You're are likely familiar with apples. They are among the most popular fruits, especially this time of year, when they are fresh, crisp, and available in abundance at roadside farm stands here in the northeast. You know that they have a peel, delicious flesh, a stem, a core, and some seeds. But, here are lots of other parts of an apple that are likely less familiar to you. It's these components of the apple that make it so nutritious.
A fiber powerhouse. A medium apple has four grams of fiber. That's more than a serving of prunes! All that fiber, plus a high water content, makes apples a very satisfying food for relatively few calories. When you're hungry, reach for an apple. It won't let you down!
Plenty of vitamins. Apples contain 14 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C and lots of other important nutrients in small quantities, including potassium, vitamin K, manganese, copper, and vitamins A, E, B1, B2, and B6. A single apple provides so many important vitamins.
Don't forget about the phytochemicals. Phytochemicals—like polyphenols, antioxidants, and flavonoids—sound like they could be a bad thing. And with names like quercetin, catechin, chlorogenic acid, and anthocyanin they definitely seem like things you should avoid. But wait! It is these obscure components that give apples their amazing disease-fighting power. Together, they are linked to prevention of heart disease and stroke, diabetes, asthma, bone loss, dementia, and cancer.
Finally, pectin! Pectin is a type of soluble fiber. (I know. We are counting fiber twice. It's that important!) This special type of fiber feeds the good bacteria in your gut. It's a "prebiotic." Thriving gut bacteria are linked to healthy digestion, metabolism, immune response, and more.
There's only one catch. We've long known that whole foods provide the greatest health benefit, and apples are no exception. While apple juice and applesauce will provide some of the benefits touted above, you will most certainly get the greatest benefit if you eat apples from the core or sliced with the skin. That way, you get all of the satisfying fiber and water and all of the beneficial vitamins and amazing phytochemicals.
So grab an apple and enjoy all of the wonderful health benefits it provides.
Kristin Irace, RD, is a registered dietitian with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.
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