I love apples. Honeycrisp are my favorite. It’s one of the first foods we start to load up on and cook with as soon as fall arrives. We bake with them, put them in the kids lunches, make applesauce, etc. Apples are such a fall staple, that I thought they deserve their own day in the sun. So here it goes:
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is not just a corny saying our Mother’s blurted out to bribe us into eating them. It has actually been thought to be true for thousands of years. Apples have symbolized health and longevity throughout recorded history!
So what makes them so special? Besides just tasting delicious, apples have a lot going for them. They are high in soluble fiber and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are natural chemicals contained in plant based foods that protect them from germs, fungi, bugs, etc. Although they are not “essential” to keep us alive, they have been proven beneficial to the health of humans in many ways. This fiber and phytonutrient combo helps protect against an array of ailments including cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and Parkinson’s disease. Apples are high in antioxidants which help boost your immune system and remarkable research has surfaced linking their consumption to decreased risk of asthma. Apples also have anti-cancer properties which may help lower your risk of many types of cancer – particularly lung cancer. I could go on, but I won’t:) So basically, apples rock.
But the apples we eat today do not have the same potency of the wild apples of the past. According to nutritional author Jo Robinson, when tested and compared to the domesticated apples we eat today, some wild species were shown to have 15, 65 and even 100 times more phytonutrient content than our favorite apples! So you may wonder….why aren’t we eating those? Because many of the most nutritious wild varieties are not grown in the United States. Also, if we were to eat those suckers, we would probably spit them out! They are way too bitter for our taste these days. Over the years, apples have been reproduced to the point that our taste buds have been tainted into preferring the big, sweet, juicy apples we buy at the store.
But fear not apple lovers! The good news is, researchers are now going back to the sources of the most nutrient dense apples all over the world and gathering the information necessary to create new, more nutritious varieties! Also, mega nutrient dense (and tasty!) wild varieties are still being discovered and will hopefully wind up in United States. In the meantime, our goal can be to eat the most nutritious varieties out there:) Here’s the scoop… the healthiest bang for your buck in the supermarket are as follows: Braeburn, Cortland, Discovery, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Idared, Macintosh, Melrose, and Red Delicious. The LEAST nutritious include: Empire, Ginger Gold, Golden Delicious, and Pink Lady (sorry!).
Here are a few more shopping tips and ideas for apples:
Buy the most uniformly colored apples. The reddest all around of a given variety are your best choice. These are the ones that grew on the tops of the trees and got the most sunlight on all sides. They provide twice as many antioxidants as apples that grow hidden in the branches. (Exception…Granny Smith! They are loaded with phytonutrients even in comparison to the red ones.)
Eat the skins. They are packed with nutrients. Up to 50% more than a peeled ones. Having said that, try to buy organic since apples can be sprayed heavily with pesticides.
Although apples ripe more quickly on the counter, store them in the fridge. They will last much longer…up to several months!
Go pickin! Another fun way to taste a new variety of apple is pick it yourself from a local orchard, or shop at local farm stand and see what they have to offer. This way you are getting the fruit at its peak ripeness!
Throw sliced apples into salads. Toss with walnuts and oil and vinegar.
Wrap thin apple slices inside some turkey breast with a little dijon, arugula, and thin sliced red onion…mmm.
Puree apples into soups with pumpkin or parsnips.
Mix diced apples into chicken salad.
Make apple salsa by combining 2 c. diced apples (peeled) with 1/2 c. red bell pepper, 1/4 c. diced red onion, 1/4 c. minced cilantro, 1/3 c. lime juice, 1 tbs. honey, salt and pepper…..serve with pork or roasted chicken.
Make apple chips – slice super thin, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake for 1 hour at 225 degrees.
Slice and top with nut butter, raisins, coconut shavings, or a drop of honey….quick and delicious.
And of course, their are endless muffin, bread and butter recipes online:) Experiment! Find your favorites and make a big batch and freeze to have on hand.
BTW, if you are REALLY into apples, check out www.orangepippin.com/apples. It lists tons of varieties, local orchards and more!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Johnny Appleseed was a real person named John Chapman. He walked over a hundred thousand miles planting apple orchards in western PA, Ohio and Indiana – BAREFOOT. He did so to produce healthy food and provide industry for future settlers. He preached about living simply and maintaining our connection with nature. Maybe we can ask ourselves…What could I be doing to simplify my life? Could it free up some time to get outside and enjoy myself? Hmmm…
Reference: Eating on the Wild Side, Jo Robinson