Autumn, apples and amazing antioxidants

What do colorful leaves, sweater weather and apple picking all have in common? You guessed it – they’re all part of the fall season! Yep, autumn is officially upon us. Which means it’s also harvest time. So pull on your fashionable fall boots, don that warm flannel shirt, and adventure out into the countryside for some apple picking. There’s nothing better than enjoying a classic fall-time activity while getting some major health benefits. As long as your apples aren’t smothered in caramel or baked into a sugary apple cider donut, they’re basically the best health food out there (although I can definitely justify caramel apples and apple cider donuts being emotionally beneficial).

So why are apples so good for you? We’ve all heard the old saying: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But is there really truth in that well-worn line? Absolutely. An average-sized apple contains 14 percent of your daily value of Vitamin C and four grams of soluble fiber, all for the light price of 95 calories. That’s why it’s such a good health food for people who are watching their weight. Plus, numerous studies have shown that apples can provide better heart health, thanks to the soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol levels. One of those studies was actually performed right here in Iowa, by the Iowa Women’s Health Study. The researchers tracked over 34,000 women for almost 20 years and found that women who consumed apples regularly had a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease. Another study performed in Finland tracked 9,208 men and women for 28 years and discovered that frequent apple eaters had a lower risk of suffering from a stroke than non-apple eaters. Apple experts point to the antioxidant compounds found in apples as the primary reason for these benefits. Antioxidants inhibit inflammation while also preventing LDL cholesterol from oxidizing, which is a very good thing if you want your body to function properly at the cellular level.

But wait, there’s more! Apples have been shown to increase athletic performance, specifically related to endurance. As an endurance runner, I was super thrilled to discover this little-known fact. We’ve already talked about apples and antioxidants, but there is one specific antioxidant — quercetin — that really stands out for athletes. Quercetin helps increase your endurance by making oxygen more available to the lungs. Studies have isolated quercetin in supplement form and found that it helps people bike longer. Fortunately, you don’t need to find fancy quercetin supplements to boost your athletic endurance. All you need is an apple before you work out, and your lungs will thank you. Plus, apples contain plenty of natural sugars which provide fast-absorbing energy for your muscles as you work out. So it’s a win-win situation.

Apples give you heart health, increased endurance, and emotional happiness (when smothered in caramel or chocolate or both); why wouldn’t you venture out to an apple orchard this autumn and pick some of these amazingly healthful fruits for yourself?

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