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Apples: A Healthy Temptation

examples of apple varities

From the Garden of Eden to Johnny Appleseed, apples are rich in folklore and history. But don’t make them a forbidden fruit – they are also rich in cancer-fighting substances and may help promote healthy weight.

The Autumn apple harvest ushers in a host of colorful traditions. Rosh Hashanah celebrations include dipping apple slices in honey in hopes for a sweet new year. Halloween parties aren’t complete without bobbing for apples and an apple on the teacher’s desk signals “back to school.”

The allure of apples however, is much more than myth and lore. The science behind apples points to a staggering diversity of useful genes and beneficial phytochemicals. Here’s the story behind the magic of the apple.

A True American Immigrant

While apples are considered, well – as American as apple pie – they most likely descended from wild apples in Kazakhstan, Central Asia. Of the thousands of wild varieties in the world, we would find only a few to be tasty. But we still benefit from their genetic strengths.

Johnny Appleseed may have planted his orchards from seed, but if you try planting an apple seed you will most likely not get an edible apple. The apples we eat today are from grafted trees. This growing method ensures production of the desired fruit.

The amazing genetic diversity in wild apple strains means agricultural scientists can develop varieties with not only delicious flavor, but also disease and pest resistance. The health promoting substances so abundant in the ancestor apples are also preserved in the sweeter, tastier domestic varieties.

An Apple or Three a Day

AICR recommends a diet rich in vegetables and fruits because these foods appear to stop cancer in several ways. Research points to apples as one important component in a diet to lower cancer risk.

The antioxidant power in apples ranks among the highest in all fruits. These and other phytochemicals in plant foods can act to:

  • Protect cells from cancer-inducing oxidative damage
  • Prevent the start of cancer growth
  • Stop continued tumor growth
  • Promote cancer cell death

According to laboratory studies done by AICR grantee Dr. Rui Hai Liu, M.D., Ph.D., apples, with their potent phytochemicals, may suppress breast cancer tumor growth.

Eating one or more apples per day was associated with lower risk for lung and colon cancer in several large-scale human studies that looked at apple consumption and cancer incidence.

A healthy weight is also important for cancer prevention. Scientists in Brazil have shown that adding three apples daily to women’s diets helps lower their calorie intake and contributes to weight reduction. The low calorie density and high fiber of apples may have helped the women eat fewer calories overall.

The Last Bite

However you enjoy apples, with about 100 varieties grown commercially in the U.S. you’re sure to find one that suits your taste. Check out the Autumn Apple Cranberry Crisp for one tasty way to enjoy apples at the end of a healthy meal!

Apple Variety  Use Chart

Chart from http://www.usapple.orgexternal site

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