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The old adage holds true: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Doctors in ancient Greece praised the healing properties of apples. Galen, the famous second-century Greek physician, wrote that apples “restore countless invalids to health” and described the healing properties of different types of apples for several illnesses.
What the ancients didn’t know is what substance in apples makes them so good at protecting health. We now know that it’s a flavonoid called quercetin and that apples are one of the best dietary sources for it. In laboratory studies, quercetin reduces allergic reactions and inflammation, and it has demonstrated some potential to limit the growth of tumors. It may also reduce symptoms in chronic prostatitis and interstitial cystitis. A study in 2007 found that cyclists given quercetin during a regimen involving three hours of bicycling per day developed fewer respiratory tract infections than a control group that did not get the supplement.
Apples have long been appreciated for their keeping qualities—stored in a cool and dry cellar or barn, they provided crisp, fresh flavor throughout the winter even in the days before refrigeration. Today, properly refrigerated, they will keep for months. Apples are also a good source of pectin, a soluble dietary fiber that helps lower cholesterol and is useful for relieving both constipation and diarrhea. Apples’ high fiber content means that they slow the absorption of glucose—good for controlling blood sugar. And they contain alpha hydroxy acids, so you can even use apples as an exfoliating masque for your skin.
Unsweetened organic applesauce makes a great snack by itself and can replace oil and fats in baked goods. I use applesauce in place of the oil in my oat bran muffins, making them much more moist and tasty—and lower in fat and calories— than muffins made with oil. The trick also works for baking brownies, producing a chocolate treat that’s fluffy, moist, and cake-like.Nutritional Facts
One medium size (about 4-inch diameter) apple with the skin provides 81 calories, 21 g carbohydrate, 0.3 g protein, 0.5 g fat, 3.7 g dietary fiber, 73 IU vitamin A, 8 mg vitamin C, 10 mg calcium, and 159 mg potassium.