I’m not a huge fan of making grand, sweeping New Year’s resolutions that you give up by the first week in February. I’d rather you adopt one or two simple, healthy habits that you can sustain throughout the entire year. Like taking five minutes a day to practice mindfulness meditation…or going for a daily walk after dinner…or even something as simple as eating an apple a day.
In fact, I’m sure you’re familiar with the old saying that eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away. It’s been around for thousands of years. And now, we have some scientific evidence to back it up, as I’ll explain in a moment.
But first, since we’re kicking off a new year today, let’s talk about the association between apples and new beginnings…
Apples linked to new beginnings
Apples have been associated with “beginnings” for a long time—from the beginning of the alphabet to the Garden of Eden.
In the Book of Genesis, the snake temps Eve to eat from the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.” The Bible doesn’t specify which type of fruit she ate, but early Christian artists traditionally depicted it as an apple. Perhaps since the word malus in Latin is used for both apple and evil.
And in the Jewish religion, people traditionally dip apples in honey on Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) to symbolize hope for the year ahead.
Then, of course, there’s the story of an apple falling from a tree and hitting the sleeping Sir Isaac Newton on the head, inspiring him to speculate about the principle of gravity. At the time, Newton was a college student at Cambridge University, but had gone home to his family’s rural Lincolnshire farm to escape the Great Plague ravaging London and other cities in England.
(The Great Plague lasted from 1665 to 1666 and was the last major outbreak of the bubonic plague [Black Death]. It killed an estimated 100,000 people in London—almost a quarter of the population—in just 18 months. Eventually, as I expect we will see with the coronavirus, it just fizzled out on its own, without the help of any “miracle” drug or vaccine.)
Of course, apples also played a major role in early American history. For example, in the 1620s, the early English settler William Blackstone planted the first apple orchard on Beacon Hill in Boston with apple seeds from England. Today, that area is the most costly real estate in the country.
Many early American leaders followed suit and planted apple trees on their properties, including John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, and founders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Then, in the early 1800s, John Chapman (upon whom the Johnny Appleseed legend was based) famously planted apple orchards across America’s “western frontier.” In fact, the presence of an apple orchard on the land signified that it was “settled.”
Now, let’s get into the many health benefits of eating apples…
Five great reasons to eat apples
Research shows apples (especially with the skin) are rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, fiber, B and C vitamins, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. So, it’s really no wonder they offer so many health benefits. In fact, they help:
- Prevent constipation.Apples are high in both soluble and insoluble fibers, which add bulk in your stool. In fact, an old fiber commercial compared the bulk in its product to a certain number of apples. But you’remuch, much better off simply eating the apples!
- Regulate blood sugar.The phytonutrients in apples help to naturally regulate your blood sugar in three critical ways. First, they inhibit enzymes involved in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simple sugars. Second, they stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin.Third, they decrease the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream.
- Lower stroke risk.Eating apples also reduces your risk of suffering a deadly stroke. In fact, in one notable study involving more than 9,000 men and women, researchersfound that those who ate the most apples over a 28-year period had a lower risk for stroke.
- Boost your energy and tame your hunger.Eating an apple is also a great energy-booster, as it provides a steady supply of glucose to your brain and muscles for at least an hour or so. This steady energy boost also relates to the vitamin C and phenols found in apples, which can help counter oxidative stress and fatigue. In addition, the malic acid in apples is good for muscle energy. Of course, munching on a fiber-rich apple can also help satisfy your hunger and help you feel fuller,longer.
- Support oral health.Eating apples naturally cleans your teeth and helps control food odors and bad breath. It also promotes saliva, which is good for oral health and digestion.
Enjoy the benefits of apples all year long
Nowadays, it seems like there are more varieties of apples than ever at the grocery store. I personally enjoy a good, tart Granny Smith, but for the first time in decades, the Gaia apple has surpassed the Red Delicious as the single most popular apple consumed.
No matter which type you prefer, just make sure to opt for organic varieties, as apples often top the list of fruits and vegetables that carry the highest pesticide burden.
And don’t forget to eat the red-yellow-green skin or peel, which has a higher nutrient concentration compared to the white-pink flesh. (Just wash your apple before enjoying it.)
Here’s one of my favorite basic recipes…
Traditional Hot Toddy
- 2 ounces of boiling apple cider
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 ½ ounce of whiskey
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 slice of lemon
- 1 pinch of nutmeg
- Pour the boiling cider into a mug with whiskey and honey.
- Add in the cloves, cinnamon stick, and lemon.
- Let steep for five minutes for flavors to mingle.
- Add a pinch of nutmeg before serving.
All in all, eating an apple a day sounds like a good, sensible New Year’s resolution. You can learn more about the history and health benefits of apples in the current January issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“This small fruit packs a big punch—nutritionally, scientifically, and traditionally”). Click here to become a subscriber today!