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With apple power, battle cancer and cut calories

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is certainly no exaggeration, for the mighty apple is indeed a storehouse of vitamins, minerals and many other valuable substances. In fact, apple consumption has been associated with reduced risk for a number of diseases including cancer, particularly lung cancer, as well as cardiovascular diseases, asthma and type 2 diabetes.

Apples are rich in vitamin C and vitamin E, the content varying with the 7,000 known varieties. Vitamins C and E are powerful antioxidants, which help to build immunity, fight chronic diseases and slow down ageing.

Apples are also an excellent source of disease–fighting soluble fibre in the form of pectin. Its high pectin content helps lower cholesterol and acts as a laxative by bulking the stool and maintaining intestinal balance. Pectin also helps to bind toxic metals such as mercury and lead, and helps excrete them.

Cooked apples are known to relieve diarrhoea, dysentery and colitis. One large apple a day has been shown to reduce serum cholesterol levels by 8–11 per cent.

The pectin in apples supplies galacturonic acid to the body, which lowers the body's need for insulin and may help in the management of diabetes. Apple pectin helps in gelling and it is this property which helps in making apple jams and jellies.

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Apples and apple juice are rich in phytochemicals (plant chemicals) including flavonoids and polyphenols. Polyphenols such as tannins (tannic acid) are potent enemies of viruses particularly herpes simplex virus. Two polyphenols – phloridzin and phloretin xyloglucoside found in apples have not been found in any other fruit.

Not only are apples exceptionally rich in phenols, they also have the highest concentration of "free phenols", which means that they are more available for absorption into the blood stream. Quite impressively, the anti–oxidant capacity of approximately one apple is equivalent to about 1,500 mg of vitamin C (although one apple has only about 5 mg of vitamin C). A recent study reported that risk of colorectal cancer was reduced by about 50 per cent on intake of more than one apple a day.

Tannins are also astringent in nature, which may be the reason why cooked apples help in diarrheoa management.

Apple peels contain more antioxidant compounds, especially poly–phenols and vitamin C, than its flesh. A peel provides anywhere between two and six times (depending on the variety) more phenolic compounds than the flesh, and about two to three times more flavonoids. The antioxidant activity of apple peel is about two to six times that of apple flesh. Quercetin, a flavonoid present in apples in high concentration has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti–oxidant, anti–diabetic, cholesterol lowering and anti-cancer properties.

A recent study reported that combined apple pectins and polyphenols lowered cholesterol, triglycerides to a much greater extent than either apple pectin or polyphenols. It has also been reported that people with the highest consumption of apples had a lower risk of thrombotic stoke compared to the ones with the lowest consumption. Interestingly, apple consumption has been inversely linked with asthma and has also been positively associated with pulmonary health.

Apart from being high in nutrients, they are also a great bonus for weight watchers and diabetics. With a glycaemic index of about 50, apples dampen appetite, keep you going for longer and are low on calories. They contain a high proportion of fructose – a sugar metabolised slowly in the body that helps maintain blood sugar levels.

Indian Express
27 July 2013.

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