An apple a day…

Carrie Fossum

Almost everyone has heard the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but is there truth behind the lore? The answer is yes.

Experts agree that apples have been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer, among many other healthful benefits.

“All of the antioxidants and natural fiber [make an apple healthy],” said Dean Henry, owner of the Berry Patch Farm in Nevada. “All fruits are good for the diet.”

Currently, apples grown in Iowa are in-season.

Henry said the Berry Patch grows some old-fashioned apples such as Northern Spy and Golden Delicious and many newer ones like Honeycrisp, Gala and Jonagold using sustainable agricultural techniques.

“We use a minimum amount of chemicals and utilize instruments and computer models that predict the best time for managing pests and diseases,” Henry said.

Apples have no fat, sodium or cholesterol. A medium apple has approximately five grams of fiber. The recommended daily fiber intake from the National Academies Institute of Medicine is about 38 grams for men and around 25 grams for women.

In 2004, registered dietitian Tammi Flynn wrote the book “The 3-Apple-a-Day Plan: Your Foundation for Permanent Fat Loss,” a diet plan that has the dieter eating three apples a day.

“[The book is] based on a study that showed when individuals ate an apple before each meal, they consumed fewer calories at each meal – the theory is that fiber in the apple helps to fill the stomach and therefore they get full or satisfied more quickly – with a lower calorie intake,” said Sally Barclay, clinician of food science and human nutrition.

Although apples are available year-round, peak season for apples typically runs from September to November, depending on weather.

“It’s great to eat local apples, although apples can be kept in storage for months – however, some may become bruised and rot over time,” Barclay said.

When eating apples during the nonpeak season, “bear in mind that stored apples are picked slightly immature so the flavor and quality will not be the same as fresh local apples,” Henry said.

“I eat more apples [during this time of year]. I don’t know if I mean to. [The apples] taste better, especially when fresh from the orchard,” said Nichole Hahn, junior in dietetics.

“Apples from an orchard taste better than store apples . [because] they don’t have to be shipped from a million miles away.”

McDonald’s has turned apples into a fast food by offering sliced apples as an option instead of french fries.

“[The McDonald’s apple slices] are real sliced apples but are coated with preservative which increases vitamin C to very high levels,” Barclay said.

“I don’t think they taste as good as a fresh whole apple, but I guess it’s an improvement over french fries.”

Barclay said she enjoys the Braeburn and Chieftain varieties, which were developed at Iowa State, along with “Pink Lady, Fuji, Granny Smith, and a new one I just discovered, Pinata.”

The difference between these apple varieties is the taste, time of harvest and texture, Henry said.