Young or old, there is probably a good chance that at some time in your life you have heard the phrase "An apple a day keeps the doctor away". Is there any substance to this claim? Or, is it just a cute little saying that has managed to linger in our modern vocabulary?
What are Flavonoids? In fact, Apples and other fruits have been shown to have health benefits primarily attributed to the antioxidant flavonoids they contain. Flavonoids are compounds that help protect various plants from pathogens, ultraviolet light, and other stress factors. Flavonoids are also responsible for the deep rich colors of many fruits.
What are Antioxidants? A particular flavonoid that is found in apples is polyphenols. Polyphenols are phytochemicals that act like astringents and are the major source of antioxidants in apples. Antioxidants are a group of chemicals that help to neutralize a group of molecules called free radicals. Free radicals, nasty little varmints that can damage cells and tissues, appear to play a part in the onset of heart disease and prostate, colon and other cancers. So, what does all this science talk actually mean? Well, a recent Canadian study has confirmed that apples just might help keep the doctor away. But some apples may do a better job than others.
According to the Canadian researchers some apples did pack more of a disease fighting punch than other apples in the study. Red Delicious came out on top with the most antioxidant activity of any variety. From highest to lowest the order of antioxidant activity in apples was as follows:
Red Delicious McIntosh Cortland Northern Spy Ida Red Golden Delicious Mutsu Empire
As this was a Canadian study, some of the apples that are more popular in the United States were not included. Popular varieties that were not in the test group included Gala apples, Granny Smith, Jonathan, York, Stayman and Rome. However, I believe it would be safe to assume that these varieties also carry levels of antioxidants. The Canadian researchers also found that antioxidants were five times more prevalent in the apple skin than the actual flesh. So, wash but don't peel before you eat.
In addition to the Canadian study, three recent studies by research teams at Cornell University in New York offer a few other great reasons to make apples part of your regular diet:
Alzheimer's disease - In a study done on rats, antioxidants found to be abundant in apples seemed to protect brain cells against oxidative stress. This is a tissue damaging process that has been linked with Alzheimer's and other brain degenerative disorders.
Heart Disease - Some antioxidants found in apples could possibly lower the "bad" form of cholesterol. The process of lowering this cholesterol is similar to the mechanism that statin drugs use to help lower your LDL (low density lipoprotein).
Breast Cancer – Rats exposed to cancer causing agents and then given the human equivalent of one, three and six apples a day respectively over six months were up to 44 percent less likely to develop breast tumors.
What's the moral to this story? Fruits and vegetables CAN help keep the doctor away. There may be fruits with higher levels of antioxidants but in terms of fruit popularity, apples are second only to bananas. Don't wait any longer, go grab your favorite apple and start getting healthy!
By Michael Brooks
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Biography: Mike Brooks is a life long follower and proponent of the fitness lifestyle. Mr. Brooks believes that being healthy is a choice and includes not only a proper diet but total fitness of the mind, body and soul.
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