We have all heard it hundreds of times — It is called the French paradox — that the consumption of red wine may lower the risk of heart attacks. But, have you heard what apples can do for your health?
The health benefits of apples and their products have been touted for centuries and gave rise to the old English saying "ate an apfel avore gwain to bed makes the doctor beg his bread." The modern version is "an apple a day keeps the doctor away."
Until very recently, the apple’s health benefits were believed to be primarily as a dietary source rich in potassium and fiber. But in the last few years the documented health benefits have exploded! As little as one apple a day can produce the following:
Reduce cancer of liver, colon, lung and prostate 1
Reduce the risk of heart disease 2
Increase lung function and also decrease lung disease, including asthma 3
Decrease the risk of strokes 4
What can explain these remarkable effects? It may be due to a class of compounds called phytonutrients, strong natural antioxidants. For example, did you know that 2/3 of a medium sized fresh apple provides the total antioxidant activity of 1500 milligrams of vitamin C? That is 15 times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C! 5
You see, in the old days, we thought of food as a source of calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Later we found that vitamins, minerals and fiber played important roles too. Today much of our junk food and snacks publicize their contents of these substances. But now, it is being discovered that phytonutrients, flavinoids, and antioxidants play important roles in long-term health. Biochemicals such as quecetin, catechin and resveratrol are being discovered and their health benefits realized.
The total health benefits from apples may be greater than from it's individual components. These phytonutrients in apples and other natural foods may work together in synergy, which means that the total health benefit is greater than the sum of the components. Whole foods present a complicated and delicate balanced variety of nutrients that, working together in nature's proportions, offer enhanced nutritional benefits. Popping a vitamin pill or two just won't do it. Eat the way nature intended.
In all fairness, the onion is also rich in phytonutrients. So, you can eat your uncooked, pungent dry onion — or you can eat your crisp, sweet, juicy apple every day. The choice is yours.
1. Phytonutrients in apples inhibited the growth of liver and colon cancer cells (Cornell University, USA, Nature, 2000,405:903-4). In comparing dietary habits of 600 lung cancer patients with a 600 patient control group, it was found that the intake of flavinoids only from apples, onions and grapefruit substantially reduced the incidence of lung cancer (University of Hawaii, USA, J. Nat. Can. Inst., 2000, 92:154-60). A study spanning 24 years and 10,000 adults, found 20% reduction in all cancers and 46% reduction in lung cancer from eating flavinoid-rich foods such as apples, onions, fruit juices, etc.... Of the major dietary flavinoid sources, apples were most effective in reducing lung cancer (Finland Nat. Public Health Inst., Am. J. Epiderm. 1997, 146:223-30). Quercetin, a flavinoid found most abundantly in apples, inhibited the growth of human prostate cancer cells. (Mayo Clinic, USA, Carcinogen, 2001, 22:409-14.)
2. Daily consumption of apples and apple juice may help reduce damage caused by "bad" type of cholesterol (LDL) and slow the buildup of arterial plaques. This finding was based on volunteers who ate two apples or drank 12 oz. of apple juice per day (Univ. Calif. Davis, USA, J. Medicinal Food, 2000, 3:159-65 see also Life Sciences, 1999, 64:1913-20).
3. Apple eating adults had a better lung function than non-apple eaters, as measured by forced expiratory volume. A correlation was found between number of apples eaten each week in this 5-year study of 2,512 men, but there was no correlation with Vitamin C intake (United Kingdom, Thorax 2000, 55:102-8). A 9-year study of 2,633 adults found better lung function and decreased respiratory disease, including asthma, in those eating an apple a day, when compared to non-apple eaters (Univ. Nottingham, United Kingdom, Am. Thoracic Soc. Am. Meeting, May 2001). In a case-controlled study of long-term heavy smokers eating one apple a day, the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was reduced by almost 50% (Univ. Groningen, The Netherlands, Am. Thoracic Soc. Am. Meeting, May 2001 Poster 617). These investigators also reported that apples were the only individual fruit to be significantly protective.
4. Analysis of the dietary records and health outcomes of 9,208 men followed for 28 years, concluded that those who ate the most apples had the lowest risk of thrombatic stroke (Finland, Europe. J. Clin. Nutrc., 2000, 54:415-7). High consumption of flavinoids from apples and onions are directly associated with the lowest risk for coronary mortality. This came from a study of 5,144 adults who were free of heart disease and followed for 25 years (Finland, Brit. Med. J., 1996, 312:478-81).
5. Cornell University, USA (Nature, 2000, 405:903-4).