Johnny Appleseed and Sleeping Beauty would recommend eating apples every day, but there is more that hasn't been told about apples! You may not be aware that apples belong to the Rosaceae (Rose) family. Apples are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, flavonoids such as procyanidins & quercetin (found in the skin of apples, not the apple flesh), and various fibers. One whole medium apple has approximately 4 grams of fiber. One of the various fibers found in apple is pectin. “What is pectin??” you may be asking yourself! Pectin is a soluble gel-forming fiber most concentrated in apples and citrus fruits. Your next question may be “What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?” Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water to form a gel-like consistency, whereas insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water. However, insoluble fiber tends to soften and increase the bulk of stool.
Apple pectin has cholesterol reducing effects and may be anti-athrogenic. The polyphenols and antioxidants reduce the pro-inflammatory cytokines which reduces inflammation, and prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Having an apple-a-day not only “keeps the doctor away”, but also keeps the inflammation way! Not bad for an apple, eh?! Having an apple as part of your daily diet can improve your cardiovascular health and bring a healthy “you” closer your way.
The fermentation of dietary fiber by the beneficial intestinal flora produces beneficial short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which include acetate, propionate, and butyrate. All three SCFAs have important physiologic functions, but butyrate is the preferred fuel by the colonocytes (colon cells). Butyrate production may contribute to the anti-cancer properties of the consumption of dietary fiber. The belief is that butyrate improves the function of normal colonocytes, yet inhibits the neoplastic colonocytes.
Dietary fiber is important for a healthy colon to effectively eliminate wastes, but not all fibers increase the levels of SCFAs in the colon. Pectin however, has double benefits! It not only allows the production of more SCFAs, it also increases the numbers beneficial bacteria in our GI tract by making our colon a more “suitable and condusive” environment for the beneficial bacteria to thrive by decreasing the pH in the colon. It should be of no surprise that a pectin-rich diet increases the numbers of butyrate-producing bacteria!
For most children today, apple juice is their juice of choice. But what most parents do not realize is that cloudy apple juice is a richer source of antioxidants than clear apple juice. Cloudy apple juice is over four times richer in polyphenols and flavonoids than clear apple juice. Polyphenols possess antioxidant radical-scavenging activity with disease-fighting properties. It seems that to produce clear apple juice, an enzyme is added to remove the pectin and starch content which is naturally found in cloudy apple juice. This additional enzyme process significantly lowers the polyphenolic content of clear apple juice. When purchasing apple juice for the family, it is wise to invest in the cloudy apple juice for the added benefits to your health. Another important apple-fact to keep in mind is that traditionally, apple juice has been used as a treatment to reduce the duration and symptoms of diarrhea or constipation in children. And traditionally, cloudy apple juice was used! Apples and apple juice have historically been used to cleanse the liver and gallbladder. In addition, they can soften gallstones to assist in passing them, and apples may assist in preventing kidney stone formation. More recently, apple pectin has been used to help eliminate heavy metal toxins such as mercury & cesium, as well as radiation residues.
Because non-organic apples are sprayed with heavy chemicals and pesticides, they are on the top of the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. It is wise to invest in organic apples. And typically, apples can be stored for a good length of time and retain its organic nutritive value, which makes apples a “forgiving” investment!
Apples to your health!
Cindy Azevedo, ND Student, University of Bridgeport
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