We are all familiar with the old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” This catchy phrase dates back to the 19th century and the concept is quite old. Ancient Romans knew about the healthful properties of apples and they also pop up in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, dating back about 1,500 years in Southeast Asia. According to Chinese Medicine: Apples strengthen the heart, quench thirst, lubricate the lungs, decrease mucous and increase body fluids.
The popularity of the phrase has not been ignored by modern science, either. Researchers and doctors have conducted numerous studies on the health benefits of apples — exploring whether they can actually reduce trips to the doctor. In 2012, an Ohio State University study found that eating an apple a day helped significantly lower levels of bad cholesterol in middle-aged adults, and in 2011 a Dutch study found that eating apples and pears might help prevent strokes. Other researchers have also found that eating five apples a week lowered the risk for respiratory diseases like asthma.
For these reasons, I refer to apples as our “first superfood". There are more than 7,500 varieties of apples! An average apple has only 50-80 calories and has no fat or sodium. Apples are filled with soluble fiber (5 grams). This fiber has been shown to reduce intestinal disorders, including diverticulitis, hemorrhoids and possibly some types of cancer. It helps control insulin levels by releasing sugar slowly into the bloodstream. It cleanses and detoxifies, which helps eliminate heavy metals, such as lead and mercury and promotes healthy skin. Apple pectin helps reduce cholesterol levels by lowering insulin secretion. Apples provide a source of potassium, which may promote a healthy heart.
Apples may also help you consume less calories and lose weight. People who ate an apple about 15 minutes before a meal consumed almost 190 fewer calories than when they didn't have the apple. This makes sense of course, because after vegetables, fruits are the next lowest food in calorie density.
So there you have it ... lots of good reasons why it is good for you to eat an apple a day!
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Evelisse Capó, Pharm.D.