Why are apples so fabulous?

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Photo by  Roberta Sorge  on  Unsplash


A cliché, I know, but actually there seems to be a lot of truth in this old saying. A 2011 review of the existing research on apples found that apples have been associated with beneficial effects on risk markers (such as cholesterol) and the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease. There is also research to suggest that they may help prevent cognitive decline, diabetes, weight gain, osteoporosis, lung function and gastro-intestinal problems. A recent (2016) study found that apple consumption is inversely associated with all-cause and specific disease mortality in the elderly. In plain English: The more apples elderly people eat, the longer they live. I’m sure it is safe to say that apples are beneficial for younger people as well then. (Note: Association is not causation – just because two things occur together doesn’t mean that one causes the other.)

So what is it about apples that makes them so fabulous?

Different things, not just one.

First of all, they contain lots of antioxidants. Those are nutrients that have the ability to safely disarm free radicals – a normal byproduct of metabolism, but in this day and age increased by environmental and dietary toxins. Free radicals lead to cell damage, so you want to load up on those antioxidants. Apples contain vitamin C and quercetin, but also catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid – some of the lesser known antioxidants, which give apples particularly strong antioxidant power. Apples also contain an unusually high concentration of phenolic compounds, a class of biochemically substances belonging to the flavonoid group, which are really, really good for us.  

The above mentioned quercetin (also contained in onions, black tea, berries, and peppers) is anti-inflammatory and is used to fight cardiovascular disease, allergies and asthma, insulin resistance and diabetes, stomach ulcers, viral infections, cognitive impairment and even chronic fatigue syndrome.  

Apples also contain pectin, a soluble fibre. Soluble fibre develops a gel-like consistency in the gut because it absorbs water. It bulks up stool and allows the muscles of the gut to ‘grab’ on to waste and move it along. It’s ability to absorb water means that pectin can also help reduce the incidence of diarrhoea.  

But here’s the thing: It’s not only through quercetin that apples help reduce inflammation – and remember, inflammation is now thought to be at the root of all chronic disease. Pectin feeds beneficial gut bacteria and they then produce – as a thank you – anti-inflammatory chemicals for us as well. In rats at least, apple-pectin has been found to achieve that, thus suppressing weight and fat gain (2016).

Lastly there’s boron. You may have spotted the mention of osteoporosis above. Boron is a mineral that has bone-building properties and is important for the prevention of osteoporosis (bone loss) and arthritis (joint inflammation). As it happens, apples are one of the best sources of dietary boron. As a mineral, this is not destroyed by heat and unless you boil the apples and throw out the water, it’ll still be there if you prefer your apples cooked.

How about the other nutrients: Yes, you will lose probably all vitamin C and levels of other antioxidants will be reduced, but you’ll still get some. Pectin, however, is heat resistant.

I frequently recommend stewed apples for those of my clients who suffer from intestinal hyperpermeability (‘leaky gut’) and that is due to its pectin. I want my clients to feed their good bacteria so that they can make their contribution in healing the gut. It’s really rare that anyone refuses to eat stewed apples with cinnamon. I mean, why would you?  

This week’s Nutrilicious News will have a delicious recipe for a healthier apple crumble. It’s not too late to sign up!




What's the deal with quinoa?

  It’s not new – even outside of South America -, and it has been around for a few years now, but have you tried quinoa (pronounced: keen-wah) yet? Yes, I know it has a bit of a health-nut and trendy reputation now, but if you can get past that you might find that it is a great addition to your larder.

First of all, it’s not a grain, even though it is often listed among the grains, or at least in the ‘starchy carb’ category. Quinoa is a ‘pseudo-cereal’, but really it’s a seed, just like buckwheat.

Couscous with vegetables

As it is not a grain at all, it is of course gluten-free, which is one reason it is so popular. Another is that it is a ‘complete protein’ food. So, what does that mean? Proteins are composed of varying combinations of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential, meaning the body cannot make them. They have to come from the diet.

If you are an omnivore, you won’t struggle to find complete proteins as all animal proteins (meat, fish, eggs and dairy) contain all essential amino acids, but not all plant proteins do. Combining grains and pulses creates a complete protein meal, and some traditional dishes must have been created that way intuitively (Mexican chilli: beans and corn; Indian dhal: lentils and rice; Japanese edamame and rice). It is not, however, strictly necessary to consume all 9 essential amino acids with the same meal, as long as they are all covered in a day.

Quinoa, however, is one of those rare complete plant proteins. It is also rich in minerals, particularly magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is common, most likely due to the low consumption of green leafy vegetables. Apart from magnesium, quinoa also contains significant amounts of manganese and phosphorus, and is a good source of folate, zinc, iron and copper.

It also contains valuable phytonutrients, the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. Quercetin has been found to be beneficial for allergy sufferers, especially if their symptoms affect the upper respiratory tract. But it is also thought to support heart health, an even blood pressure and general health, as it is one of the antioxidants. Kaempferol, too, has antioxidant properties, protects DNA and the lining of the arteries. Needless to say: Quinoa is also a great source of fibre.

All the health benefits of quinoa aside, it is also very versatile, easy to cook and of course tasty. It takes just 15 minutes to cook, and once cooked, you can use it to replace bulgur wheat, eg in tabouleh, or like rice in both hot and cold dishes. Mixed with finely chopped veg and spices as well as a binding agent (whether that’s egg or, say, coconut flour), quinoa also makes lovely burgers.

For more more about quinoa – how to cook it, how to use it and the ethical downsides of the seed (and where to get it ethically), read next week's Nutrilicious News. It is not too late to sign up!