Diet is one of the best ways to affect your health for the better. Our bodies use the food we eat to carry out the many vital processes that keep us alive as well as repairing the damage that occurs to our bodies throughout our days. While exercise is certainly important to have a healthy and strong body, exercise that is done without a healthy diet can only do so much for us. Unhealthy eating habits contribute to a wide range of health problems, including obesity, cancer, heart disease, and hypertension. These are all health issues that can often be alleviated through a change in diet. For this reason, many people have begun to seek out ways to improve their diets and consequently improve their health.
Yet, making dietary changes towards better health can often seem easier than it really is. Once you commit to making a change, you are faced with the question of what changes to make. At this stage of the process of changing your diet, there are often many questions the arise in regards to which foods are the best for health and how exactly they impact your health. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of information and research that comes flooding in as you try to decide which foods you should include in your new, healthier diet and which foods you should exclude. Luckily there are several foods that have many well-documented health benefits that make them obvious choices when planning a healthier diet.
While it’s easy to get caught up in the next health food craze, whether its açai berries or kangaroo jerky, one food you can trust to improve your health that will outlast all the food fads is none other than the simple apple. This fruit has been feeding humans for centuries and its ubiquitousness can often lead us to overlook what a powerhouse of health it really is. Just adding any serving of fruit to your diet will lead you to reap great health benefits, but adding apples alone to your diet still comes with a variety of wonderful health benefits. Before we dive into the incredible health benefits that apples can yield, let’s examine the apple itself in all its historic glory.
Apple trees are grown in nearly every part of the world, though they first originated in Central Asia. There are currently at least 7,500 different types of apples—some are grown specifically for direct human consumption, such as in our salads, and other types are grown for the production of other food items, like apple juice or apple cider. In 2017, 83.1million tons of apples were produced; China produces the most apples in the world at 41.4 million tons, followed by the United States at 5.2 million tons. Apples are certainly one of the world’s most popular fruits and are consumed in a variety of ways, from being eaten raw, being processed in sauces and jams, or being baked into pies.
When considering the nutritional make-up of apples, it’s no wonder this fruit tops list after list in regards to healthy fruits. Since a raw apple is roughly 86% water and 14% carbohydrate, these fruits make a wonderful choice for anyone attempting to lose some weight. Apples are very low in calories and high in fiber, meaning they will help you feel full and satiated while keeping your calorie intake low—the perfect recipe for any weight loss program. High fiber intake has been linked to a reduced risk of obesity as well as having a generally lower body weight. Not only does fiber help you lose weight by slowing down your digestive process and satiating your appetite, but fiber is also important in maintaining a healthy gut flora, or the bacteria in your gut. These bacteria are vital to our health and a healthy gut flora has been linked to numerous health benefits from the elevated mood to a reduced risk of cancers and of course, improved weight control. Overall, apples are your first choice for a healthier diet that will lead to a better body weight and healthier calorie intake.
Apples are not only a great choice for weight loss, but have a significant impact on other parts of our health as well, namely through lowering our risk of cancer. Apples contain antioxidants—these are compounds that prevent the oxidation of our cells, which is essentially cell damage that is caused by the free radicals that result from the oxidation process. These free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage our cells and in excess are linked to the development of chronic illness, aging skin, heart disease, and artery wall damage that can affect blood flow to vital organs. Apples are an excellent way to combat these harmful molecules by increasing the presence of antioxidants in our bodies. Antioxidants lead to a reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, as well as improved neurological functioning. Most of the apple’s antioxidant content is located in its peel, so you’ll want to include some apple peel in your diet to maximize the benefits of an apple’s antioxidant powers. The apple peel also contains a substance called triterpenoids which have been shown to have a powerful ability to curb the growth of cancer cells in the colon, liver, and breast.
In addition to their powerful anti-cancer properties, apples also help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Once again owing to their powerfully high fiber content, apples help to regulate blood sugar swings. The fiber in apple aids in slowing how the body processes sugar, which means that sugar is released into the bloodstream at a slower rate, keeping blood sugar levels stable. The way this protective function occurs is through the way pectin, a soluble fiber, dissolves into a coating in the GI-tract that ultimately causes the slowed digestion rate for things like carbohydrates and sugars. Considering how many Americans currently suffer from type 2 diabetes (over 20 million), it makes perfect sense to start including apples in your change towards a healthier diet.
One of the aspects of what makes an apple such a healthy addition to any diet is the influence it has on our cholesterol. You may be familiar with the idea of “good” and “bad” cholesterol—this is essentially the difference between artery-clogging fats and fats your body needs. Apples shine as a healthy dietary choice because of their influence on the healthy and unhealthy version of cholesterol in our bodies. Apples are effective at lowering the “bad” or LDL cholesterol which is a major factor in having robust cardiovascular health. Apples have also been shown to be effective in preventing the inflammation that can often co-occur with LDL cholesterol build-up. If you’re seeking out a change in diet to protect your heart and lower your cholesterol, you’ll want to choose apples as your next health food favorite.
Apples have long been a symbol of health and whole foods; the old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” illustrates the long-known health benefits of this naturally delicious fruit. Research only continues to prove the integral role that diet plays in our health and with this information in mind, an apple is the perfect food to set us on a path towards a healthy life.