Apples, one of Cleveland Clinic's top heart-health fruits, are a perfect pick for boosting your antioxidant intake. Plus, they may help lower cholesterol, keep your tummy trim, and cut your risk of high blood pressure. Our tips and tasty treats make it easy to get your daily apple.
Eating apples could cut your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Victor Fulgoni III, Ph.D., of Nutrition Impact, LLC, in Battle Creek, Michigan, analyzed the government's largest nationwide food intake and health database and found that eating apples, versus not eating them, was associated with a:
-- 26 percent reduced likelihood of metabolic syndrome (a cluster of health conditions that increase heart disease and stroke risk)
-- 23 percent reduced risk of excess belly fat
-- 22 percent lower risk of high blood pressure
-- 14 percent reduced risk of high C-reactive protein levels (which signals inflammation and is a strong predictor of heart disease)
What's in this crisp and crunchy fruit that makes it so good for us? Apple researcher Rui Hai Liu, M.D., Ph.D., at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, says apples:
-- are one of our biggest sources of powerful antioxidants known as phenolics (based on the amount of apples we eat in the United States)
-- provide phytostanols, which are naturally occurring plant-base substances that may help lower cholesterol levels
-- offer cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber
Apples are filled with beneficial antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but leave the peel on. You¿ll get bigger nutritional bang in each bite.
Nutrition facts for one medium apple (peeled):
Carbohydrate: 20 g
Fiber: 2 g
Potassium: 145 mg
Vitamin C: 6 mg
Nutrition facts for one medium apple (not peeled):
Carbohydrate: 25 g
Fiber: 4 g
Potassium: 195 mg
Vitamin C: 8 mg
Did you know? Certain phytonutrients in apples may be as helpful for reducing high blood pressure as other lifestyle changes, such as exercising and cutting sodium, according to The Journal of Nutrition in November 2007.
More than 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States, each with its own unique flavor and best uses. Here's a breakdown of some the most popular varieties:
1. Variety: Golden Delicious
About: Not related to Red Delicious. Pale yellow skin signals best quality.
Taste & Texture: Sweet flavor with firm, crisp, and juicy flesh with tender skin.
Best Uses: All-purpose apple that's good raw or baked. Cut flesh doesn't brown fast.
2. Variety: Rome
About: Also known as Rome Beauty, it originated in Rome Township, Ohio.
Taste & Texture: Crisp, firm, and mildly tart but can turn bland and mealy with storage.
Best Uses: Best baked or sautéed. Holds it shape well when cooked.
3. Variety: Fuji
About: Retains quality in room-temperature storage, so perfect in fruit bowls. Fuji ranked highest in phenolics among 13 top varieties.
Taste & Texture: Crisp and juicy with a mild, sweet flavor.
Best Uses: Eat fresh or use for homemade applesauce.
4. Variety: Red Delicious
About: Top-produced apple in United States, although declining in recent years.
Taste & Texture: Juicy, somewhat tart flesh with a tough skin.
Best Uses: Eat fresh or in salad. Breaks down and loses flavor when cooked.
5. Variety: Pink Lady
About: Pink Lady is trademarked name for high-quality Cripps Pink apples.
Taste & Texture: Sweet-tart flavor with firm, crisp flesh.
Best Uses: Great fresh as well as for cooking and baking.
6. Variety: Granny Smith
About: Originally grown in Australia but now widely grown in United States.
Taste & Texture: Crisp and tart. Paler skin with warm cast tends to signal sweeter picks.
Best Uses: All-purpose apple. Especially popular for applesauce and juice.
7. Variety: Empire
About: Is a cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh.
Taste & Texture: Very crisp and juicy with a sweet-tart flavor.
Best Uses: Eat fresh or use in cider. Loses its texture in pie and applesauce.
Did you know? "Only 7 percent of fresh apples we eat are imported," says federal agricultural economist Agnes Perez. If you buy a U.S.-grown apple in winter, it's likely stored from the fall harvest.
Refrigerate apples 3-5 weeks in a crisper drawer. "Apples deteriorate much faster in a bowl at room temperature," says Todd Hultquist of the U.S. Apple Association.
Cleaning and eating apples:
-- Eat the peel to get the most phytonutrients (plant substances tied to health benefits). "Antioxidants and other phytonutrients are concentrated in the apple peel," Liu says.
-- Scrub apples gently with a vegetable brush in lukewarm water to remove wax, dirt, and any pesticide residue on the surface.
Tools that help prep apples:
1. Apple corer: Great for prepping whole apples for baking
2. Apple slicer: Easily slides through apples, quickly slicing the fruit for snaking or baking
3. Apple peeler: Help you prep your fruit for a perfect pie
Did you know? One bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch. Apples give off ethylene gas, which speeds ripening. A damaged apple releases even more ethylene gas, causing the apples it's stored with to decay faster. Store bruised, injured apples away from good apples.
Apples are so versatile, they can be used in almost any dish. Regardless of whether you slice, chop, or puree them, apples pack a bevy of nutrients.
Try these ideas to get more apples in any meal or snack:
Cored slices: Use in sandwiches, such as peanut butter or turkey.
Wedges: Serve with low-fat cheese, low-fat dip, or peanut butter.
Chunks: Add to a sauté or mix with yogurt, honey, and walnuts.
Sticks: Add to a saute, tuna wrap, or salad with feta cheese.
Applesauce: Use to substitute butter or oil in baking recipes.
Apple juice: Use in smoothies or in a marinade for lean pork.
Dried: Chop and add to oatmeal, muffins, or trail mix.
Did you know? "In our analysis of data from a large nationwide study, we found that adults who ate apples and apple products had a dramatic increase in potassium intake, which may help explain apples' association with lower blood pressure," says researcher Victor Fulgoni III, Ph.D.
Grab these apple snacks the next time you're on the go. They're convenient, portable, and pack a nutritional punch. Now you don't have an excuse for not eating an apple a day!
-- Freeze-dried apple chips (product shown by Brothers All Natural)
-- Packaged fresh apple slices (product shown by Crunch Pak)
Did you know? Baby apples-about the size of golf balls and perfect for snacking-are one of the newest trends in apples, according to produce expert Robert Schueller of Melissa's/World Variety Produce, Inc. Ask your grocer about them.
Any cooking apple works in this zesty dish, but Pink Lady adds a pink blush. Serve the low-cholesterol topper--which combines apples, dried cranberries, fresh herbs, and red onion--on whole wheat crackers or toasted pita wedges. This sauce also pairs well with pork, turkey, or chicken.