This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker June 2011 edition
Apples have been around a long time and were possibly the first tree to be cultivated. Apples were an important winter foodstuff in Asia and Europe where they could be stored just above freezing. As Food of the Month has consistently discovered, you don't get to be a foodstuff that is cultivated for thousands of years without delivering some worthwhile nutrition.
With 1.8g fibre per 100g and 6mg of vitamin C and only 47 kcals, the apple makes a good case for its inclusion in the cutting season. However, when we look at the micronutrient content of apples a bit more closely, we see how it could live up to its reputation of keeping the doctor away. Apples punch well above their weight in terms of polyphenol content. We know that polyphenols have a role in preventing cellular damage, and that diets which are rich in polyphenols are associated with positive health outcomes such as lower risk of heart disease and cancer, and we also know there is a lot of research yet to be done on polyphenols. Significantly research is finding that extracting single compounds is not yielding much, and that the active ingredient in food is 'food' rather than a particular compound found in that food. If you want the health benefits of an apple, eat an apple. Notably, the concentration of polyphenols is highest in the apple skin.
The most prominent flavonol in apples is quercetin, followed by kaempferol and myrucetin. Chlorogenic acid is the primary phenolic acid and if you much a red apple you get anthocyanins. Analyse your apple some more and you find phlordzin and epicatechin. It appears that apples use their polyphenols to protect themselves from UV-B radiation.
If you wondered why apples go brown, this too is related to their high polyphenol content. When the apple is sliced or bruised enzymes called polyphenol oxidases (PPOs) are released and these cause the apple to quickly turn brown. When damaged apples also release large amounts of ethylene gas that increases the rate at which fruit and vegetables spoil - so one bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch!
Now apples are back in your basket, it's time to pick a good one. This is easy: bruised ones are off the menu, and any apple close to a bruised one can stay on the shelf too. Apples should have rich colours, green and yellow apples with a slight blush of colour have the richest tastes, while pale fruits tend to be rather bland. Look for firm fruits and treat them with care, beyond this choice is determined by personal taste and intended use. Red and Gold Delicious apples should be the sweetest, Braeburn and Fuji slightly tart, while Pippin and Granny Smith are the tartest but retain their texture best when cooked.