It is September; the morning air is cooler and fresh apples are readily available at local grocery stores and apple orchards. Apple picking is a great family activity for a fall afternoon. For a list of orchards that allow you to pick, visit pickyourown.com/ME. Apples are a versatile fruit that can be used in salads, desserts, entrees, breads, muffins and jams.
For maximum health benefits, eat an apple, peel and all. If you don’t like biting into an apple or your teeth won’t allow it, slice it with the peel on. Sliced apples turn brown because of exposure to the air when the iron form is converted from ferrous oxide to ferric oxide. To prevent this browning from occurring, rinse sliced apples in water and add a few drops of fresh lemon juice.
There has been much research done on the health benefits of apples and prevention of diseases. Here is a brief overview of some of the research.
Alzheimer’s prevention: Researchers at Cornell University found that quercetin in apples has the ability to protect brain cells in mice from the kind of free radical damage that may lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Asthma support: Children who drink apple juice on a daily basis were found to suffer from less wheezing than children who drank apple juice just once a month, based on research from one study.
Cholesterol lowering ability: Apples contain pectin that lowers the “bad” LDL cholesterol. People who eat two apples daily can lower their cholesterol by as much as 16 percent.
Cancer, lung: Eating apples lowers risk of developing lung cancer by 50 percent, based on a study of 10,000 people who ate apples. The researchers believed that it is related to the high levels of the flavonoids quercetin and naringin in apples.
Diabetes control: Once again, the pectin in apples helps here. The pectin supplies galacturonic acid to the body, which lowers the body’s need for insulin and may help in the management of diabetes.
Exercise endurance: Once again the antioxidant quercetin comes to our aid. It is believed that it makes more oxygen available to the lungs. It is believed that eating an apple before you exercise can boost your exercise endurance.
Heart health: The Iowa Women’s Health Study found that among the 34,000 plus women it has been tracking for almost 20 years, apple consumption was associated with a lower risk of death from both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
Weight loss: A sweet treat that supplies few calories, apples satisfy hunger so they are a beneficial part of a weight loss diet. One study found that dried apples also help people to lose weight. Women who ate a cup of dried apples daily for a year lost weight and lowered their cholesterol and heart disease markers.
Nutritionally: Apples are low in calories, providing only 50 calories per 100 grams, so an average apple is about 90 calories, fat free, rich in dietary fiber (4 grams of soluble fiber per apple) and contains good amounts of vitamin C (a powerful natural antioxidant) and beta-carotene. Apples are a good source of B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, thiamin and pyridoxine. Apples also contain minerals such as potassium, phosphorus and calcium. Potassium helps control heart rate and blood pressure.
Remember, for maximum health benefit, eat an apple, peel and all.
Apple and Blue Cheese Salad
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup)
Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups torn Bibb lettuce leaves (about 2 heads)
1 cup chopped Granny Smith or your favorite apple
2 tablespoon crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
1 tablespoon chopped toasted walnuts
Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add lettuce and remaining ingredients, tossing gently to coat.
Nutritional information per serving: 54 calories, 2.9 grams fat, 6.5 grams carbohydrate, 1.7 grams protein, 0.6 grams saturated fat, 1.3 grams fiber, 176 milligrams sodium, 35 milligrams sodium.
Preheat oven to 140 degrees.
Slice as many apples as you would like into pieces 1/4-inch thick or less. I prefer to leave the peel on. Soak apples in a mixture of equal-parts lemon juice and water. Lemon juice preserves the color of the apple. Place the apple slices on a cookie sheet. You don’t need to grease it.
Leave the apples in the oven for 5-6 hours. Flip the apples over half way through the cooking time. Apples should be flexible. Can be eaten immediately or cooled and stored for later use. Allow to cool completely then place in a sealed jar. You can also freeze them for two days then keep 6-12 months in a cool, dry place.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.