Food As Medicine

Harvesting Health: The Allure and Abundance of Apples

Fall is my favorite season. It is quickly approaching with its captivating transformations, sights and smells, including cool breezes, falling leaves, and seasonal produce. Although I enjoy all of these, apple picking is my favorite way to spend an autumn day. While I was growing up, apple
picking became a family tradition. It is still a delightful and cherished activity I look forward to all year. Armed with baskets or bags, my family would set out to find and hand-pick the finest apples the orchard had to offer. For me, apple picking is a time for togetherness, as friends and
family enjoy quality moments amidst the fun and beauty of the orchard. Not only do I look forward to the adventure of apple picking, but I also highly anticipate the family tradition of making applesauce from all of the delicious apples we select. The applesauce-making process is
an activity passed down for three generations in my family, and it is my favorite way to enjoy the abundance of apples that appear in the fall. But, beyond their wonderful taste, they are also a symbol of health, providing an abundance of critical nutrients that can improve our health in
ways we may not be aware of.

Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants (1, 2, 3)

Apples contain vitamins A, B, and C and minerals such as potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. Apples also contain many antioxidants that help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. However, the apple peel primarily contains most of these antioxidants. You may have noticed
that fruits such as apples and bananas tend to turn brown quickly. This process is called oxidation, which occurs when the fruit is exposed to oxygen and doesn’t contain many antioxidants. Compare apples and bananas to mangoes and lemons, and you’ll notice that they
don’t turn brown; they contain antioxidants in the fruit and the peel. Therefore, whether eating apples whole, cutting and incorporating them into a smoothie, or making applesauce, keep the peels on! As I learned rather quickly in the applesauce-making process, keeping the peel on
contributes quite a bit to the taste and color of the applesauce. Now I also understand that this retains many of the nutrients as well. Did you know there are over 2500 apple varieties in the United States? If you had a different kind of apple daily, eating each kind would take you close
to 7 years. Try different apple varieties to ensure you’re getting a wide variety of antioxidants.

Fiber (4, 5)

Apples contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Your body breaks down the soluble fiber, helping to reduce cholesterol buildup in the lining of blood vessels. As the name suggests, insoluble fiber cannot be dissolved in fluids; it absorbs them, adds bulk to the intestinal tract, and
allows food to move quickly through the digestive system. Most of the insoluble fiber is contained in or just under the peel, which is another good reason to think twice about peeling your apple! In addition, fiber is the primary energy source for the microbiome. The microbes in
our gut use fiber to produce short-chain fatty acids. These impact our cell function, immune system, gut motility and permeability and affect our risk for gastrointestinal disorders and many other chronic diseases throughout our body. 

Water (6)

Apples are made up of roughly 86% water. Fruits can contain anywhere from 74-92% water, which can help to keep us hydrated. Eating an apple may even be more hydrating than just drinking a bottle of water. The apple’s fiber helps slow down the water’s absorption. Think of
your stomach as a funnel; if you drink a bottle of water on an empty stomach, it will quickly move through the stomach. However, a mashed-up apple containing water and fiber will take longer to digest and exit the stomach more slowly. Therefore, the slower water is absorbed, the
longer you stay hydrated (7). To rehydrate, consider eating an apple on a hot day or after physical activity. 

The timeless tradition of apple picking and applesauce making holds a special place in my heart as it does for many. Not only are apples an excellent source of nutrients, but picking, preparing, and putting them up can incorporate the benefits of being in nature and spending time with
family and friends. All ages can benefit from these activities. In addition, apples are packed with essential nutrients and play a pivotal role in supporting overall well-being. I recommend trying apple picking, applesauce making, or just eating more apples! Nourish yourself and your family with the abundance of apples in season. Here’s a “family recipe” you can try.

Applesauce

  • Go to a local orchard.
  • Pick the apples in crisp fall air. Add a hefty dose of bad jokes and laughter. Hugs for people you like are also important. Get as many (apples and hugs) as you think you want. For the apples, keep in mind the cost and how much room you have in your car.
  • Take the apples home, scrub, wash, and rinse them. This is a great job for the younger kids in the kitchen.
  • Cut the apples in eighths and remove the cores and all the seeds. Cut out any bruised spots. Leave the skin on!
  • Put the apple wedges in a large heavy pot over medium heat, adding a cup of water or apple cider to get it started. Add more jokes, memories of happy times, and love. Cover the pot with a lid. DO NOT overfill the pot. You will be stirring. So be sure to leave enough room to stir!
  • Let the liquid come to a boil, stirring to avoid burning and to help break down the apples.
  • Allow the apples to cook till they are very soft. Then, remove from the stovetop and process carefully through a food mill, food processor or mash by hand with a potato masher.
  • Add cinnamon to taste, if desired. Allow to cool and enjoy.

Stores safely in glass jars for 5 days. For longer-term storage, freeze or can, using safe methods in sterile jars.

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1.) Greger, M. (2018). How Not to Die from Brain Diseases. In How not to die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease (pp. 48–49). Pan Books.
2.) Lang, A. (2023, March 10). What’s the healthiest Apple? 5 of the best types. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-the-healthiest-apple#3.-Golden-Delicious
3.) Moyer, K. (2021, October 14). Over 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the U.S. AgHires Blog. https://blog.aghires.com/2500-varieties-apples-grown-u-s
4.) Apple Nutrition. Nutrition – Apples and More – University of Illinois Extension. (n.d.). https://web.extension.illinois.edu/apples/nutrition.cfm
5.) Koutsos, A., Tuohy, K. M., & Lovegrove, J. A. (2015). Apples and cardiovascular health–is the gut microbiota a core consideration?. Nutrients, 7(6), 3959–3998. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7063959
6.) Water amounts in fruits and vegetables. (n.d.). https://urbanwormcompany.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Water-Amounts-in-Fruits-and-Vegetables-Handout-Week-10.pdf
7.) Here’s why an apple a day keeps the doctor away! Hydration Foundation. (2020, February 12). https://hydrationfoundation.org/apple-a-day-hydrating-tip/

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