“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” So the old saying goes and it might possibly be true. However, what kind of apples are you eating? How are you eating them? How are you storing them? It all matters.
Modern apples were first domesticated 3000 years ago from the Malus sieversii species native to Central Asia and they were brought along the Silk Road by Alexander the Great to Aristotle, the architect of our first orchards. The first orchard was established in North America in 1625. By 1910, 15,000 varieties of apples were grown in the United States. But today that number has diminished to only 500 varieties. Of those, only 50 are grown in large numbers, and most of the apples we eat come from only 12 varieties: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Idared, Gravenstein, McIntosh, Cortland and Honeycrisp. Of those, Golden Delicious is the most popular apple in the United States and around the world.
How to pick the best apple
Apples are naturally high in fiber and vitamin C, as well as phytonutrients: quercetin, catechin, chlorogenic acid and anthocyanin. So, how do you know if your apple is full of the healthy vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients your body needs? The more colorful the fruit, the more nutrients the apple contains. When you are choosing an apple in the grocery store, look at what’s offered and choose the reddest apples of the variety you are looking at; these fruit grew on the top of the tree or outer limbs and had to develop more red pigment to fight off ultra-violet light.
Apples that grow in the sun are also sweeter. Apples exposed to sun on one side and shade on the other side will give you twice as many nutrients. Green apples like Granny Smiths also get more nutritious when exposed to sunshine during growth, but it’s more difficult to tell because of their natural green color. However, Granny Smiths often have more phytonutrients than red apples so they are frequently a good, nutritious choice.
How to store your apples
Apples should be stored in the refrigerator, in the crisper drawer if possible. Apples stored in the fridge will last TEN times longer than those stored on the kitchen counter. Apples harvested in July and August will only last for a few weeks, even in the fridge, but apples harvested in the fall will last for months, however, the nutrient content of the apples begin to diminish month by month after they are picked.
How to eat your apples
With the skin of course! Apple skin contains 50% of the phytonutrients contained in the whole apple. Animal experiments have showed that extracts from a peeled apple inhibit the growth of human cancer cells by 14%, whereas extracts from unpeeled apples inhibited cancer growth by 45%. So, eat your apples with skin! Even when making crisps and pies, you can leave your apples unpeeled for greater nutritional benefit.
One caveat about apples
Apple skin contains more pesticide residue than any other fruit or vegetable. Scrub your apples really well. Better yet – vote with your dollar and choose to buy organic apples, for which the use of pesticides is prohibited.
So, what’s the takeaway?
- Choose red apples
- Store them in the fridge
- Eat the skin and you might just keep the doctor away
|Written by Autumn Hoverter, MS, RDN|