Apples are at the heart of religions, romances, fairy tales, and proverbs. The popularity of apples is no surprise, as over 7,000 varieties of apples are grown worldwide, including 2,500 in the U.S. alone. Most U.S. cultivars have a harvest season of late fall, placing apples front and center of fall festivities such as Halloween (spiced cider, anyone?) and Thanksgiving, when the quintessentially American apple pie often makes an appearance.
As the fall harvest makes its way to grocers, farmers’ markets, and your local pick-your-own orchards, we share some facts and tips about how you can make the most of the heart-healthy nutrition available from apples.
Cardiac-friendly nutrition from apples
If you are searching for a low-calorie, fat-free, heart-healthy, satisfying snack, look no further than America’s second favorite fruit (trailing only behind bananas). Apples are a nutrient-dense food that are packed with dietary fiber, which helps prevent the absorption of dietary LDL or bad cholesterol in the gut and cancer-fighting antioxidants. They are a great source of flavonoids and polyphenolics, known for boosting cardiovascular health by reducing the buildup of plaque in the arteries, lowering blood pressure, and reducing stroke risk. In fact, according to the National Library of Medicine, for every 1/5 cup (25 grams) of apple slices consumed per day, the risk of stroke decreased by 9%.
Furthermore, apples are a good source of B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, thiamin, and pyridoxine (vitamin B-6). Together, these vitamins help as co-factors for enzymes in metabolism and various synthetic functions inside the human body.
Selecting and enjoying apples
The American Heart Association recommends 4-5 servings of fruit, including apples, a day.
When selecting apples, look for firm fruits with rich coloring. For more extended storage of apples, keep them in the refrigerator. This is because apples ripen faster on a counter and may only keep for about one week there. Avoid storing apples near bananas, onions, and potatoes to avoid absorbing flavors or premature ripening.
- Wash apples thoroughly in the running water to remove surface dust and insecticide/fungicide sprays.
- Trim off its top end using a paring knife and cut the fruit into two halves.
- Take out tiny, centrally placed, bitter seeds.
- Slice the fruit into desirable cubes or slices.
NOTE: Sliced apple turns brown upon exposure to air—a naturally occurring process due to harmless oxidation. So, if you slice up an apple but are not yet ready to eat it, rinse the slices in water with a few drops of fresh lemon juice added.
- Diced apples add a fall flavor to fruit or green salads.
- Rather than a high-calorie sweet dessert, swap out for sliced apples either alone or with cheese.
- Homemade or no-added-sugar applesauce with cinnamon on top is an excellent way to enjoy apples if you are on a soft diet.
Whichever way you choose to eat your apples, your heart will be sure to thank you. And your doctor might just be pleased, too.
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