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Health Benefits and Anticancer Effects of Apples and Apple Skins

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Apples, to peel or not to peel?

 The answer is no, never to peel your apples.

 The most nutritious part of an apple is its skin, so one should not peel and throw away the best part.  On the other hand, apples lie on top of the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list three years in a row, which means that non-organic apples on average have the highest pesticide residue on their skin among the 51 common fruits and vegetables tested.  Peel apple’s skin reduces the residual pesticides by 85%, while rinsing apples with water only reduces 15% of the pesticides.

 The most beneficial approach to your body is to eat organic apples with skin.  Even if you can’t afford eating organic, eat your apples with skin anyway, since the health benefits from the skin far outweigh the slight detrimental effects of pesticides.  A 2012 analysis concludes “approximately

20,000 cancer cases per year could be prevented by increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, while up to 10 cancer cases per year could be caused by the added pesticide consumption.”

Health Benefits of Apple

When I thought of nutrition of an apple a few years ago, I would think of vitamin C.  Little did I know that vitamin C in apples contributes less than 0.4% of total antioxidant activities.  There is much more in apples than vitamin C.  Apples contain a variety of phytochemicals, including quercetin, catechin, phloridzin, and chlorogenic acid,and all of them are strong antioxidants.  Our environment is very oxidative, and our body’s complex antioxidant defense systems are not perfect and some oxidative damage will occur.  Strong antioxidant activity of apples helps prevent DNA and lipid oxidation.

 Studies have shown that one third of all cancers can be prevented by a healthy diet.  Apples, especially apple peels, inhibit cancer cell proliferation due to their antimutagenic, antioxidant, anti-inflammation effects, and this is probably the reason that eating apple decreases the risk of getting cancers.

 Not only apples reduce the risk of cancer, they reduce the risk of heart disease, asthma, and type II diabetes, increase lung function, and promote weight loss.  Apple is ranked the 2nd highest in its antioxidant level among 11 most commonly consumed fruits in the United States, second only to cranberry.

 There are other beneficial foods and drinks help prevent oxidative stress, reduce chronic disease, and slow down aging.  These include berries, dark color vegetables, nuts, tea, red wine, garlic and onions, cocoa.

 Organic or conventional?

Conventional apples contain the highest amount of pesticides among the commonly consumed fruits and vegetables in the United States.  If you can, try to buy organic apple as much as possible, since the pesticides post some health danger to us humans.  However, if you cannot afford eating organic, eat apples anyway.  The health benefits of eating apples and other fruit and vegetables outweigh the detrimental effects of pesticides.

 Eat at least one apple a day, with skin on, to keep your doctor away.

References

  1. Willett W: Diet, nutrition, and avoidable cancer. Environ Health Perspect 1995, 103:165-170.
  2. Block G, Patterson B, Subar A: Fruit, Vegetables, and Cancer Prevention: A Review of the Epidemiological Evidence. Nutr Cancer 1992, 18:1-29.
  3. G.M. Huber & H.P.V. Rupasinghe: Phenolic Profiles and Antioxidant Properties of Apple Skin Extracts.  Journal of Food Science, Vol. 74, Nr. 9, 2009
  4. Richard Reiss et.al. Estimation of cancer risks and benefits associated with a potential increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.  Food and Chemical Toxicology 50 (2012) 4421–4427
  5. Jie Sun et al. Antioxidant and Antiproliferative Activities of Common Fruits, J. Agric. Food Chem., Vol. 50, No. 25, 2002
  6. K. Wolfe et al. Antioxidant Activity of Apple Peels, J. Agric. Food Chem. 2003, 51, 609-614
  7. J. Boyer and R.H. Liu, Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits, Nutrition Journal 2004, 3, 1-15