Friday, 9 October 2015

My Favourite Superfoods - Apples

Apples on a tree

I don't really care for the popular buzzword "superfood" which is used to describe foods appearing in ever growing and ever changing lists promoted by the media and bloggers. Some of these are foods I'd never heard of before - foods which you wouldn't have had access to in the past.

Studies have shown that these rather exotic sounding superfoods may contain certain medicinal qualities and I use the word "may" because this research is most likely to be inconclusive since it's been performed using small sample groups, on animals or in the lab with unrealistic, high concentrations of the food. And let's be real here! How many of us can actually afford to buy these foods regularly or even at all? Is it just a marketing ploy? Can we easily include goji berries, wheat grass, baobab or maca, for example, into our diet? And do we really want to?

The good news is that, in contrast, the majority of these so called superfoods are foods we incorporate into our diet anyway. Therefore, since they are just everyday foods, should they even be appearing on these lists? Surely the word "superfood" should only apply to something with a bit of pizazz? Something extra special like chlorella (green algae), for example.

By definition, superfoods are foods which are nutritionally dense and rich in antioxidants so, in my opinion, all fruits, nuts and vegetables should deserve to be awarded the "superfood" status, regardless of whether they appear in someone's list or not and I'm going to be posting about a few of my favourites over the next few weeks starting off with the humble apple.

Apples don't contain any fat or sodium and one medium apple weighing about 180 grams will provide about 95 calories and about 8 per cent of the recommended daily value of carbohydrates. This includes a whopping 17 percent of your daily required dietary fibre in the form of both insoluble fibre (which provides bulk for the digestive tract) and soluble fibre which is in the form of pectin and the pectin in apples has been shown to reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol and increase the "good" HDL cholesterol.

Interestingly, when you examine the actual breakdown of vitamins and minerals in a standard apple, it doesn't really seem that impressive apart from Vitamin C which is known to protect the immune system. The following list shows the percentages of your required vitamins and minerals (those above 1%) based on a 2000 calorie a day diet which can be found in an apple (unpeeled) :

  • Vitamin C 14%
  • Vitamin K 5%
  • Vitamin B6 4%
  • Vitamin B2 3%
  • Vitamin A 2%
  • Vitamin B1 2%
  • Vitamin E 2%
  • Potassium 6%
  • Manganese 3%
  • Magnesium 2%
  • Phosphorus 2%
  • Copper 2%

But this is where it gets more interesting! Apples are jam packed full of phytonutrients, especially in the peel. What is a phytonutrient? Well, phyto means "plant" in Greek so it means the nutrients of a plant. They are the compounds which protect the plant from the effects of the weather and insects, they look after the health of the plant and then go on to protect our health too. There are thousands of recognised phytonutrients some of which are also vitamins such as vitamins A, C, E, K and folate.

Antioxidants work by seeking out the harmful particles in the body known as free radicals which damage cell membranes and tamper with DNA. These antioxidants then go on to prevent and neutralise their effects on these cells which is why a diet full of antioxidants is so important to our health! Flavonoids which are largely responsible for the colour of fruit and vegetables are antioxidant phytonutrients with powerful properties.

Red apples are particularly high in the flavonoid, quercetin. This powerful antioxidant might beneficially aid lung function as well as assist in the prevention of lung and prostate cancer. Research has also revealed that it may help people who are suffering from memory problems.

In fact, apples are one of the most researched foods and the phytonutrients present in apples have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve asthma. If you want to read a little more about the health benefits of apples please click here.

Apples are perhaps one of our cheapest fruits. Kept cool, they are easy to store and a favourite dessert ingredient all over the world. I prefer to buy organic apples and often find them on offer but if you buy non-organic, just make sure that they are well washed. I've used them in quite a few SCD legal recipes on the blog including :

close up of one Blackberry Stuffed Baked Apple
Cucumber, Bea, Mint and Apple Salad with Hazelnuts in a bowl
Waldorf Salad
Apple Pie with a slice taken out

So next time you buy apples, try to choose a variety of apples since the phytonutrients are unique to each type. They make an ideal mid-morning snack and are cheap as well as easily portable and from this evidence, it looks like an apple a day may actually help keep the doctor away! But remember to try not to peel off the skins!

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  1. Great informative article! Thank you!

    1. Thank you Rachel, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Darn. An errant keystroke and I lost my comment. Short version ... apples are my favorite raw fruit. I do like them baked in some recipes, but they're my "go to" fruit to eat as is. Eating an apple can also be like drinking a cup of coffee or tea and I've used them that way. I was just reading an explanation of that: "The process of digesting the glucose (natural sugars) helps wake up your body, and then keep it that way – for about as long as it takes for your body to process the apple." So add that benefit to all the rest! :-) Thanks for this educational post, Vicky!


    1. I hate it when that happens! Thank you for having another go! Having been brought up with apples being a regular part of my diet, I agree they are the best snack food, quick, easy and refreshing, I'd never thought that they could be like have a cup of coffee but yes, you're right, they are a bit of a "pick-me-up"! Thank you for explaining why :) I wish we could buy Honey Crisp Apples here, apparently they are the tastiest of all apples - have you tried them?

  3. Honey Crisps are good, but my favorites continue to be Pink Lady Apples. :-) They are sometimes called Cripps Pink. Apples with almond butter are one of the best perk-me-up snacks ever! ;-0

    1. Pink Ladies are my son's favourites, they're also one of the most expensive here! Mmmm, I think I'll have an apple with almond butter later, it's a great combination x

  4. Great post Vicky! Fruit & veg are nutrient powerhouses so I think they should all be on the 'superfood' list. It's been a good year for apples. Our tree is laden so I'll be looking out for new recipes to try. Bookmarking yours right now ;) xx

    1. Thank you! We had a bumper crop this year too but haven't managed to get them all in yet, I hope the cold weather hasn't got to them!

  5. Great post! What are you r top 3 (or 5) Apple types?

    1. Thanks Jennifer! Apples with thicker skins are the better ones which includes Red Delicious! Other good apples are Granny Smiths, Braeburn, Honey Crisp (which we can't buy here) and Pendragon - a variety grown in Cornwall which I've never tasted. I particularly like Cox, Russet and Royal Gala apples. Which do you like?

  6. Thanks for all the information. I have to admit that I don't like apples as they come off the tree, but put them in a pie or bake them in the oven and I'm a very happy lady :)

    1. Hi Lynette, I think I have to agree with you, these apples straight from the tree are a little sharp but baked in a pie, they're delicious. Thank you for visiting.