An apple a day may truly keep the doctor away. According to Dr. Clarissa Gerhauser of the German Cancer Research Center, apples provide a number of different health benefits. As Dr. Gerhauser states, there are several lines of evidence suggesting “apples and apple products possess a wide range of biological activities which may contribute to health beneficial effects against cardiovascular disease, asthma and pulmonary dysfunction, diabetes, obesity, and cancer” (2008). One reason apples are so beneficial to human health is because they are full of vitamins and minerals. At the Sandpoint Orchard we grow an apple, the Calville Blanc, with more Vitamin C than an orange! Apples also have lots of soluble fiber, which slows the digestion of food and the entry of glucose into the bloodstream. Studies have shown that a regular diet of whole apples may reduce the risk of diabetes. The soluble fiber pectin, found in apples, helps lower LDL cholesterol, which can make for healthier arteries. According to research from Ohio State University eating an apple a day for just a month may lower your LDL cholesterol by 40 percent (Filipic, 2012). Apples are also chock full of antioxidants, such as flavonoids and procyanidins, whose properties help assist in maintaining proper cell metabolism.
How farmers grow their crops affects just how much of these nutritionally beneficial components you get from eating produce, like apples, as well as how safe the produce is to eat. To get the most from taking a bite of an apple you must eat the peel and all. Studies have found that the peel has “six to eight times the polyphenols and contains other important compounds then the flesh”(Men’s Health, 2013). However, one’s nutritional input from the peels can be compromised by the presence of pesticides. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, most of the foods we eat have been grown with the use of pesticides. This is why, despite the great benefits of eating the peel, it is recommended to wash and sometimes remove the peel before consuming your produce in order to avoid health risks, like nervous or reproduction system damage, pesticide residue may cause. The Environmental Working Group’s research team found that eating certain types of organic produce “can reduce the amount of toxins you consume on a daily basis by as much as 80 percent” especially if you avoid what they call the “dirty dozen”, a list of produce, including apples, strawberries and blueberries, that when conventionally grown tested positive for over 40 different chemicals. (Pou, 2010).
Thankfully, not all apples are created equal. Eating organically grown produce is a way to keep the nutritional benefits of your fruits and vegetables without worrying about harmful chemicals. USDA organic certification requires that producers use non-synthetic controls to combat pests. Additionally, producers are required to “manage crop nutrients and soil fertility to maintain or improve soil organic matter content” in ways such as crop rotation and nutrient management practices in order to enhance crop health. Evidence presented by Donald R Davis in the Journal of HortScience points at the decline of nutritional content of produce due to conventional agriculture practices focus on yield, finding “median declines of 5% to 40% or more in some minerals” in vegetables and fruits (2009). According to research presented in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, organically grown produce was found to have higher levels of micronutrients concentrations (2011). A summary of the results of the review stated that the analysis “shows that plants that are grown under organic agricultural conditions are reported to have a higher micronutrient content in more cases than conventionally grown plants, and the difference translates mainly to a higher content of minerals.” While nutrient levels decline in the contemporary agriculture system, organic practices that focus on quality rather than quantity maintain the nutritional values of fruits and vegetables.
A final consideration to get the most out of produce is to purchase locally grown foods. Purchasing locally-sourced produce has the added benefit of fresh quality. For example, some fruits, like tomatoes, are picked before they have fully ripened in order to make sure they do not over-ripen while transporting them long distances to be sold on store shelves. As pointed out in Barry Estabrook’s book, Tomatoland, produce bred for uniformity and storage life often loses out on nutritional value. Minimizing packaging, handling and transporting of produce ensures a fresh quality product with the most nutritional value.
Not only are there many important personal health benefits there are also important environmental benefits to consuming locally and organically grown produce. Foods produced locally cuts back on carbon footprints by decreasing “food miles.” Eating foods grown organically supports farming that minimizes the amount of ecosystem disturbances by using alternative practices that lessen soil degradation and harm to plant and animal life through methods that prevent soil nutrient depletion as well as the use of pesticides and chemicals. Taking the extra step to purchase local and organic produce means moving towards a healthy lifestyle as well as a healthier planet.
University of Idaho
Summer 2014 Intern
Davis, D.R. (2009). Declining fruit and vegetable nutrient composition: what is the evidence? Journal of HortScience, 44(1), 15-19.
Estabrook, Barry. Tomatoland : How modern industrial agriculture destroyed our most alluring fruit. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2012. Print.
Filipic, M. (2012). Study: an apple a day lowers level of blood chemical linked to hardening of the arteries. Retrieved from Ohio State University website: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/ appleaday.htm
Gerhauser, C. (2008). Cancer chemopreventive potential of apples, apple juice and apple components Planta Medica, 74(13), 1608-1624.
Hunter, D., Foster, M., McArthur, J. O., Ojha, R., Petocz, P., & Samman, S. (2011). Critical Reviews In Food Science & Nutrition,
Pou, J. (2010). The dirty dozen and clean 15 of produce. Retrieved from PBS website:
Seattle, J. (2013). Are all apples equally nutritious?. Men’s Health, 28(8), 26.