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‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’, but what does it really mean?

The well-known saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ has a very straightforward, literal meaning, that the eating of fruit maintains good health. The proverb first appeared in print in 1866 and over 150 years later is advice that we still pass down through generations.

British apples are one of the nations best loved fruit and according to Great British Apples, we consume around 122,000 tonnes of them each year. But what are the health benefits, and do they really keep the doctor away?

Health benefits of apples

Apples are rich in antioxidants which are substances that protect your cells against free radical damage caused by factors such as pollution, UV rays, and even inflammation within the body that may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

When it comes to cholesterol, an article published by advises that you would need to eat two to three apples a day to see an improvement in your lipid profile. Apples are a good food to include within a cholesterol-lowering diet due to the apples being dense in cholesterol-friendly nutrients such as fibre and polyphenols.

The fibre found in apples is a soluble fibre called Pectin and it can support a healthy digestive system. Its soluble nature can bind cholesterol or toxins in the body and eliminate them from your system. Pectin can also provide relief from both constipation and diarrhoea, depending on the body’s needs.

Finally, apples are low on the glycaemic index due to their fibre content. This combined with their high flavonoid content may help to improve insulin sensitivity which is an important area in preventing diabetes.

To get the full benefits of eating an apple, enjoy the whole fruit, both flesh and skin. Apple skin contains quercetin, a type of plant pigment flavonoid that helps to boost your immune system and reduce inflammation, homing in on the phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’!

Nutritional value of an apple

A medium apple weighs in at approximately 182 grams. It is generally advised to eat a minimum of 5 different portions of fruit and veg each day and 80g equals one portion.

One medium apple contains the following nutritional value:

Calories: 95
Carbs: 25g
Fat: 0g
Protein: 1g
Sugar: 13g (naturally occurring)
Fibre: 4g
Vitamin C: 14% of the Nutrient Reference Value (NRV)
Potassium: 6% of the NRV

Due to the naturally occurring sugar, apples are a great food to eat to help you wake up in the morning. Although apples contain no caffeine, they are more effective than coffee as the sugars provoke a similar response. The vitamins from the apple are released slowly throughout the body, making you feel more awake and providing you with sustained energy throughout the day.

So, do apples really keep the doctor away?

By themselves, the simple answer is no. However, when eaten as part of a well-balanced diet they offer a number of health benefits and have a great nutritional value. The nutrient dense fruit can assist in several areas with our body’s daily functions and are cheap and readily available in the UK, meaning there’s no excuse to not eat an apple a day!

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