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An apple a day…

The other day, I was admiring our prolific apple tree through my kitchen window and pondering how I should use and share all of the rosy red fruit. Last year, I made jelly, pies, dried apples and apple juice.

Apples are members of the rose family, and according to archeologists, we humans have been consuming them since 6500 BC.

Throughout history, many health benefits have been associated with apples, ranging from relief of stomach problems and nervous conditions to serving as beauty aids. While not all of these apple anecdotes have withstood the test of science, researchers continue to study the health benefits associated with apples.

Apples provide soluble fibre (pectin), vitamin C and natural antioxidants. Eat the peel whenever possible as many cancer-fighting phytochemicals (plant chemicals) are concentrated there. Cornell University researchers reported that about three ounces of unpeeled fresh apple provides the antioxidant activity of 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C.

Most of us have heard the expression that begins with “an apple a day.” Is there any truth to deterring physician visits by munching on a daily apple?

Researchers have reported that regularly eating apples can help lower blood cholesterol, which in turn can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

University of California-Davis researchers reported that eating two apples or drinking 12 ounces of apple juice a day protected arteries from plaque buildup.

If you make your own apple juice, be sure to heat the juice to 71.1 C (160 F) to kill harmful bacteria that might be present. After heating it, place it in a pitcher or other container and store it in your refrigerator.

When you select apples at the grocery store, farmers’ market or your backyard, look for firm apples free of blemishes and cuts to the skin. Colour isn’t always an indication of quality. According to horticulture experts, the reddest apple isn’t necessarily the best-tasting apple.

When picking an apple from a tree, try to avoid pulling. Instead, lift the fruit toward the sky to release the stem from the tree. This helps avoid damaging the apple tissue and can lengthen the apple’s storage life.

Although whole apples are safe to keep at room temperature for several days, their crunchy texture and flavour may change. For best quality, store apples in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator separate from other produce.

Be sure to rinse apples thoroughly with plenty of running water. Do not use detergents or soaps to clean apples because these cleaning agents can leave residues on the fruit.

If you have an abundance of apples, consider freezing, drying or canning them.

You can learn more about preserving apples, as well as many other types of fruits and vegetables, by visiting the NDSU Extension Service food preservation materials at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food.

About the author

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Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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