Health Benefits of Apple
Apple belongs to the Rose family of plants and is joined in that family by a wide range of very popular foods, including apricot, plum, cherry, peach, pear, raspberry and almond. Foods in the Rose family are simply too diverse in their nutrient value to allow for any one single recommendation about the number of servings that we should consume from this family on a weekly basis. However, when focusing specifically on apple, several anti-cancer studies show daily intake of this fruit to provide better anti-cancer benefits than lesser amounts.
Recent research has shown that apple polyphenols can help prevent spikes in blood sugar through a variety of mechanisms. The phytonutrients in apples can help you regulate your blood sugar. Flavonoids like quercetin found in apples can inhibit enzymes like alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase. Since these enzymes are involved in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simple sugars, your blood sugar has fewer simple sugars to deal with when these enzymes are inhibited. In addition, the polyphenols in apple have been shown to lessen absorption of glucose from the digestive tract; to stimulate the beta cells of the pancreas to secrete insulin; and to increase uptake of glucose from the blood via stimulation of insulin receptors. All of these mechanisms triggered by apple polyphenols can make it easier for you to regulate your blood sugar.
Recent research has shown that intake of apples in their whole food form can significantly lower many of our blood fats. The fat-lowering effects of apple have traditionally been associated with its soluble fibre content, and in particular, with the soluble fibre portion of its polysaccharide component known as pectins. What we now know, however, is that whole apples only contain approximately 2-3 grams of fibre per 3.5 ounces, and that pectins account for less than 50% of this total fibre. Nevertheless, this relatively modest amount of pectins found in whole apples has now been shown to interact with other apple phytonutrients to give us the kind of blood fat lowering effects that would typically be associated with much higher amounts of soluble fibre intake.
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. The whole food form of apples is also important if you want full satisfaction from eating them. 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, their caloric intake at that meal decreased by an average of 15%. Since meals in this study averaged 1,240 calories, a reduction of 15% meant a reduction of 186 calories, or about 60 more calories than contained in a medium apple. The importance of whole apple in helping us manage our hunger and feeling more satisfied with our food.
Even though apple is not an excellent source of dietary fibre, the fibre found in apple may combine with other apple nutrients to provide you with the kind of health benefits you would ordinarily only associate with much higher amounts of dietary fibre. These health benefits are particularly important in prevention of heart disease through healthy regulation of blood fat levels. In recent comparisons with laboratory animals, the blood fat lowering effects of whole apple were shown to be greatly reduced when whole apples were eliminated from the diet and replaced by pectins alone. In summary, it's not fibre alone that explains the cardiovascular benefits of apple, but the interaction of fibre with other phytonutrients in this wonderful fruit. If you want the full cardiovascular benefits of apples, it's the whole food form that you'll want to choose. Only this form can provide you with those unique fibre-plus-phytonutrient combinations.
Scientists have recently shown that important health benefits of apples may stem from their impact on bacteria in the digestive tract. In studies on laboratory animals, intake of apples is now known to significantly alter amounts of two bacteria 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. We expect to see future studies confirming these results in humans, and we are excited to think about potential health benefits of apple that will be related to its impact on bacterial balance in our digestive tract.