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Spotlight on: Apples!


Spotlight on: Apples!

Tis the season to eat apples!  If you’ve just gone apple picking, and have WAY more apples than you planned on, worry not — they’re so versatile and good for you, and with the right idea on what to do with them, they won’t stick around for long.  And if you haven’t hit the orchards yet this season, get out there and pick some apples.  Here are the top health benefits of this rotund fruit and a couple of our favorite ways to eat them.

Weight control: Apples contain pectin, a special soluble fiber found in fruits and veggies.  A University of Buffalo study found that participants who ate 2.8 grams of pectin before breakfast and lunch consumed 12% fewer calories during the day and 22% fewer calories at their evening snack.  Snack on pectin-containing foods between meals and you might be less tempted to stray from your calorie controlled plan.  A large apple has just over 1 gram of pectin, but you can find pectin in most whole grains, citrus fruits, and veggies.

Cholesterol lowering power: Apples contain the powerful flavonoid Quercetin — one of the compounds found in plants that is neither a vitamin nor mineral but benefits your health by acting as an antioxidant.  Flavonoids like quercetin seem to protect against damage to our blood vessels by LDL “bad” cholesterol.  Quercetin has been studied quite a bit and linked to lower LDL cholesterol as well as lower blood pressure.

Powerful antioxidants: When the USDA ranked foods by their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score, or the score that indicates how good something is at destroying damaging free radicals, apples appeared on the “top 20” list FOUR times.  Putting the stop on free radicals is beneficial to keeping every cell in your body healthy, from head to toe.  Just remember: 2/3 of the apple’s antioxidants are found in the peel, so keep it on.

Blood sugar balance:  New research suggests that the special phytonutrients in apples (polyphenols, phenolic acids, and tannins) might inhibit the amount of sugar absorbed, potentially leading to lower blood sugar after eating them.  They think the compounds in apples (and they looked at strawberries, too) could actually interact with the system that transports sugar from your small intestine into your blood stream.

Our favorite ways to use apples:

1. Microwave “baked” apples: Take out the core and stuff the hole with 1 tbsp chopped walnuts, 1 tbsp raisins, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Drizzle with 1 tsp maple syrup and 2 tbsp water and microwave for 5 minutes, or until soft and slightly shriveled.  Top with 0% plain Greek yogurt or a tsp of peanut butter.

2.  Add to squash before roasting: Slice up and apple or two and toss with olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper (or whatever seasonings you’re putting on your winter squash) before baking with winter squash and serve as a side dish.

3. Pilaf: Chop an apple and add to a cooked whole grain (like wheat berries or quinoa) along with chopped nuts, herbs, and a vinaigrette.

4. Apple pie smoothie: If you’re in a banana smoothie rut, consider this your apple-cinnamon anecdote! It’s a recipe we developed for one of our sets of meal plans for SELF magazine, and it’s delicious http://www.self.com/healthierways/recipes/breakfast/apple-pie-smoothie.

What are your favorite types of apples?  Favorite ways to use them?

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