By Reina Hasting
It’s October and a popular fruit is celebrated this month, the apple.
According to the U.S Apple Association, the apple started out having its own week in 1904 and now has its own month during October. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service says the U.S. produced more than 11.4 billion pounds of apples last year. Most apples are harvested from late August to October and each apple is handpicked by people using ladders and cloth buckets to reduce fruit bruising.
There is such a large variety of apples grown in the U.S. that you can eat a different variety each day for at least three months. We’ve all heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Is this true? We can all have our own personal opinion, but the following is what research has shown.
Looking at the USDA National Nutrition Database for Standard Reference, one small raw, red delicious apple with the skin is about 93 calories. The nutritional value of apples will vary slightly depending on the variety and size of the apple, but it is basically free of fat, sodium and cholesterol while high in fiber.
Because apples have a good source of fiber, the fruit’s natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream helping stabilize blood sugar levels. About half of fiber in apples is the soluble fiber pectin. Apple pectin has been shown to have cholesterol-reducing properties, which help lower the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Research published in the Nutrition Journal notes that “in the laboratory, apples have been found to have very strong antioxidant activity, inhibit cancer cell proliferation, decrease lipid oxidation and lower cholesterol.” They also help protect brain cells against oxidative stress, a tissue-damaging process associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Apples contain several minerals, including potassium. Potassium is a type of electrolyte our body needs to function properly like keeping a regular heartbeat. It helps muscles contract and nerves function. Potassium is essential for our body’s growth and maintenance as it helps move nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells.
Speaking of waste, with the billions of apples produced each year, it’s good to keep food waste in mind. If stored properly, apples can be good for 4-6 weeks. When selecting an apple, make sure it is firm to the touch and free of cuts and bruises. It’s best to refrigerate apples right away so that they can maintain flavor and ripen slowly.
So now that we know how great the apple is, how much should we consume a day? U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines recommend consuming anywhere from 1 to 2 cups a day of fruit, depending on our age, gender and specific diet. One cup is equivalent to half a large apple (3.25 inches in diameter) or one small apple (2.25 inches in diameter) or one cup of sliced, chopped, raw or cooked apple. You can go to www.choosemyplate.gov/fruit for more information.
We can’t guarantee an apple a day will keep the doctor away, but we know there are many health benefits when it comes to the apple, so grab an apple today. Here’s a simple quick recipe from the UAF Cooperative Extension Service.
Microwave Baked Apple
4 large apples
½ cup brown sugar (optional)
1. Wash apples and remove core.
2. Cut a thin slice off bottom of each apple to form a flat surface. Place apples in a microwave-safe baking dish.
3. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a small dish. Spoon mixture into center of apples.
4. Cover with wax paper and microwave on high power 6 to 10 minutes or until apples are soft.
Check out the UAF Cooperative Extension publication, “Growing Tree and Bush Fruits in Alaska,” at http://bit.ly/2N1NdJQ for recommendations on apple varieties that grow in different Alaska climate zones, including those in the Interior.
And last, here’s some fun apple facts provided to you from the University of Illinois Extension at http://extension.illinois.edu/apples/facts.cfm. Enjoy!
Reina Hasting is a coordinator with Extension’s Family Nutrition Program, which is administered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For questions, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-474-2437.