An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
This now legendary aphorism is a Pembrokeshire proverb first appearing in a publication in 1866 in a slightly different rhyming format:
“Eat an apple on going to bed and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”
I love apples for so many different reasons, the delightful names like Cox's Pippin, Egremont Russet, Braeburn and Bramley, their versatility in recipes, the perfect marriage of sweetness and tartness, the satisfying crunch and of course their health benefits.
Did you know that the apple is actually a member of the Rose family Rosaceae? And that apples have more genes than humans? In an Italian research project in 2010, the entire genome of apples was sequenced and the results were stunning. It was discovered that apples have 57,000 genes, more than any other plant studied to date, and much more than our 30,000. The not so humble apple after all!
The health benefits of the phenolic compounds, the chemical structures including anti-oxidants and flavanoids, in apples, are very well researched and evidenced.
Take for example the anti-oxidant quercetin. Quercetin is one of the most abundant flavanoids and is known for its antioxidant activity in scavenging for DNA damaging free radicals and also its anti-allergic properties in stimulating the immune system, antiviral activity, inhibition of histamine release, and in decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokines. Quercetin also has strong neuroprotective properties.
There is also very strong evidence that it can help calm inflammation in the airways, asthma, and it is positively associated with good pulmonary health.
Interestingly, apples are also associated with good bone health too. Another flavanoid known as phloridzin, found only in apples, may be protective against osteoporosis in post-menopausal women and it may also help increase bone density.
Recent research is suggesting that phloridzin may be useful in inhibiting the uptake of intestinal glucose thereby possibly contributing to a reduction in Type 2 Diabetes risk.
Apples are a wonderful way to increase our fibre intake especially insoluble fibre which as the name suggests, is left intact as it moves through the gastro-intestinal tract. This means that it essentially sweeps out waste material , helping prevent gastrointestinal blockage, constipation or reduced bowel movements. This insoluble fibre in apples is called pectin and is found in much greater concentrations in the apple skin. The pectin, when combined with the other anti-oxidants, prevents cholesterol from building up in the lining of blood vessel walls thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Apples are at their best in the Northern Hemisphere from late Summer to early Winter and we have many beautiful British varieties. As with all fruits and vegetables when eaten in season they have the highest concentrations of nutrients. Eaten out of season it is likely they have travelled half way around the world and been kept in cold storage for many months, losing much of their valuable nutrition.
One other consideration is that of choosing organic. According to research carried out by Pesticide Action Network UK, PAN, 52% of apples sampled in their 'Dirty Dozen' contained multiple pesticide residues. Here is a link to download the full list of the Dirty Dozen and the pesticides in them
These pesticides in our food are detrimental to our health.
"Of particular concern are endocrine disrupting chemicals which affect hormone systems and have been associated with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and cognitive and brain development problems".
Glyphosate weed killer is a known cancer causing agent. Fortunately here in the UK we have higher food safety standards than the USA and many other countries so it makes sense to buy British, and organic where we can. If buying organic is outside your food budget then washing all fruit and veg in a solution of plain old white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda will help.
With apples being in season right now it is the perfect time for baked fruits.
Move over stewed apple, sorry, hello
Spiced Baked Apples.
This dish couldn't be simpler and can be eaten warm, cold and for breakfast, as a dessert or a healthy snack. Here I have served it with Sweet 'n' Smokey Maple Pecans and dairy free coconut yoghurt.
You will need:
5 medium to large apples, I used a mix of 3 Bramleys and 2 Cox's Pippins
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 whole cloves
splash of water
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 tablespoon arrowroot (gluten free) or cornflour not g/f
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to 180.
Wash, core and slice the apples and put into a large bowl.
Melt the coconut oil with the cloves added. Add in all the other ingredients and whisk until combined.
Pour over the apples and coat well. Transfer into baking dish or a lined baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes, check for doneness. Remove when you are happy that they are tender enough but not gone to a mush.
Serve with the coconut yoghurt and the nuts or topping of your choice.
This is such a delicious dish and the Sweet 'n' Smokey Maple Pecans are addictive and add a seriously delicious crunchy contrast. Better than Apple Crumble!!
These are now a firm favourite in my house for snacking and toppings. Presented in a pretty jar or box they would make a lovely foodie gift too.
You will need:
2 cups of raw pecans
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
1 teaspoon chilli powder
half teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
a good pinch of smoked sea-salt
Preheat the oven to about 160. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well and transfer to a lined baking sheet. Roast for about 10 minutes. Leave to cool and enjoy.
I do hope you like these recipes and would love to hear form you if you have tried them.
Written by Patricia Alexander-Bird
Registered Nutritional Therapist, BSc, DipNT BANT CNHC
1) Niederberger, K., Tennant, D., & Bellion, P. (2020). Dietary intake of phloridzin from natural occurrence in foods. British Journal of Nutrition,123(8), 942-950.
2) Boyer, J., & Liu, R. H. (2004). Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Nutrition journal, 3, 5.
4) Recipes inspired by and adapted from Salted Plains