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Apples - An apple a day, it's true what they say

by Kim Paolino

The old adage �an apple a day keeps the doctor away� is a step in the right direction on the road to good health. Eating one fresh apple every day, with skins intact, provides you the full nutritional benefits of this incredible fruit. Tasty apples are not only fat, cholesterol and sodium free (with only 80 calories), they have been associated with a reduced cancer risk. Apples are also an excellent source of fiber, vital to the digestive process.

According to a study done by the Mayo Clinic in 2001 , quercetin, a flavonoid abundant in apples, has been found to help prevent the growth of prostate cancer cells. Flavonoids are naturally-occurring plant compounds that have antioxidant properties. A diet rich in apples (and flavonoids) may lower the risk of heart disease, and strokes, as well as reduce the risk of lung cancer by as much as 50%. In addition, a Cornell University study reported that phytochemicals, found in the skin of apples and some other fruits, inhibit the reproduction of colon cancer cells by as much as 43 per cent.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham report that eating a least 5 apples a week (about an apple a day) helps lower the risk of respiratory disease, and a study done by the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, sited astonishing results that apples could actually cut a smokers� risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in half! So why aren't smokers eating apples?

Apples are a member of the rose family and come in over 2,500 varieties in the United States alone. While all fifty states grow apples, Washington State is the number one producer. Apples are the second most valuable fruit grown in the United States, next to oranges. Crunchy, delicious apples are available year round, and are relatively inexpensive. They are not only a great snack, but can also be made into pies, cobblers, salads and tarts. Some of the more recognizable varieties are Golden and Red Delicious, McIntosh, and Granny Smith. Other varieties that you may not be as familiar with include, Winesap, Braeburn, Pink Lady and Mutsu.

The first United States apple trees were planted by the pilgrims in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.In colonial times, apples were called winter bananas or melt-in-the-mouth. In 1730 the first apple nursery was opened in Flushing, New York (my home town), but Archeologists have found evidence that humans have been enjoying apples since at least 6500 B.C.

When at the market, select apples that are firm, and don't dent when pressed against. They should be bruise-free, deeply colored (apples come in all shades of reds, greens, yellows), have a fragrant aroma, and be of average size. Larger apples tend to over ripen faster that smaller ones. Keep skins dry, and do not rinse until ready to use or eat. Apples can be kept refrigerated, but ripen six to ten times faster at room temperature.

Source: Washington Apple Commission
University of Illinois Extension

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