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Thursday, 11 March 2010
AN APPLE OR TWO...
“It is, in my view, the duty of an apple to be crisp and crunchable, but a pear should have such a texture as leads to silent consumption.” - Edward Bunyard
For lunch today I had a couple of new season’s apples. They tasted delicious – fruity, sweet, crunchy, juicy and they were beautiful to look at also. The introduction of new season apples into our greengrocers’ shops ushers in autumn for us of the southern hemisphere. The humble apple is the archetypal fruit par excellence, and its history goes back to palaeolithic times with preserved specimens being discovered in a variety of locations around the world. This fruit not only has been enjoyed as food for millennia, but is also the source of rich legends and myths in many cultures.
From the very beginning of history ancient people adored fruit. Except perhaps for honey, fruit is nature’s only pleasure-laden natural food. Apples (or to give them their botanical name Malus domestica) have been associated from ancient times with love, beauty, luck, health, comfort, pleasure, wisdom, temptation, sensuality, sexuality, virility and fertility. Myths about man’s origins connect him to a garden of paradise filled with fruit trees. The stories are essentially the same whether we consider the Semitic Adam, the Teutonic Iduna, the Greek Hesperides, or the Celtic Avalon. Human beings have paradise with an abundance of cultivated fruit.
In Greek mythology, Gaia (Mother Earth), presented a tree with golden apples to Zeus and his bride Hera on their wedding day. Guarded by Ladon, a serpent that never slept, the apple tree was in the garden of the Hesperides, daughters of the Evening Star. These golden apples became involved with many tales of love, bribery and temptation ranging from the abduction of Helen of Troy to the defeat and marriage of Atlanta. The sexual and romantic connotations of the apple were powerful reasons why apples came as dessert at the end of the meal. They not only tasted heavenly and were good for digestion but were regarded as a cunning transitional aphrodisiac for the pleasures that followed. Is it any wonder that apples became the most sought-after fruit on earth?
Apples, have been described as a “cleansing” food and contain fibre, which encourages good gastrointestinal system function. After all, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away, two apples a day keep the gastroenterologist at bay!” Although apples can be eaten freely, more than two or three a day does not increase the health benefits. Furthermore, large quantities of apple juice can encourage tooth decay and diarrhoea.
The nutritional value of apples is well known and for every 100 g of apple flesh, there are 10 g of sugars, 3 g of fibre, 120 mg of potassium, 10 mg of vitamin C, 2 mg of Vitamin A, 0.6 g of vitamin E and about 200 Joules of energy (≈50 calories). They contain no fat or cholesterol. Apples also contain antioxidants and fruit flavonoids. The most important of the flavonoids contained in apples is quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory as well as anti-cancer actions. Apples can reduce blood cholesterol levels, counter constipation and diarrhoea, help joint problems and help prevent diseases in general. Apples are best eaten raw, as cooking them can reduce the flavonoids by as much as 70 percent into the cooking water. It is also a good idea to eat the apple unpeeled as flavonoids are contained in or near the skin.
Antioxidants are chemicals that reduce or prevent oxidation, thus preventing cell and tissue damage from destructive free radicals in the tissues. Antioxidants are chemical substances that donate an electron to the free radical and convert it to a harmless molecule. Fruits, vegetables and grains are rich sources of antioxidants.
Flavonoids are defensive plant chemicals found in apples, along with other fruits and vegetables. There are a number of different types of flavonoids with each having a protective health effect. Over 4,000 flavonoids have been documented to have antiviral, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and antioxidant activities. The term flavonoids represents all of the following subclasses: Anthocyanins, Flavanols, Flavanones, Flavonols, Flavones, and Isoflavones.
Pectin is a natural fibre found in many fruits with apples being the richest source of pectin among all the fruits. Recent studies have revealed many health benefits from consumption of pectin. Of note are studies that show Pectin:
• Acts as an antioxidant against the bad cholesterol in the blood stream.
• Decreases the chances of large bowel cancer.
• Works well as an anti-diarrhoea agent.
• Reduces high blood pressure.
• Is effective in the regression, or prevention of, gallstones.
There is also recent evidence to suggest that taking Apple Pectin everyday over time can lead to a reduction in insulin requirements, which may lessen the severity of diabetes.
Further research suggests that phytochemicals may help slow the ageing process and reduce the risk of many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cataracts, osteoporosis, and urinary tract infections. "Phyto" is a Greek word that means plant and phytochemicals are usually related to plant pigments. So, fruits and vegetables that are bright colours - yellow, orange, red, green, blue, and purple - generally contain the most phytochemicals and the most nutrients.
Quercetin may be a major reason why the old saying about “eating an apple a day” has been associated with good health. Quercetin, primarily found in apples, onions, and black tea, belongs to a group of plant pigment flavonoids that serve as a building block for other members of the flavonoid family. It combats the destructive “free radical” molecules that play a part in many diseases.
Specifically, quercetin may help to:
• Reduce cancer risk
• Prevent heart attacks
• Ward off eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration
• Control asthma
• Maintain health when suffering from Crohn’s disease
• Prevent recurrent gout attacks
• Speed up healing of recurrent heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)
Tannins are substances that tan hides and make apples rust when exposed to the effects of the air. True tannins produce both tanning and puckering. The amount of tannin in an apple, especially in the skin, may differ not only from variety to variety, but also from tree to tree and even from year to year for the same tree. Research suggests tannins may help prevent periodontal or gum disease.
Apples: Delicious, nutritious, auspicious, propitious, healthful, delightful, flavourful and colourful!
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.