December 1st is National Eat a Red Apple Day. Apples are a double-threat in the world of fruit: they’re delicious and nutritious! Plus, they have a long and hearty history: not only is the apple tree one of the most widely cultivated fruit trees, it’s perhaps the oldest. Thosuands of years of cultivating the fruit has resulted in over 7,500 cultivars bred for a variety of desired characteristics. The fruit originated in Asia and Europe many millenia ago, but it’s relatively new to North America, having arrived with early Europena colonists. Today, the U.S. is the second largest producer of apples, producing over 7.5% of the apple supply.
We’ve all heard the old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and, while it’s tempting to imbue the shiny fruit with powers reminiscent of the Garden of Eden (or even of Snow White’s wicked stepmother’s curse) I’ve often wondered about the real health benefits of apples. Sure, fruits and natural foods are inherently good for you, packed with vitamins and fiber, but what about all the sugar? In honor of today’s holiday I did a little poking around on the internet and discovered that apples may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colon cancer. They are packed with anitoxidants and may help manage cholesterol levels, healhty weight, and heart disease. But even more interestingly, studies with mice have suggested that conentrated apple juice may increase the production of certain neurotransmitters that play a part in preventiing some of the cogintive declines that accompany aging.
After learning so much about apples and their benefits I started to feel like I’ve been missing out. If you added up all of the little apple parts I’ve eaten over the past decade it would probably total to less than a dozen full apples. It’s not that I don’t like apples — it’s just that I have a history of problems with them. When I was a teenager I developed a few food allergies and acidic fruits like apples were among the offending foods. So, as much as I loved them (especially green apples!) I gave them up; they just weren’t worth the accompanying stomach ache. Oddly, though, in more recent years I’ve had a little apple here and there — in apple pies, a few bites of apple sauce, salads, or fritters — and I seem to be handling the fruit much better. I wonder if it’s possible that I’ve outgrown this digestive detriment.