Whether you like it or not, that old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” probably had a lasting impression on you. You may not have heard it since your mother sternly intoned it to you as a child (who undoubtedly preferred to reach for the cookie jar instead), but you still unconsciously uphold apples as one of the great bastions of health.
But have you ever taken the time to wonder what all the fuss is about? Why is the humble apple so much better for you than any number of other fruits glistening invitingly in the fruit bowl? To unravel the mystery, we’ve put together nine great reasons why your body (and mind) will thank you for munching on a crispy apple instead of a salty snack.
1. Apples can help detox the liver
Considering the amount of toxins we’re exposed to every single day, our liver is definitely undervalued. Standing as our first line of defense against compounds which do us harm, our liver helps to remove heavy metals, detoxify chemicals, metabolize drugs and even construct proteins essential for blood clotting. Give your liver a helping hand by eating apples. The antioxidants help to support healthy liver function and prevent the development of liver cancer.
2. They can whiten teeth
Considering they contain fructose (a type of sugar), it seems a bit counterintuitive to learn that apples can, in fact, whiten your teeth! While they’re no substitute for brushing and flossing, chewing on a fresh apple helps to stimulate the production of saliva in the mouth. This prevents tooth decay by lowering bacteria concentrations around your teeth.
3. They can cure diarrhea and constipation
Apples are loaded with dietary fiber, which incidentally is great news for your daily bowel movements. Whether you’re suffering from a lack of such movements (constipation) or an excess of such movements (diarrhea), the high concentrations of fiber in apples can help. This useful substance gathers water from your colon and uses it to keep things moving along smoothly when you’re constipated. It also absorbs that same water when you’re suffering from a bout of the runs, firming things up nicely.
4. They can help banish cancer
Multiple studies show that the consumption of flavonoid and phytochemical-rich apples can help to reduce your risk of developing various types of cancer. A scientific meta-analysis examining the range of studies concerning apples found that “apple extracts and components, especially oligomeric procyanidins, have been shown to influence multiple mechanisms relevant for cancer prevention in in vitro studies.” Researchers found these mechanisms to include antimutagenic activity, modulation of carcinogen metabolism, anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant activity and a range of mechanisms affecting epigenetic events and innate immunity.
That may sound like a whole lot of scientific mumbo jumbo, but the message is clear: apples are the sworn enemy of cancer. The study went on to conclude that apples can help to prevent skin, mammary, lung and colon cancers. Pretty darn impressive, if you ask me!
5. They curb the appetite
For those of us trying to keep an eye on our waistline, the constant temptation of food in the fridge or vending machine can be too much to ignore. This is no small thing — people who are overweight or obese are at higher risk of developing serious health conditions. These issues include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. For this reason, taking the reins and curbing your appetite is all too important.
Luckily, apples are here to help. They contain high concentrations of pectin, a type of dietary fiber which helps to fill you up. It also helps to reduce food cravings and encourage healthy bowel movements, which are critical for healthy weight management.
6. They strengthen your heart
An ever-growing body of research continues to reinforce the fact that high soluble fiber intake prevents the accumulation of cholesterol-rich plaque in your arteries. And where might you get hold of such wondrous soluble fiber? Why, the humble apple, of course!
But it doesn’t stop there. The phenolic compounds found in apple skin help to prevent cholesterol from solidifying on your artery walls. Left to its own devices, this cholesterol can clog up your arteries. From there, it reduces blood flow to the heart and sets you up for serious cardiovascular and coronary artery complications.
7. They help protect the brain
Scientists are increasingly coming to draw links between regular apple consumption and healthy brain activity. One study performed on mice demonstrated how drinking apple juice could lower risk of Alzheimer’s and slow the process and effects of aging in the brain. In the study, mice that were fed an apple-enhanced diet showed higher levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. They also showed markedly better performance in maze tests than mice fed a “regular” diet.
In another study, researchers gave 21 institutionalized people with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease eight ounces of apple juice daily for a month. During this brief period, caregivers reported a 27 percent improvement in behavioral and psychotic symptoms associated with dementia. This suggests that apples may have a positive effect on mood, both in those suffering from Alzheimer’s and healthy individuals.
Further research shows that those who eat a diet rich in fruit and other high-fiber foods demonstrate a significantly greater protective ability against Parkinson’s disease. This condition is characterized by a breakdown of the brain’s dopamine-producing nerve cells. It is thought to be prevented by high fiber foods, apples included, and the free-radical thwarting power of the antioxidants they contain.
8. They help you avoid gallstones
It might seem like something which isn’t worth worrying about. However, those who have had a gallstone surgically removed would tell you otherwise. It’s a painful and sudden health problem. It’s one which occurs when there’s too much cholesterol in your bile for it to remain in liquid form. This causes the bile to solidify, thereby forming nasty little balls which need to quickly be removed before they create further complications.
Experts recommend a diet high in fiber to prevent gallstones. This helps you control your weight and cholesterol levels and hence lowers your risk of developing gallstones. Apples, being high in bioavailable fiber, are an excellent go-to fiber source.
9. They help boost immunity
At last, a benefit which doesn’t have us harping on once more about the fibrous qualities of the apple! This time, it’s an antioxidant called quercetin which has us singing the apple’s praises. This compound — found specifically in red apples — has been shown to help boost and fortify the immune system. It is therefore particularly useful when you’re stressed out or tired.
But that’s not all. Apples are also surprisingly high in vitamin C, which is a vital component of a properly functioning immune system. Truly, an apple a day can keep the doctor away!