You know Fall is here when the leaves start turning all shades of yellows, oranges, and reds, the air gets cooler, and it’s finally time to go apple picking! A marker of the season, apples are also the main ingredient of one of the most quintessential American dish: apple pie. Interestingly, apples are not native to the United States. Cultivated across Europe and Asia for thousands of years, they were brought by the Pilgrims in 1620.
Once the Pilgrims planted the apple seeds, the fruit quickly became widespread: by the end of the 1800s, there were over 14,000 varieties in the United States. Pies as we know them today didn’t make their appearance until the 16th century when butter and sugar became more widely available. Apple pie further became a symbol of American identity when a newspaper, in 1902, claimed that “No pie-eating people can be permanently vanquished”. Soon after, soldiers started using a common slogan to answer journalists about why they were going to war: “For mom and apple pie”.
These expressions, however, might have simply originated from a marketing technique used to sell more apples, just like the expression “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Despite the fruit’s foreign origins, apple pie has become a symbol of American identity, and given the many health benefits of apples, eating more of them might just keep the doctor away!
The health benefits of apples are indeed numerous. Apples contain pectin, which is a type of fiber, which has the ability to bind to heavy metals present in your body and pull them out1. Heavy metals are present in our environment because of industrial activity, causing toxicity in plants and water, which eventually make their way into our bodies. Exposure to these heavy metals can cause serious health issues including chronic diseases2.
Consuming an apple a day can also have powerful anti-cancer effects on your body3. The antioxidants present in apples are to thank for this. As we have seen for other ingredients featured in this series, oxidative stress is at the origin of many chronic diseases including cancer. Apples are rich in flavonoids, a subcategory of polyphenols, which act as antioxidants, scavenging the free radicals responsible for oxidative stress.
In addition, apples can help prevent your body from developing cardiovascular disease4, which involves narrowed or blocked blood vessels, leading to heart attacks, chest pains or strokes. This can happen because of what we commonly call “bad cholesterol”, or LDL. Consuming apples helps reduce the levels of “bad cholesterol”, lowering chances of arteries getting clogged up.
Apples can also help with pulmonary health and prevent asthma. A study following 1,600 adults in Australia found that a decreased risk of asthma is associated with apple and pear intake5. The study conducted a survey concerning the diets of 600 people suffering from asthma and 900 who didn’t. Apples showed the strongest inverse relationship to asthma.
The apple has most certainly left a lasting impact in history: it appears in the Bible; it is how Newton discovered gravity, and it is the stuff of which “American” pies are made. Apples have as much impact on your health as they have had in history. Their benefits abound, helping your body to become ever healthier and stronger!
Lisa Darmet is a freelance writer, whose passions include, not only eating, but also food and cooking and their connections to health, culture and society. She is a graduate of Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, USA with a specialty in “Cultivating Resiliency and Food Justice Through Community”. She is truly a citizen of the world and continues to explore cultures through world travel.