Fruit with a Pedigree
For a simple, unassuming fruit, the apple sure does have an illustrious place in literature and lore. It was the reason for the fall of man (Garden of Eden), it inspired the theory of gravity (Sir Isaac Newton), it put a princess to sleep (Snow White), it was shot off a boy's head (William Tell) and inspired the planting of trees throughout the northeastern United States (Johnny Appleseed).
The apple tree and its fruit is woven within the fabric of folklore from an incredible number of societies around the world, imbued with the symbolism for immortality, health, fruitfulness, enlightenment, magic and more.
But not everything about the apple is lore. Especially when it comes to its symbolism for health and nutrition. Let's take a look at why the idiom 'An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away' bears fruit.
Apples are perhaps best known for their vitamin C content—one of world’s most well-researched nutrient. Given its pedigree as a powerful immune system supporter, it makes sense to incorporate vitamin C into your diet during the cold and flu seasons. Vitamin C is found in any number of foods. If you’re not prone to eating properly, be sure to consider purchasing a quality vitamin C supplement.
The immune-boosting ability of vitamin C is well documented in research. It has been shown to increase the body’s production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infection. It also supports antibody and interferon production, which are both healthy reactions of the immune system that protect us from foreign invaders. The valuable immune support from a daily dose of vitamin C is most likely one way that an apple “keeps the doctor away.”
We have all been told we need to increase the fiber in our diets, and we are beginning to see “more fiber” added to an astounding array of food labels. Could this be another benefit of adding apples to our diet? Absolutely! An apple contains 30% of the daily minimum recommendation for fiber.
Diets high in fiber are linked to a reduced risk of developing heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. Fiber also helps to balance blood sugar levels, which is essential for stable energy. Its fiber content is most likely the reason behind the research that establishes a link between apples and healthy cholesterol levels.
Apples contain an abundance of flavonoids, which are plant compounds commonly known for their antioxidant properties. Quercetin is one of these flavonoid compounds that shows particular promise in the protection against age-related conditions.
Apples have one of the highest contents of quercetin among common fruits, and organic produce typically contains more quercetin than conventionally grown.
Carolyn Marocco, N.D., is a nutritionist and naturopath who writes and speaks on health and nutrition in addition to running a private practice in the Dallas, Texas, area.