Those of us in healthcare often can’t help but follow distressing trends. One of these trends indicates that as the nutritional science recommendations for fruits and vegetables increases, Americans inexplicably seem to consume less of these important foods. It’s like we are a bunch of rebellious teens trying to do the opposite of what our parents tell us. But how bad is it? According to the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (big brother, anyone?), of adults surveyed only 32.5% ate 2 or more fruits a day in 2009 and only 26.3 % ate 3 or more vegetables a day. Despite millions of dollars spent in marketing, fruit consumption in the US fell by almost 2% from 2000 to 2009 while vegetable consumption remained unchanged. It should be noted that Idaho was the only state that showed a slight increase in both fruit and vegetable consumption while 10 states (who shall remain nameless) showed a decrease. So chances are unless you live in Idaho, you are eating no better than you did in 2000 — which was probably not so good to begin with.
Sure, it can be hard to eat all those fruits and vegetables. Every day. But there is some good news: Last year, the relative healthiness of apples was studied in the form of phenolic profiles and antioxidant properties of apple skin extracts. Plant phenols include such beneficial compounds as cinnamic acids, benzoic acids, flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, stilbenes, coumarins, lignans and lignins. These are strong antioxidants and might prevent oxidative damage to DNA, lipids and proteins and therefore reduce the likelihood of developing things like cancer and cardiovascular disease. So if you eat the right apples, you don’t have to eat as many to get the antioxidant benefits. In the United States, apples alone account for 22% of our phenolic intake, we would do well to be choosy about those apples.
Which apple should we be eating? Crabapples ranked highest with approximately 2.5 times the benefit as the lowest ranking apples, the golden nugget and the macintosh. Also very near the bottom were the gala and the empire. Firmly in the midrange were the granny smith, honeycrisp, and red delicious. The top ranking palatable apple was the ……Idared. Idareds showed twice the benefit as the ‘losers’. A recent trip to a popular local grocery store revealed not one single solitary Idared in sight. However, there were plenty of conveniently pre-bagged ‘mini-macs’. Resist the temptation. Bag yourself a few honeycrisps or granny smiths and you will get nearly fifty percent more benefit for the same amount of apple. If you are lucky enough to find an Idared, even better. Remember, the study measured the relative amounts in apple skin so making applesauce or juice doesn’t count! How do ya like them apples?
Dr. Michalene Elliott & Dr. Brett Kinsler are apple-loving Rochester NY chiropractors.