Chew on This

Apples are a superfood. They’re high in fiber, and can block cancer cell growth

Apples in a market in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
Apples in a market in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

Are apples the original super food?

The first recorded reference to a health benefit from apples is from 1860 in Wales. The original Welsh saying was “eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” The current “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” first appeared in 1922.

And although everyone knows this short rhyme, when asked to name a super nutritious fruit, the answer is usually berries. As October is National Apple Month, it’s time to review the many health benefits apples provide.

Two of the most common issues experienced by my clients are high cholesterol and constipation. The high fiber content in apples helps with both.

An average apple has almost 20 percent of the daily recommended fiber. And 81 percent of the fiber is soluble fiber like pectin. Soluble fiber can also reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream, thus lowering the risk for heart disease.

Apples are rich in many health-promoting phytochemicals. The most studied are quercetin and procyanidins. Quercetin boosts the immune system. That might be why it keeps the doctor away.

To ensure the highest intake of phytochemicals eat the flesh and peel. Research has shown that apples with the peel were better able to inhibit cell proliferation, which is a measure of the ability of a compound to inhibit the growth of tumor cells.

Apples are also associated with better pulmonary health. A study from Australia showed that apple and pear intake was associated with a decreased risk of asthma.

Not a substitute for brushing, but apples will make your teeth feel cleaner. Eating an apple produces saliva, which rinses away oral bacteria. The fibrous texture of the peel stimulates the gums.

Apples are a nutritious, portable and economical snack. With 100 commercially available varieties, there is an apple flavor for everyone.

Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is voluntary faculty at the Miller School of Medicine.