THE BENEFICIAL PROPERTIES OF APPLES
Apples, which are very tasty fruits, are very well known throughout the world
because they have a strong symbolic worth, as well as having been passed down
in different stories in the Bible and in mythology.
Apples come from the rosaceae family (malus communis melo) and apple trees can grow up to 8m tall. They originate from central Asia and date back to Neolithic times and today there around 2,000 different varieties of apples. The leaves are simple, with jagged edges, and the flowers have white petals with a light pink touch to them. This fruit grows all year round, even if its natural ripening period is from the end of August to the beginning of September, and after having been picked, apples are stored at low but humid temperatures (0-4°C and 85-90% humid). To enjoy them at their best however, they should be stored in cool places.
Apples are extremely popular in Europe and the annual consumption, per capita, is approximately 20kg, which is equal to about 1.5 apples a day. In the United States of America however, only 9kg are consumed per person per year, which is equal to about 1 apple every 4 days. Around 85% of an apple’s weight is water and the rest is made up of carbohydrates and vitamins, such as vitamins A, C and E. Apples have numerous industrial uses: they are used in cakes as well as turned into juices, liquors and creams. The most common apples eaten in Europe are: Golden delicious, Red delicious, Stark delicious, Pink Lady, Royal Gala, Granny Smith, Braeburn and Royal Russet.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away... here is why
This famous saying actually has some truth to it: apples are considered a natural medicine, a remedy for many problems. First and foremost, it must be mentioned that this fruit contains very little fat and protein (100g of apple contains 40 kcal, 10g of sugar, a large quantity of potassium, vitamin B, and citric and malic acids). They also contain vitamin B1, which combats lack of appetite, tiredness and nervousness, and vitamin B2, which makes digestion easier and protects the membranes of the mouth and intestines and reinforces hair and nails. Apples are also good for diabetics as they contain little sugar, as well as fibre (pectin, 2%), which has many benefits. Furthermore, apples can keep glycemia ‘under control’ by regulating the absorption of sugars.
Apples are usually eaten raw and in this case they have an astringent quality but, when cooked, they are very good for constipation. Experts recommend apples for the elderly because they are easy to digest and can be eaten as a dessert, contradicting what dieticians say about eating fruit between and not after meals. Some reports also show that those who eat apples breathe better and some consider apples to be healthier than citrus fruits. In conclusion, if apples are consumed regularly, they can the lower the so called ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and increase the ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) in a short amount of time, and they are considered very precious with regards to preventing strokes and tumours.
Nutritious properties of apples
Nutritionists revealed that in every 100g of edible apple there is about: 85g of water; 0.2g of protein; 0.1g of fat; 11g of different sugars (fructose, glucose, sucrose, etcetera); 2g of fibre; 45-50 Kcal; and 4g of minerals (potassium, sulphur, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron and traces of copper, iodine, zinc, manganese and silicon). Apples are also rich in vitamins: C, PP, B1, B2 and A are all present as well as malic acid (about 0.6-1.3g). Ethers, tannins, alcohols and aldehydes are also present in both the pulp and peel, as well as a large number of terpenes, which create the infinite and various scents and flavours of apples. N.B. The aforementioned values can change depending on the maturity, quality and type of the apple however, since there are well over 1,000 different known varieties.
An apple a day can combat asthma
A study in the medical journal ‘Chest’, carried out on approximately 2,000 people, indicated that a diet low in vitamins and other essential nutrients can noticeably worsen symptoms related to asthma, especially in young people and smokers. The study involved a group of American students who were monitored for about 12 months and each person received a questionnaire to complete, which was about their food habits, any medicinal use and smoking. The participants then underwent some breathing examinations, however the result was not very positive since 1/3 were overweight and 72% did not take the prepared multivitamins. 25% also smoked daily and at least 1/3 did not consume the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables, vitamins A or E, beta-carotene or omega-3, even though just a small amount of omega-3 can improve asthmatic symptoms. This is why experts recommend that asthmatics eat just 1 apple a day: it is a balanced fruit that is low in calories, helps to relieve symptoms related to asthma and also has all of the properties mentioned above.
Apple peel has anti-tumour properties
Another American study revealed that the skin of Red Delicious apples has anti-tumour properties. The substances contained within the skin (triterpenoids) supposedly have the power to reduce the risk of some tumours developing (liver, colon and breast tumours) in so much as these substances supposedly carry out an action that works against the carcinogenic cells, and in some cases they can even eradicate them. Previous studies had already demonstrated this ‘shield effect’ that flavonoids and phenols create (also present in apples) against ‘atypical’ cells.
Apples: a natural remedy for diarrhoea and constipation
Pectin can help to resolve problems related to diarrhoea as intestinal bacteria transform it into a type of soothing and protective covering for the walls that are irritated. To combat constipation on the other hand, eating one cooked apple a day will provide ‘beneficial’ effects in a short amount of time.
Apples and preventing cholesterol problems, heart diseases and strokes
It is a known fact that a diet rich in fibre can help to reduce cholesterol in the blood, which can play a serious role in heart disease or strokes. When we eat fibre, the cholesterol that we consume, and that sits in the intestinal tract, is removed and this why eating apples is recommended: they are very rich in fibre and so are perfect to eat after meat or dairy based dishes.
Apples, glycaemia and diabetes
The ‘precious’ pectin found in apples also helps to reduce glycaemia (the concentration of glucose in the blood) in diabetes sufferers.
Apples and purifying the body
Studies in Europe suggested that pectin can also remove toxins from the body and therefore nutrition experts suggest including apples in our diets, especially for those who live in cities and are particularly exposed to pollution.
Apples and cosmetics
To tone the skin, dab some fresh apple juice on to it, and to lighten it, mix the apple juice with some lemon juice. To soften wrinkles, you can use a face mask made from diced apple, cooked with half a glass of milk. To create a toned effect, place some slices of apple on the face and leave them on for 45 minutes. A mask made from grated apple and yoghurt is particularly good for dry or dull skin. Finally, quince apple has properties to help with aging of the skin, acting as a hydrant and preventing wrinkles from forming.