Dried apple is big news this past week. The old saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away is making a come back at the moment because research has demonstrated that 75 grams of dried apple reduces cholesterol quite a bit. Why the researchers used dried apple isn’t stated, but it doesn’t seem that it’s anything special about dried apple. Fresh apples will probably work just as well. Just how much is 75 grams of dried apple? Its about 2 large fresh ones or 3 small to medium ones. The amount of calories in the dried apple was about 240. One large fresh apple has around 120 calories – so there you go – 2 fresh ones per day, depending on size should get you the same results as 75 grams of dried ones. And you can always mix and match – taking a few pieces of dried apples along to work for a snack.
It doesn’t matter if apples are fresh or dried –they are healthy for you both ways. Generally I make my own dried apples because I want to avoid pesticides and additives so I buy them organically grown. (If you follow this blog you will know that I love kitchen gadgets and therefore am the proud owner of a dehydrator which doesn’t get as much use as it should – but at least seems some work). Apples are one of the dirty dozen when it comes to pesticides and since I do eat at least one every day I go for the clean kind. I also blend them with yogurt for my berry smoothies in my magic blender.
So what is it about apples that is so good for lowering cholesterol. The researchers theorize that it’s the amount of polyphenols apples contain which reduce inflammation in the body. Apples are a good source of soluble fiber also. Soluble fiber forms a viscous gel in the intestine which traps bile. I wrote about this some time back and you can find the details here. Pectin is the particular type of soluble fiber in apples. There have been other studies on the benefits of apples for lipid profiles but this research by Dr Barhram Arjmandi from Florida State University is apparently the first study that researches long term heart protection in post menopausal women. This age group is of interest to researchers because by the year 2020 there will be over 50 million women in menopause. Right now the figures are 45 million and up. That’s a lot of hot flashes – but that is not the focus of the study. The reason reducing cholesterol in post menopausal women is of interest is because it takes cholesterol to produce reproductive hormones and as those hormones dwindle and cholesterol is unused the levels remaining in the blood become higher. After menopause women are at a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes than men.
What the researchers found was ‘incredible’ in the words of the author of the study. One hundred and sixty women munched on either 75 grams of dried apple or 75 grams of prunes for one whole year. The lucky ones got the apple because they found that by 6 months there was a decrease of 23% in their LDL cholesterol and a reduction of C-Reactive protein. Nothing like this happened for the prune eaters, although prunes are an excellent source of antioxidants. Its really good news about the reduction of C- Reactive protein because it is a marker for inflammation and high levels of this is a pretty good indication that you are a candidate for a heart attack. (By the way if you ever want a test for this make sure you ask for the high sensitivity C-Reactive protein test because there’s another test called c-reactive protein and its not going to give you the information you want). Eating apples also increased HDL cholesterol by about 4% – so that’s excellent new in my books.
But what is even more good news is that the dried apple eaters actually lost an average of 3.3 pounds over the year. Maybe it doesn’t seem a lot but it’s better than gaining 3.3 pound right - or not losing it at all? And trying to get 3.3 pounds off at menopause stage is not as easy as it once was. So more power to the apple I reckon. The theory for the weight loss is that pectin – the viscous soluble fiber is filling and people just ate less.
So what about eating dried apples? If you opt for the dry kind then it really is best to either make your own, or go organic and buy them with out any additives. A dehydrator is a good investment if commit yourself to taking the time to do the drying and there are lots of things you can dry. (Things you probably never thought of which make great snacks like string green beans).
The main advantage is that your home dried variety is not going to contain all the dodgy things that commercial dried fruits contain. Those lovely white dried apples that you see in your supermarket shelves are coated with sulfer dioxide to stop them from browning. It acts as an antioxidant and an antimicrobial. Some people are sensitive to sulfites and are not able to eat them at all. My thing is – I just don’t want to put that stuff in my body. Asthmatics can get the reaction of wheezing and even life threatening breathing problems. Why eat it pollutants if you don’t have to. There are plenty of pollutants out there we have no choice in.
For the best nutrition with dried apples slice them and dry them with the skin on. The skin contains pigments which are active elements also called phytochemicals, and it contains fiber. If you can’t be bothered going to the trouble of drying apples and choose to buy them it is best to get organic and unsulfured apples. If you aren’t able to get organic then give them a really good wash to remove as much pesticide as possible. Apple pesticides contain some pretty toxic chemicals and you don’t need them. If you want to see what they are have a look here.
Fresh non organic apples are usually waxed as well lathered in pesticide. Washing really well with a non toxic detergent works quite well for removing pesticides but I haven’t really found a good way to get wax off fruits yet. Another reason to go for organic apples in my book!
If you decide to dry your own apples try sprinkling them with some cinnamon – they are delicious.