It turns out that the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is backed by far more research these days than it was when you heard the old adage as a child.
So don’t overlook this boring old standby as you race through the produce section looking for something exotic from Asia or South America. Apples have some potent anti-cancer benefits.
They’re a lot cheaper than their intriguing cousins from the far ends of the earth, especially this time of year when they’re in season. And here’s a plus: You can eat them raw without any preparation. The perfect snack food.
In my view, off-season apples do NOT taste as good. The autumn – our autumn, in the Northern Hemisphere – is the best time to enjoy.
But don’t make three common mistakes, because you can lose the apple’s anticancer benefits. . .
7 SHOCKING VITAMIN RIP-OFFS
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Scads of new research points to the apple’s anti-cancer benefits…
They’re now known to help prevent at least five types of cancer – liver, colon, breast, prostate, and lung. Here’s the evidence…
At the University of Wisconsin researchers took two cell lines each of human prostate cancer and human breast cancer and exposed them to an extract of the peels of organic Gala apples.
They dripped a bit of the extract on the cancer cells, then a little more, and more again. By the end, the cancer cells had gone to wherever cancer cells go when they die.
This wasn’t chemo, mind you. Just apple peel extract.
At Cornell, food scientists induced mammary cancer in lab rats, and then fed them apple extracts equivalent to one apple per day. Tumor incidence dropped 25 percent compared to the controls. When the dose was raised to three apples a day (equivalent), tumor incidence fell by a shocking 61 percent.
In the Nurses Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, regular fruit and vegetable consumption was linked to a 21 percent lower rate of lung cancer in women. And apples were the real standout when consumed individually.
A Finnish study of 10,000 men and women showed much the same result… higher intake of flavonoids from apples was linked to less lung cancer.
Similar findings show the apple’s perks against liver and colon cancers.
In general, apples can reduce your risk of cancer and slow its spread if it does develop. But scientists are unsure of the exact mechanism for the benefit, probably because the fruit contains many different natural chemicals.
However, scientists do have some idea of how it works. . .
Certain compounds in apples talk to your genes
Recently it’s been discovered that substances found in apples can turn off or turn on certain genes:
Maspin – a tumor suppressor protein — slows the growth of new blood vessels needed for initiating and spreading cancer. Tumor cells can actively turn off maspin. Amazingly, apple peels can turn maspin back on.
Research shows that maspin becomes even more effective as increasing amounts of blended apple peels are used. So you don’t want to peel your apples. Eat the skins.
Flavonoids: Super antioxidants scavenge free radicals that destroy your cells and run roughshod over your DNA – the first step on the road to cancer. Apples are rich in flavonoids – especially in the skins. They turn genes off and on. In other words, they’re talking to your genes.
Procyanidins. Super antioxidants that give fruits color and protect your DNA from damage – averting the first step in cancer formation. Scientists know these nutrients suppress a pro-inflammatory leukotriene called LOX1. Also, they suppress EGFR, a tumor growth factor receptor that’s prevalent in many breast cancers.
Plant fibers and pectin are prebiotics, that is, they promote good intestinal flora, which in turn controls inflammation, detoxification, and hormone metabolism.
Quercetin is also found in the skin of red apples (and other red foods, including red onions, pomegranates, and cranberries). It has more than 30 known functions in your body.
Quercetin needs the help of intestinal flora to become bioavailable. And as I just mentioned, the apple’s own plant fibers and pectin support good intestinal flora. Quercetin also controls inflammation, inhibits growth factors common to many cancers, and helps express tumor suppressor genes.
Vitamin C is a potent cell-protective antioxidant that regulates a host of functions from preventing infections to protecting your nose, throat, and lungs, to controlling your genes.
Incidentally, apples are also known to improve digestive health, counter anemia, energize weak muscles and improve muscle tone, control diabetes, protect your brain, resolve respiratory issues, improve night vision, aid in weight loss, and reduce wrinkles and signs of aging.
But this is par for the course for natural foods, which almost always influence multiple systems and functions at once. And it’s why food should be your medicine.
In all likelihood, there are a whole lot more ‘secrets’ about apples yet to be discovered.
These mistakes cause apples to lose nutritional value
Want to maximize apples for your fight against cancer? Do everything possible to avoid these three mistakes:
Mistake #1: Don’t throw out the most nutritious part!
The apple processing industry discards an estimated 9,000 metric TONS of apple peels per year. Yet that’s where the bulk of the cancer-fighting nutrients resides.
Some people object to the texture, or the bitterness of the peels. (I don’t get this at all, but apparently some people feel this way.) But the peels contain the most beneficial nutrients. So embrace the taste. Apple peels activate your anticancer genes.
Mistake #2: Don’t drink your apples – eat them!
Apple juice is not the health-promoting liquid so many people believe it to be. In fact, it may be worse than sugar water. It has the same effect of boosting your blood sugar and uric acid levels.
Conventional apple juice also often contains contaminants such as fungal toxins and pesticides.
Mistake #3: Not springing for organic apples.
Scientists project that if half the U.S. population ate just one more serving of fruits and veggies a day, it could prevent 20,000 cancer cases annually – possibly including yours. At the same time the added chemicals would only cause an extra 10 cases of cancer.
Can we trust those stats? It’s hard to say. But why risk it?
Conventionally grown apples are the second most contaminated kind of produce on Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of foods that contain the most farm chemicals. That’s why I choose organic whenever possible, and why I suggest you do too.
Fun ways to eat more apples, more often
Apples have been called a food of the gods – and of mere mortals too. How many ways can you think of to enjoy them? Try these:
- Apple slices with nut butters
- In a green salad or fruit salad
- Cooked with vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash
- Baked or poached with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, or red wine
- As an accompaniment to pork chops
- As a sugar-free applesauce (with the peels included)
Enjoy a trip to the apple orchard if you can, this fall.
What are your favorite ways to eat apples? Give us your comments on our Facebook page.