Fall is prime apple season. This delicious, crunchy fruit comes in several sizes and varieties. Long touted for their health benefit, apples should be part of your diet. Here are some nutritional tips and preparation ideas to inspire you and your family to eat more apples, particularly while they are in season.
Eat the skin
In general, the skin of apples should be eaten to get maximum health benefits. If you are concerned about pesticides on conventional apples, or if you are serving them to small children, be sure to peel the apple first. Most of the fiber in the apple comes from the skin, and some antioxidants are found only in the skin.
If drinking water is difficult for you, you should eat foods high in water content. An apple is one of those foods. Apples are easy to take with you on the go, and can help you stay hydrated on busy or hot days. Of course water is also recommended.
Because apples are a little acidic and have a fibrous quality, they can clean your teeth. Chewing on an apple removes bacteria and food from your mouth. Be sure to drink water afterward to rinse away the sugar and acid from the apple.
Skip the juice
Drinking your apples doesn’t give you much benefit. Apple juice is very high in fructose and can damage teeth over time, especially in small children. If you do give your children apple juice, dilute it with water. I do enjoy fresh apple cider in the fall, and you can too. Just drink in moderation and rinse with water after drinking if possible.
Apples are full of Vitamin C, which helps your immune system stay strong and heal your body. One apple provides about 15 percent of the Vitamin C you need every day.
Apples contain antioxidants, which help prevent cancer and heart disease. A group of Canadian researchers found that Red Delicious and Ida Red apples contained the most antioxidants.
Choose the right apple
Different apples are good for different things. I like to eat Gala, Fugi, Pink Lady and Jonagold apples raw. For baking, I might choose Empire, Cortland or Braeburn. Many people prefer Granny Smith for their pies or caramel apples.
It’s quite a treat to go to a local farm or farmer’s market and choose several varieties of apples. You might find a new variety that is delicious and different. Many university extensions offer information on local apple varieties, their uses and their availability throughout the season.
In my opinion, the best way to eat an apple is right off the tree. But if you don’t have an organic apple tree at your disposal, you can wash and eat apples raw. You can also add raw apples into salads, put them in sandwiches (try thinly sliced apples on grilled cheese) and serve them with a fruit or caramel dip.
Cooked apples are delicious too. Don’t limit yourself to apple pie or crisp. Add diced apples to oatmeal as you cook it, make homemade chunky applesauce as a side dish or use applesauce as an alternative to oil or butter in baking recipes. Apple muffins are a big hit at my house. I also love dried apples, which keep for months and are good for snacking on.
From Fuji to Cameo, Honeycrisp to Empire, apples are tasty, healthy, affordable and easy to use. You can feel good about serving apples to your family as a snack or as part of a well-balance meal. They may not always keep the doctor away, but apples will contribute to overall health.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.