native to: Central and southwestern Asia, and Eastern Europe
in season here: late August through October
Apples provide phytonutrients that help regulate blood sugar and fiber that helps regulate blood fat to prevent heart disease. They support digestion by improving the bacterial balance in the large intestine. They also contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and asthma. Eating whole apples (as opposed to applesauce or apple juice) is particularly useful in satisfying hunger and helping dieters eat less. Although apples are mostly carbohydrate, they have a low glycemic index. They also offer moderate amounts of vitamin C and potassium. The red color in an apple’s skin is caused by the polyphenol anthocyanin; quercetin is another nutrient particularly found in the skin of an apple. Polyphenols are also behind the browning of sliced apples.
Apples are members of the Rose family, related to apricots, plums, cherries, raspberries, and almonds. They fall into two categories: cooking apples such as Granny Smith, Gravenstein, and Jonagold, and dessert apples such as Fuji, Braeburn, and Delicious (the heritage kind, not the pretty-but-tasteless later strains). While “cooking” apples can also be eaten fresh, and in fact many prefer a nice tart snack, dessert apples seldom cook up well. There are some 7000 apple varieties.
Apples are another of the “Dirty Dozen” that tend to have pesticide residues when grown conventionally. Most apples are coated in some kind of wax to keep them from drying out and shriveling; even organic apples can have such a coating, as long as the wax is organic. The carbs in apples can be a problem for those with IBS, but actual allergies to apples are rare.