Nutrition Nuggets

All about Apples

Hope you had a great week cooking.  Remember, if you know anyone who is interested in cooking and health, pass on the website details and get them to sign up to my weekly newsletter.  As you know, I’ll always try to use ingredients each week that are seasonal and, if possible, local making them as cheap and fresh as possible. I’m getting great apples from the farmers market at the moment and I know they won’t be around forever.. so this week’s star ingredients is… The Apple

An Apple A Day…..

Apples are such a rich source of antioxidants that, at this time of year, you should be getting your apple a day to keep up your healthy eating.  There a wide variety of apples available now so feel free to pick up Granny Smiths, Jonathans, Braeburns, Golden Delicious, Pippin etc which can be eaten raw or cooked. Or you could even try some cooking apples and start stewing. Fuji and Gala apples are really best when they are raw so try not to use in the recipes below.

When you look at the vitamin and mineral content of apples, nothing particularly jumps out, although they are a good source of Vitamin C. But is when you start looking at the fibre and antioxidants value that you realise how great this everyday fruit is. They are good sources of polyphenols (the antioxidants that make fruit and vegetables the bright colours that they are) and flavonoids (especially quercetin), which works well with Vitamin C. Quercetin is known to be a powerful anti inflammatory agent (making it great for those suffering from inflammatory diseases and heart disease) and especially good for sufferers of allergies. In addition, red apples also contains a special flavonoid, cyanidin 3-galactoside, that has been shown to be an extremely potent antioxidant.

Yummy applesBut it gets better.. Apples also have a great mix of both soluble and insoluble fibre making it even better for heart health. The insoluble fibre acts like roughage to keep you regular and it also binds to LDL cholesterol in the digestive tract and removes from the body.  The soluble fibre, pectin, softens your stools alleviating constipation and also reduces LDL production by the liver.

Feel free to drink 100% apple juice, as it is very tasty, but please don’t count it as one of your 5 to 7 fruit and veg a day as it has lost its fibre and some of its antioxidants by being juiced.

The main season for Irish apples is late summer to early winter so the apples you are buying now should be local – although you should always check where they come from. Even apples from the UK or Europe should be fairly fresh right now if they are organic. Do try to buy organic if possible.  If you are not buying organic, try to give the apples a good wash in some water and mild washing up liquid and rinse well afterwards – this will get rid of some of the pesticide residue.

When buying apples, try to buy fully ripe apples that are firm and heavy with a fresh aroma.  If you buy apples when they are not ripe, simply put in a paper bag and allow them to ripen in there. If you buy them ripe and want to keep them as ripe as possible, leave 1 or 2 days worth in the fruit bowl and put the rest of them in the fridge.

As a snack!

Having an apple as a snack is a great idea as you are eating it raw, maintaining its nutrient and antioxidant value to the max. I often see people snacking on just fruit and I don’t generally advice this, always try to snack with a little protein. The reason for this is that if you snack on something that is easily digested (like simple sugars, i.e. white bread, biscuits, cakes etc) it will raise your blood sugar levels and your body starts producing insulin to remove sugar out of the blood and put into storage. This creates a roller coaster during the day, the high after a biscuit or a coffee, the low an hour or so later, the reaching for another coffee or biscuit, is one of the most dangerous patterns of how we eat.  If we learn to have good meals (complete with protein and complex carbohydrates) and if we need it, snack around 11 and 4 on a healthy snack, we can prevent this rollercoaster. All meals I’ll be suggesting will be complete and all snacks I’m suggesting are healthy options and are all aiming at evening out the rollercoaster and keeping us satisfied throughout the day.

Snack suggestions with apples are:

A small handful of almonds (the best taste with apples) or other nuts (please note the word SMALL handful)
Sliced apple with a little 100% nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew, hazelnut are all possibilities and are found in good health food stores)
Roughly sliced apples used as a ‘dipper’ for hummus, Tzakiki or guacamole (available from most good supermarkets, especially Marks and Spencers)
Diced apples with a little chopped cheddar cheese or goats cheese
Diced apples with pumpkin or sunflower seeds
Breakfast suggestion: grated apple on your porridge in the morning with some toasted nuts or seeds for a delicious healthy breakfast.