.
10. Help with 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. Also, condition called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), characterized by constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and bloating, can be controlled by reducing amount of dairy and fatty foods in your diet, while including a high intake of fiber, including those contained by apples.
11. Hemorrhoid prevention. 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. Weight loss. A Brazilian study found that women who ate three apples or pears per day lost more weight while dieting than women who did not eat fruit while dieting. Firm and packed with fiber (5 grams, or 20 percent of your daily value), apples demand a chewing commitment, giving your body time to register itself "full" before you scarf down too many calories. And the natural sweeteners in apples enter the bloodstream gradually, helping keep your blood sugar and insulin levels steady so you feel full longer — the opposite of many sugary snacks, which produce a quick rush followed by a hunger-inducing crash.
There are multiple dietitians who promote Golden Apple Rule: Eat an Apple before Each Meal. No other dietary restrictions are required. The theory is that if dieters eat an apple before each meal, the fiber in the apple will fill them up causing them to eat less during the meal.
13. Liver Detoxification. We’re constantly consuming toxins, whether it is from drinks or food, and your liver is responsible for clearing these toxins out of your 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. Mental alertness help. Boron, contained in apples, is essential for mental alertness and for brain functions improvement.
15. Cataracts prevention. 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 per cent less likely to develop cataracts.
16. Boosting exercise endurance. Eating an apple before you work out may boost your exercise endurance. Apples deliver an antioxidant called quercetin, which aids endurance by making oxygen more available to the lungs. One study showed that quercetin—when taken in supplement form—helped people bike longer.
17. Improving mood. Apples contain phenylethylamine (PEA), which gives you a natural feeling of well-being and excitement.
18. Apples as aphrodisiac. Considered the element leading to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, the apple thus became a symbol of sexuality. The fruit is also used in love spells. It was believed that if a woman slept with an apple and persuaded the man she loved to eat the apple, he would fall madly in love with her. Moreover, it is a fact that juicer apples are widely used in erotic games because their juice awakens passion in men. It is a known fact that consuming an apple with honey can work wonders for low sex drive.
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