Apples: Health benefits, nutrition facts, history

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OFTEN called a “miracle food” and a “nutritional powerhouse,” an apple a day really may keep the doctor away as they’re one of the healthiest foods a person can eat. These round and juicy fruits are high in fiber and vitamin C, and they are also low in calories, have only a trace of sodium, and no fat or cholesterol.
“Apples are high in polyphenols, which function as antioxidants,” said Laura Flores, a nutritionist based in San Diego. “These polyphenols are found in both the skin of the apples as well as in the meat, so to get the greatest amount of benefits, eat the skin of the apple.”
All of these benefits mean that apples may mitigate the effects of asthma and Alzheimer’s disease, while assisting with weight management, bone health, pulmonary function and gastrointestinal protection. Apples are loaded with vitamin C, especially in the skins, which are also full of fiber, Flores said. Apples contain insoluble fiber, which is the type of fiber that doesn’t absorb water. It provides bulk in the intestinal tract and helps food move quickly through the digestive system, according to Medline Plus.
In addition to digestion-aiding insoluble fiber, apples have soluble fiber, such as pectin. This nutrient helps prevent cholesterol from building up in the lining of blood vessels, which, in turn, helps prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease. In a 2011 study, women who ate about 75 grams (2.6 ounces, or about one-third of a cup) of dried apples every day for six months had a 23 percent decrease in bad LDL cholesterol, said study researcher Bahram H. Arjmandi, a professor and chair of the department of nutrition at Florida State University. Additionally, the women’s levels of good HDL cholesterol increased by about 4 percent, according to the study.
When it comes to polyphenols and antioxidants, Flores explained that they “work in the cell lining to decrease oxidation resulting in lowering risk of cardiovascular disease.” A 2017 article published in Trends in Food Science & Technology adds that blood pressure may also be reduced in those with or at risk of hypertension, which also lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. A decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes, which can also lead to cardiovascular disease, was found in a study of more than 38,000 women and was also attributed to certain polyphenols and the high-fiber content of apples. There may be respiratory benefits to eating apples, as well. “Apples’ antioxidant benefits can help lower the risk of asthma,” Flores told Live Science.

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