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Ate an Apfel

{Let's read the following with a Scottish accent for greatest effect and pleasure:}


"Ate an apfel avore gwain to bed, makes the doctor beg is bread."


If you're confused, the better known phrase is, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."


Does eating an apple before going to bed in 2020 really limit your doctor's ability to provide food for his or her family? It could! But it might also put a feast on the table. Not all apples are created equal as they may have been in the Medieval era!


As per the USApple Association, the US grows more than 100 varieties of apples. That's just from the US! Worldwide, there are thousands of varieties (4)!! Some of the most popular varieties in the US include Cripps Pink/Pink Lady, Empire, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, McIntosh and Red Delicious. However, not all of those varieties are the most nutritious.


The least nutritious varieties of apples include:


Golden Delicious

Pink Lady

Elf Star

Empire

Ginger Gold


These apples tend to have a significantly lower quantity of polyphenols, and more sugar which may lead to raised blood sugars and triglycerides, including an increased risk for poor cardiovascular health. This isn't to say, "You better not eat these!" You could still enjoy them with some healthy fats and protein such as nuts or seeds, avocado, turkey, chicken, or plain yogurt made with whole milk. Healthy fats and protein play a role with stabilizing blood sugars. Apples don't contain these nutrients, so eating them on their own - regardless of how nutritious they are - is not a wise decision.


If you'd like to reap the greatest nutrition impact from an apple...


The most nutritious varieties of apples include:


Granny Smith

Liberty

Red Delicious

Braeburn


In general, apples are a fantastic source of fiber - including soluble and insoluble pectin - and polyphenols (1,4). Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that promotes a healthy gut, normal blood sugars, and a healthy cardiovascular system (4,5). Polyphenols are a category of plant compounds and can be further categorized as flavonoids, phenolic acids, polyphenolic amides, and others. There are approximately 8,000 polyphenols!!! They often provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-fighting benefits (1,3,4). Granny Smith, Liberty, Red Delicious, and Braeburn are richer in flavonoids, and catechins (types of polyphenols), and are lower in sugar (4,6). Therefore, these varieties may contribute to a healthier impact on your blood sugars, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, gut microbiota, and fight cancerous cells. Just be sure you enjoy these with some healthy fats and protein, too.


Avoid peeling your apples if you can. The greatest concentration of nutrients is found in the skin of apples - as well as most other fruits and vegetables. Apple skins contain roughly three to four times more polyphenols and fiber than what is present in the pulp (4)!


Store apples between 35 and 40 degrees F if you plan to enjoy them within a few weeks. Maintaining some moisture in the cold storage area with a damp cheesecloth is also helpful. You could store apples for longer by storing at colder temperatures and higher humidity, though this isn't most recommended as the apples will lose more nutrients the longer they sit in storage (4).


Choose organic more often. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases an annual list of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residues, called the Dirty Dozen. Apples are fifth on the list. Therefore, if you choose to limit your exposure to pesticides, it is recommended you choose organic apples.


Quick Tips


  • As is true for most produce, bitter or tart fruits (i.e. Granny Smith) and vegetables have greater phytonutrient concentration. That means they provide greater antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits.

  • Fruits and vegetables containing red - also blue and purple - pigments (i.e. a red-skinned apple) contain a greater quantity of anthocyanins, one of 6,000 flavonoids.

  • As all produce loses its nutrient quality the longer it is stored, it is ideal to choose apples that were most recently harvested. Go apple picking or visit the farmer's market for the greatest nutrition impact - but really, more importantly - a fun experience!

  • Since the skin of an apple contains the greatest concentration of nutrients, and because those nutrients will degrade when exposed to heat and air, the healthiest way to eat an apple is whole. If you hate biting into apples, slices are A-OK! So long as they aren't sitting out for long. Sliced apples with natural peanut butter are a healthy and satisfying snack containing fiber, healthy fats and protein. Or try chopped apples in a salad with other colorful, antioxidant-rich fruits, such as Julia Album's gorgeous Winter Fruit Salad.


Here's a fun fact:


One damaged apple (bruised or cut) can cause the other apples it is stored with to go bad more quickly. (4) The damaged apple produces a greater quantity of ethylene gas, which naturally increases ripening. If you have a damaged apple, eat it soon, or store it away from other produce. And here's a forward thinking idea: if you have a damaged apple and need to ripen another fruit more quickly, say, an avocado: try storing them together in a paper bag!


When you're ready for an sweeter apple indulgence...


...you must try Cardamom-Oat Apple Crisp. This dessert, adapted from Food Network Magazine, is not made with your typical "Apple Pie Spice" but simply cinnamon and cardamom. It's a different way to do apple crisp, and your taste buds will adore the flavor explosion in your mouth! The recipe is super easy, too. Throw it together in under 30 minutes and bake for 20.


Cardamom-Oat Apple Crisp

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

7 large baking apples (aim for Braeburn and/or Granny Smith) (about 3 pounds)

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (add some lemon zest, too!)

1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar

1 ½ tsp ground cardamom

1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Kosher salt

Instructions:

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Cut the apples into quarters, remove the core and cut into ½-inch wedges. (And you've been informed now: keep those skins on for a nutritional benefit against the sugar!) In a large bowl, toss with lemon juice, zest (if using), ¼ cup of the brown sugar, and ½ teaspoon of the cardamom. 

Heat a medium Dutch oven or 12-inch cast-iron skillet and melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the apple mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples soften and release their juices, 6-8 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, flour, cinnamon, ½ teaspoon salt, the remaining brown sugar and cardamom. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a small bowl in the microwave, then pour it over the oat mixture. Stir the mixture with a fork until fully combined and crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over the apples.

Bake until the topping is brown and the filling is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve! For a healthier serving option, serve with plain, whole milk organic yogurt. If you're indulging all the way, top it with your favorite vanilla ice cream! ENJOY!!!


What are your favorite apple varieties? Plan on doing any apple picking this fall? Need some apple recipe ideas?

Write to Alyssa Cometto, MS, RDN, CDN at alyssa@fabulous-nutrition.com and strike up a conversation!

References

  1. Boyer, J., & Liu, R. H. (2004). Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Nutrition journal, 3, 5. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-3-5

  2. The George Mateljan Foundation. Apples. Accessed October 2020. http://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=15

  3. The George Mateljan Foundation. Flavonoids. Accessed October 2020. http://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=119

  4. Koutsos, A., Lima, M., Conterno, L., Gasperotti, M., Bianchi, M., Fava, F., Vrhovsek, U., Lovegrove, J. A., & Tuohy, K. M. (2017). Effects of Commercial Apple Varieties on Human Gut Microbiota Composition and Metabolic Output Using an In Vitro Colonic Model. Nutrients, 9(6), 533. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9060533

  5. Lairon, D., Arnault, N., Bertrais, S., Planells, R., Clero, E., Hercberg, S., & Boutron-Ruault, M. C. (2005). Dietary fiber intake and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in French adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 82(6), 1185–1194. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/82.6.1185

  6. Robinson, J. Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health.

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