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Winter Fruit Feature: Apples

No doubt you’ve heard the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, it turns out this might be quite literally true.

In a study about the delicious winter fruit published late last year in the British Medical Journal, researchers used a mathematical model to estimate how many lives would be saved if the entire over-50 population of the United Kingdom ate an apple a day. They compared this figure to lives saved if the same population took statins, a commonly prescribed class of drugs used to lower cholesterol and prevent the recurrence of heart attack or stroke. The surprising answer? Apples would be nearly as effective as statins, with fewer side effects!

When discussing the study, researcher Dr. Adam Briggs, said, “It just shows how effective small changes can be… While no one currently prescribed statins should replace them for apples, we could all benefit from simply eating more fruit.”

If you’re going to eat more winter fruit, apples are a good place to start. Apple consumption is associated with reduced risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Packed with nutrition, they contain antioxidants, polyphenols, and quercetin, a phytochemical with multiple health benefits.

In addition, one medium apple contains:

  • 17% of the daily value for dietary fiber, which is necessary for normal digestion and elimination and reduces the risk of heart disease
  • 14% of the daily value for vitamin C, which aids immune function and is needed for the health of connective tissue
  • Only 95 calories!

Apples are picked from mid-summer to late fall, but because they keep well, fresh apples should be available well into the winter months at your local farmers’ market. And of course, they are available year round at the grocery store. In fact, because they are so common, it can be easy to overlook this healthy winter fruit.

Here are some great ways to incorporate more apples into your life:

  • Cut them into slices for lunchboxes and brown bags. I like to pair each slice with a thin slice of cheese on top for an extra protein boost.
  • Spread them with your favorite nut butter for an afternoon pick-me-up
  • Add them to your morning oatmeal
  • Chop a few on your lunchtime salad
  • Bake them with pork chops for a balance of sweet and salty

You can even include them in a dinnertime casserole. Casserole?  Yes -this concoction of red beans, Muenster cheese, apples, and tomatoes is surprisingly delicious and just the thing to warm you up on a cold winter’s night:  (You can reduce or even eliminate the cheese if you prefer something less rich.)

Or, if you’re looking for something on the sweeter side, apples’ natural sweetness can be brought out through baking. The simplest way to do this is to core an apple (leaving a little flesh at the bottom), put a little butter, brown sugar, raisins, and cinnamon in the cavity and bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Or try this delicious grain-free, sugar-free tart: Note: I recommend removing the foil halfway through cooking to keep the apples from getting soggy.

How will you eat your apple today?

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