Although we have had a lot of rainy weekends lately, hopefully you’ve found a few dry moments to visit one of Maine’s apple orchards. An apple in itself won’t keep the doctor away, but apples are a welcome part of a healthy diet. They are low in calories and delicious, portable snacks that are still relatively inexpensive.
Apples are a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber, such as pectin, helps to prevent cholesterol buildup in the lining of blood vessel walls, helping to reduce the incident of atherosclerosis and heart disease. The insoluble fiber in apples provides bulk in the intestinal tract, helping to move food quickly through the digestive system.
For the most nutritional benefit, apples are best consumed with the skin on. About half of the vitamin C content of an apple is found just under the skin. The skin is also where you find most of the insoluble fiber.
One apple, on average, contains more antioxidants than a large vitamin C dose of 1,500 milligrams. Apples are also full of phytochemicals that help with antioxidant activity and in preventing cancer. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body, which can significantly damage cells and may contribute to the development of certain types of cancer.
Apples have been found to prevent or decrease the effects of osteoporosis because they contain a flavonoid called phloridzin, as well as boron. Boron is an essential trace element that helps increase bone density to make bones stronger. Apples also contain quercetin, which is a substance that is being researched for possibilities of protecting brain cells from developing Alzheimer’s disease caused by free radicals.
Eating a whole apple is important if you want full benefit from eating them. Researchers have recently compared intake of whole apples to intake of applesauce and apple juice, only to discover that people report less hunger (and better satiety, or food satisfaction) after eating whole apples than after eating applesauce or drinking apple juice. But especially interesting was an additional finding about calorie intake following apple consumption. When healthy adults consumed one medium-sized apple approximately 15 minutes before a meal, it was noted that their caloric intake at that meal decreased by an average of 15 percent. Since meals in this study averaged 1,240 calories, a reduction of 15 percent meant a reduction of 186 calories, or about 60 more calories than contained in a medium apple. For these researchers, “getting ahead” in calories with a net reduction of 60 calories was a welcomed outcome of the study, and an extra benefit to their study’s primary conclusion — the importance of whole apples (versus other more processed apple forms) in helping us manage our hunger and feeling more satisfied with our food.
Additional benefits of eating apples may come from their effect on bacteria in the digestive tract. In studies on laboratory animals, intake of apples is now known to significantly alter amounts of two bacteria (Clostridiales and Bacteriodes) in the large intestine. As a result of these bacterial changes, metabolism in the large intestine is also changed, and many of these changes appear to provide health benefits. For example, due to bacterial changes in the large intestine, there appears to be more fuel available to the large intestine cells (in the form of butyric acid) after an apple is consumed. Hopefully there will soon be studies confirming these results in humans.
Do not wash apples until ready to eat. Apples should be stored in the refrigerator or cold storage area of your home. Keeping apples at room temperature will allow them to get mushy more quickly.
There is no lack of variety when it comes to applies. Depending on your apple eating pleasure — sweet, tart, soft, smooth, crispy or crunchy — there is a variety out there for you.
Apple Nutrition Facts
(*One medium 2 ½ inch apple, fresh, raw, with skin)
Carbohydrate 21 grams
Dietary Fiber 4 g
Calcium 10 milligrams
Phosphorus 10 mg
Iron .25 mg
Sodium 0.00 mg
Potassium 159 mg
Vitamin C 8 mg
Vitamin A 73 international units
Folate 4 micrograms
*The nutritional value of apples will vary slightly depending on the variety and size.
Golden Delicious has firm, white flesh and sweet crisp flavor. It is the preferred “all purpose” cooking apple since it retains its shape and rich, mellow flavor when baked or cooked. Its skin is so tender and thin that it doesn’t require peeling for most recipes. Golden Delicious is very good in fresh salads and freezes well.
Fuji’s spicy, crisp sweetness and firm flesh make it an excellent fresh eating apple. It’s also good in baking or applesauce and stores well. Fuji flavor improves in storage like fine wine. Fuji skin color varies from yellow-green with red highlights to very red. It was bred from a cross between Red Delicious and Ralls Janet varieties in Japan.
Gala is a favorite for fresh eating. It is heart-shaped with distinctive yellow-orange skin with red striping. Gala is just the right size for snacking and is great in salads, good for baking and very good in applesauce.
Braeburn has high-impact flavor. The crisp, aromatic Braeburn blends sweetness and tartness just right for snacks and salads. It’s also good in baking, applesauce and for freezing. Braeburn color varies from greenish-gold with red sections to nearly solid red. Braeburn was discovered as a chance seedling near Nelson, New Zealand, in 1952. Its probable parents are Lady Hamilton and Granny Smith.
Granny Smith has crisp mouth-watering tartness. Bright green Granny Smith has a pink blush. Its tartness really comes through when baked and sauteed.
Jonagold is a blend of Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples, offering a unique tangy-sweet flavor with firm flesh. Jonagold is excellent both for eating fresh and for cooking.
Winesap is the apple with old-fashioned flavor. Winesap has a spicy, almost wine-like flavor that makes it the cider maker’s first choice. Violet red in color, it’s great as a snack and in salads.
Rome is the baker’s buddy. Its mild flavor grows richer when baked or sauteed. Rome has smooth, blazingly red skin with sweet, slightly juicy flesh.
Apple and Pumpkin Tart
Here is a way to combine two favorite fall items. Serve it chilled or warm with a dollop of whipped cream.
1 8-inch pie crust, chilled
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (canned or cook your own)
3 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced (Cortland or Granny Smith or your favorite)
½ cup apple cider
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup sugar
2 eggs plus 2 egg whites, slightly beaten
½ cup currants
1 teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon salt
Press crust into an 8-inch fluted tart pan. Use a rolling pin to roll over the edges, making crust even with top of tart pan. Place in the freezer while assembling tart filling. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine all the tart ingredients and mix well. Scrape the filling into the prepared tart shell. Smooth evenly around the pan. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool before serving. Top with whipped cream, if desired.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.