The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family (Rosaceae). It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits, and the most widely known of the many members of genus Malus that are used by humans. The tree originated in Western Asia, where its wild ancestor is still found today. Apples have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe, and were brought to North America by European colonists. Apples have been present in the mythology and religions of many cultures, including Norse, Greek and Christian traditions.
Apples have long been associated with the biblical story of Adam and Eve, although there is actually no mention that, in fact, the fruit in question was actually an apple. In Norse mythology, apples were given a more positive persona: a magic apple was said to keep people young forever. Apples' most recent appearance in history occurred in the 1800s in the U.S., when Johnny Appleseed - a real person named John Chapman - walked barefoot across an area of 100,000 square miles, planting apple trees that provided food and a livelihood for generations of settlers.
Is "An Apple A Day" really good advice? Yes! Apples are good for your blood sugar, heart health, cancer prevention and so much more. The phytonutrients in apples can help you regulate your blood sugar. Recent research has shown that intake of apples in their whole food form can significantly lower many of our blood fats. The fat-lowering effects of apple have traditionally been associated with its soluble fiber content, and in particular, with its fat-soluble fiber called pectin. But it's not fiber alone that explains the cardiovascular benefits of apple, it's the interaction of fiber with other phytonutrients in this wonderful fruit. If you want the full cardiovascular benefits of apples, it's the whole food form that you'll want to choose. Only this form can provide you with those unique fiber-plus-phytonutrient combinations.
The whole food form of apples is also important if you want full satisfaction from eating them. Researchers have recently compared intake of whole apples to intake of applesauce and apple juice, only to discover that people report less hunger (and better satiety, or food satisfaction) after eating whole apples than after eating applesauce or drinking apple juice. But especially interesting was an additional finding about calorie intake following apple consumption. When healthy adults consumed one medium-sized apple approximately 15 minutes before a meal, their caloric intake at that meal decreased by an average of 15%. Since meals in this study averaged 1,240 calories, a reduction of 15% meant a reduction of 186 calories, or about 60 more calories than contained in a medium apple. For these researchers, "getting ahead" in calories with a net reduction of 60 calories was a welcomed outcome of the study, and an extra benefit to their study's primary conclusion: the importance of whole apples (versus other more processed apple forms) in helping us manage our hunger and feeling more satisfied with our food.
Although some preliminary results show apple benefits for several different cancer types (especially colon cancer and breast cancer), it's the area of lung cancer benefits that stand out in the apple research. Like the lung cancer benefits of apples, the anti-asthma benefits have been somewhat surprising to health researchers. Multiple studies have shown apple intake to be associated with decreased risk of asthma. Like the anti-cancer benefits of apples, apples' anti-asthma benefits are definitely associated with the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients found in this fruit. However, there is very likely to be something else going on as well since apples appear to be a truly standout fruit in this regard.
While not as developed as research in other areas, preliminary health benefits of apples have also been established for several age-related health problems, including macular degeneration of the eye and neurodegenerative problems, including Alzheimer's disease. In animal studies, prevention of bone loss has also been an area of investigation, particularly related to the phloridizin content of apples.
So eat those whole apples every day!
A few quick serving ideas
Add diced apples to fruit or green salads.
Braise a chopped apple with red cabbage.
Looking for an alternative to sweet desserts? Sliced apples (either alone or with other fruits) and cheese are a European favorite.
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