We’ve heard it all our lives: “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Moms tucked apples in lunch bags for school, gave them as after-school snacks, and packed them in picnics. We grew up with the delicious orbs and now give them to our own children. But do they keep the doctor away? Studies say a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating including apples for many medical conditions does, indeed, keep the doctor away. The trouble is that many don’t get their six servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Here’s why an apple a day really does work.
Apples Keep the Doctor Away on a Cellular Level
No, we’re not talking about smart phones. All of life begins in the cells of the body. These can be damaged by the black sheep of the family called free radicals. They are produced by the cells and pick fights with other components of the cells, sometimes destroying them altogether. The most important is oxygen, which, when combined with lots of things (think of the rust on a car) causes oxidation. The condition caused is called oxidative stress.
Why Eating an Apple is a Good Idea: Antioxidants and flavonoids from plant-based foods help knock out free radicals. This canceling out of the oxygenating free radicals means they are washed out of the system, the damage is repaired and life goes on. Thank an apple for that.
An Apple a Day Cuts Cholesterol
The cells are made of a fatty substance called cholesterol. Cholesterol makes hormones, too. Too much of it and the arteries get clogged up when it sticks to the sides. That spells a heart attack and causes 12 percent of them. The confusing part is that there is a “good” cholesterol or HDL and a “bad” cholesterol or LDL (remember it as loser). Just remember it’s a good idea to keep the good cholesterol or HDL (remember it as hip or happy) within acceptable levels (below 4.0).
Why Eating an Apple is a Good Idea: The antioxidants in apples aren’t the only things that fight bad cholesterol. The pectin or soluble fibre in apples also fights the bad cholesterol or LDL. Studies have shown that just eating two apples per day staved off heart attack and stroke in record time.
Apples Aid Those with Asthma and COPD
Breathing works by drawing in oxygen into the lungs unimpeded. The oxygen goes through small tubes or hairs called bronchi. In a picture of the lungs, they resemble the branches of a tree. The air goes in as the bronchi open, and goes back out as the bronchi close. The average person will never know anything is wrong when he breathes. Asthma occurs when the bronchi or the hair-like breathing tubes in the lungs get irritated. COPD is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The obstruction consists of the bronchi or the hairs being stuck open with no way to close. Either of these conditions cause the chest to close up, the person unable to breathe, and is frightening in the extreme. Bronchodilators and rescue inhalers keep the person able to breathe clearly.
Why Eating an Apple is a Good Idea: Inhaling air pollution, chemicals and other airway irritants cause oxidative stress. Some free radicals enter the lungs through the pollution and cause their brand of havoc. Antioxidants will fix that. However, the flavonoids in apples block the chemicals that cause the asthmatic or COPD response in the first place. Apples, along with other plant-based foods, contain Vitamins C, A and B complex, all of which are antioxidants. These are anti-inflammatories, as well as keeping the mucus membranes healthy and functioning. You have to eat the skin, though, because that’s where all the good stuff is packed.
Pre-Diabetic? Diabetic? Crunch an Apple!
Insulin is a hormone produced in the islets of Langerhans inside the pancreas. When food enters the body, insulin rides along to take the sugars to the cells. With that said, Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Type 2 is when it produces enough, but the cells don’t want it. This is called insulin resistance.
Why Eating an Apple is a Good Idea: Apples contain polyphenols, which are found in plant-based foods. They protect the body against all kinds of terrible diseases. One of them is called quercetin. This polyphenol slows down absorption of sugars in the body. The pancreas has time, therefore, to produce insulin, the insulin has time to take the sugars to the cells, and the cells accept the sugars.
In pre-diabetes, this equates to no stoppage of sugar absorption or metabolism. The body functions normally. In diabetics, eating two apples per day has the effect of lowering blood sugar levels and maintaining them.
Overweight? Getting Close? Eat an Apple!
It’s funny that the fruit for which a certain body type is named should be its salvation. The first body type is the pear, which means fat is stored in the hips and thighs, making them larger than the torso. The second is the apple, the body type that looks round in the middle, because that’s where the fat is stored. Both are bad for the health, but the “apple” body type is worse, experts say, because of its proximity to the heart.
Why Eating an Apple is a Good Idea: Apples are 85 percent water. This alone is filling, but add its fibre content to the equation, and weight loss is the answer. They are lower in calories altogether. Eating one just before a meal means the caloric intake will be less, much like cutting your portions by one third.
A healthy lifestyle isn’t only about eating right. It’s about exercise, quality sleep, fresh air and quitting smoking and drinking. It’s about mindfulness used for stress control instead of more chemicals in the body. Help all this along with a bright, shiny apple!