Apples are one of the most popular fruits in the world. All kinds of apples that we find on our markets today, although they may look different, varying in size and color, belong to the same species, Malus domestica.
It belongs to the Rose family of plants,
which includes many other popular fruits, such as: plums, apricots, peaches, cherries, pears, almonds and raspberries.
The apple is a deciduous tree. Size of the cultivated apple trees ranges from 2 to 5 meters, and wild trees can be up to 12 meters high. The flowers are of white and pale pink color and the fruit matures in late summer and early autumn. They come in all shades of green, red and yellow. The size of the fruit, its color and taste vary according to the needs and preferences of target consumers. Apples are mostly eaten raw, but can be turned into refreshing drinks and tasty desserts.
Major apple producers in the world today are China, which accounts for almost a half of the total apple production, U.S.A. and Turkey, then Poland and Italy.
History of Apple
The apple, Malus domestica, originated from a wild plant species Malus sieversii which grew, and still grows, in Central Asia, on the territories of the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and China. From there, it has been brought to other parts of Asia, to Europe, and then to North America. Archaeologists have found evidence of human apple consumption from as far back as 6500 B.C. It is thought that the apple tree was the first tree ever to be cultivated; and it has been grown in Asia and Europe for thousands of years now. It was very popular in ancient Greece and Rome.
Apples were brought to North America by European colonists in the 17th century. The first apple orchard in America was planted by a reverend in Boston in 1625. From there, the seeds were dispersed along the Native American trade routes and cultivated on farms across the country.
Today, there are more than 7 000 varieties of apples, cultivated for various tastes and uses, from eating raw to cooking, juice and cider production.
Over the history, apples have become incorporated into mythology of many nations as symbols with diverse meanings in different cultures. In Germanic and Norse mythology apples were symbols of fertility and gave gods the eternal youthfulness. In Christianity and many other traditions they appear as forbidden fruit, but that may be a wrong image, created by a translation error. The word „apple“is not actually used in the Bible itself. This popular misconception, that it was the apple that Eve took from the tree of the forbidden fruit and gave to Adam, the act which damned all of humanity, comes from the confusion of Latin words mălum (an evil) and mālum (an apple). The tree of forbidden fruit is „the tree of the knowledge of good and evil“, and the fruit that Eve gave to Adam was „the fruit of evil“, not an apple.
Nutrition Value of Apple
As all fruits, apples are healthy. But what exactly is in apples that makes them good for your body? They are rich in dietary fibers and vitamin C, low in calories and have almost no saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium. However, the most important chemicals found in apples are its phytonutrients. The most important phytonutrients in apples are polyphenols. They include flavonols (quercetin, kaempferol and myricetin), catechins (epicatechin), anthocyanins (if apples have red skin), chlorogenic acid, phloridizin and some other. They are found both in the pulp and in the skin of an apple.
Modern lifestyle brings along with it many diseases as a consequence of fast tempo, increased stress and malnutrition. We are being bombarded by junk food. Junk food restaurants are popping up on every corner and offer cheap prices, which makes fast food a convenient solution in our busy fast lives, but it weakens our bodies. Diseases like atherosclerosis, asthma, cancer and blood sugar regulation are the price we pay. There is a popular saying „An apple a day, keeps the doctor away“and according to the results of increasing number of research experiments, that may just be it. Because apples are being proven to be very healthy and efficient in lowering the risk of the diseases we mentioned above. That is the case thanks to the polyphenols in their pulp and skin. Polyphenols are chemicals found in plants whose
1. antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions have beneficial effects on the human body as well.
Studies have shown that apples have especially good effects on our
2. cardiovascular system.
That is associated with two aspects of their chemical composition: the water-soluble fiber (pectin) content and their mixture of polyphenols. Regular intake of apples has shown to
3. lower blood cholesterol levels.
They also provide protection from oxidation to the blood cholesterol molecules and to the cell membranes of the cells in blood vessels’ walls. This way they
4. prevent blood clogging
5. lower the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
The polyphenols in apples improve our
6.body’s regulation of blood sugar
at many different levels. Quercetin inhibits the enzymes in our blood that digest carbohydrates. This means that less of the carbohydrates are going to be broken down into simple sugars and less load will be placed on the bloodstream to accommodate more sugar. Polyphenols decrease the rate of glucose absorption from digestive tract into blood and this way lower the amount of sugars in our blood. They stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin, the chemical whose function is to get the excessive sugar out of our blood.
Researchers have shown that apples have a good influence on several different cancer types, especially breast cancer and colon cancer, but none of them is as remarkable as their beneficial effects on cases of lung cancer. Although all fruits and vegetables lower the risk of lung cancer, apples showed to be especially protective against it.
In addition to these, apples have
7. positive effects in cases of asthma, neurodegenerative diseases and some age related health problems.