Pile of Apples

Apples keep more than the doctor away

This time of year, temperatures routinely clock in between the very reasonable “feels good with a sweatshirt and jeans on” and the equally reasonable “feels good with a t-shirt and shorts on.” The humidity has migrated south and you can finally enjoy the outdoors in comfort.

Yes, that means it’s September: time to pick some apples!

Apples are big business, with more than 7,500 growers in the U.S. producing about 240 million bushels of apples each year. And Illinois is no exception. Apples are basically a culture touchstone in autumn.

Picking your own apples at an orchard, of which there are several in Illinois, can be a fun way to bond with family and friends, and it provides an opportunity for a refreshing walk with beautiful scenery.

So, while you probably actually need more than just an apple a day to keep the doctor away – things like proper sleep, regular exercise and a diet rich in vegetables, for example – the apple, in all its variations, can be a useful part of a healthy diet.

The incredible, edible apple

Studies show that people who eat apple slices before a meal tend to eat less during that meal, according to Nathan Hamman, wellness services manager for OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center. A couple apple slices before a meal can help you consume fewer total calories and possibly even lose weight.

Foods that are high in fiber tend to be more filling, so you feel full earlier in a meal and reduce the risk of overeating. Fiber can also help lower “bad” cholesterol (commonly known as LDL) and help lower your blood pressure, decreasing your risk for stroke or cardiovascular disease.

The type of fiber in apples is a prebiotic, Nathan said, which means it’s the type that the good, healthy bacteria in your gut feed off of. So, apples can help keep your digestive system running smoothly.

Another tip from Nathan for eating apples: don’t ditch that skin.

“A lot of people pare their apples, but you lose over half the fiber when you get rid of the skin,” Nathan said. “You need 25-35 grams of fiber per day, and a medium-sized apple might have four grams of fiber. When you ditch the rind, you not only reduce the amount of fiber you take in, you also lose vitamins and a bunch of phytochemicals that can have positive effects, like helping prevent cancer.”

Have your apple and eat it too

Perhaps it should be no surprise that apples are so popular. They not only have several health benefits, they are also very diverse.

There are so many ways to eat them: plain, cut into slices for dipping, or in any number of baked goods. Plus, with a wide variety of flavors and textures, there is bound to be an apple to suit just about anyone.

“It’s easy to mix and match and find different textures, different levels of sweetness and tartness that appeal to your personal preference,” Nathan said. “I like the tart ones. And they’re good by themselves. They don’t have to be in an apple cider doughnut to be enjoyed.

“Some people cut them up and put them in a salad. It can really freshen one up with some crunch and sweetness. It’s a healthier way to get a crunch than croutons.”

Here are some of Nathan’s favorite healthy apple recipes:

Dietitian Tip: When baking an apple recipe, swap in pumpkin puree to take the place of eggs or oil because the flavors of apple and pumpkin work well together. Click To Tweet

Wellness services at OSF Saint Anthony provide a wide variety of useful options for people looking for help with their diet and fitness.

There are cooking classes every month, and you can meet with an individual dietitian.

Ask your doctor about a referral so you can consult with a dietitian and get more from your meals.

About Author: Ken Harris

Ken Harris is a writing coordinator for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare.

He has a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a daily newspaper reporter for four years before leaving the field and eventually finding his way to OSF HealthCare.

In his free time, Ken likes reading, fly fishing, hanging out with his dog and generally pestering his lovely, patient wife.

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Categories: Diet & Exercise