My buddy Dan asked, “Joe, I know that apples are good for us, I’ve heard that Granny Smith apples promote weight loss. Is this true?”
A study published in October, 2014, did show that compounds in Granny Smith apples may help prevent disorders associated with obesity, but did not find that eating the apples themselves had an effect on weight loss. Researchers at Washington State University set out to learn whether non-digestible compounds in apples – specifically fiber and polyphenols (health protective antioxidants) – could help prevent obesity-related disorders such as diabetes. They tested Granny Smith, Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Red Delicious varieties for the amount of non-digestible compounds they contain, and found that Granny Smith contained the most.
Apples have a long list of health benefits in addition to the ones reported by the Washington State research team. During the 2014 World Cup soccer matches in Brazil, news reports noted that the television sports announcers ate apples to moisten their vocal cords. Over the years, studies have shown that eating apples can reduce the risk of heart disease as well as colon, liver, prostate and lung cancer.
As far as the health benefits of specific types of apples are concerned, a 2005 Canadian study ranked Red Delicious, Northern Spy and Ida Red as highest in antioxidants and reported that polyphenols, the major antioxidants in apples, are five times more prevalent in apple skin than in the flesh. Note, however, that while Northern Spy apples have fewer polyphenols in the skin than Red Delicious, they have twice as many in their flesh. The study was published in the June 29, 2005, issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. But other studies have shown that other apple varieties such as the Granny Smith contain more far more overall phytonutrients. My suggestion is to eat a wide variety of variety! Eat Red Delicious, eat Granny Smith and eat as many of any others as you can.
When choosing apples, I recommend buying organic ones in season from local farmers. Store them in the refrigerator to prevent them from over-ripening and to preserve their flavor. I don’t recommend avoiding the skins of non-organic apples but you MUST wash them thoroughly. Bear in mind that apples that are not organic are often found on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen,” its annual list of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues.
It's always better to eat your fruit than to drink it in the form of juice, but sometimes, drinking your fruit is just a lot more fun—especially when you're talking about apple cider, and especially when that cider has an extra kick.
There's been a resurgence in the making of American craft cider, better known as "hard cider," recently, and it's one of the fastest-growing segments of the alcoholic beverage industry. Unlike regular cider, hard cider is made from somewhat bitter or sharp-tasting apples, which result in complex flavors from bone-dry to sweet, and made in styles ranging from still ciders (think wine) to effervescent (think beer or even champagne).
While it may seem counter intuitive to turn healthy apples into alcohol, researchers from the UK have found that hard cider contains just as many antioxidants as a glass of wine. And moderate consumption of fermented fruit, as in wine or hard cider, may actually provide more health benefits than eating fruit in its unadulterated forms, according to research from Harvard Medical School. The Harvard researchers suspect it may have something to do with the fact that, when apples are turned into hard cider or grapes into wine, we get extra benefits from the skins, stems, seeds, and husks, and perhaps even the oak in which the alcohol is aged. Plus, hard ciders have less alcohol than wine and other spirits; the levels range from 2.5 percent alcohol by volume to as much as 8.5 percent (about the same as beer), compared with wine, which averages about 11 percent, and spirits, which start at 15 percent. So, it's perfect when you want a drink that packs less of a punch. And depending on how adventurous you are, hard cider is easy to make at home with your favorite local, organic apple cider.
Boutique cider makers exist all across the country, from Bellwether in New York, Foggy Ridge in Virginia, and Farnum Hill in New Hampshire to Tandem in Michigan and Argus in Texas, Tieton in Washington, and Wandering Aengus in Oregon - to name just a few. Organic hard ciders are cropping up as well. Wolavers, the Vermont-based organic beer brewery, makes a limited-availability hard cider in the fall, and smaller organic hard-cider makers exist all over the country, distributing their products locally.
Whether you're sipping hard apple cider on a cozy afternoon or serving it up at a holiday party, down a glass with foods that will complement the variety of flavors. Sausage is a great fit, homemade sausages are even better, because apples and anything pork-related go well together. Try browning Spanish-style chorizo sausages in olive oil, then braising them in hard cider.
Another good pairing: cheeses that have a strong flavor. Think Camembert, goat cheeses, cheddar, Cheshire, Gruyère and Appenzeller, or even mellow, creamy blues. Or, just stick with the basics and finish off your meal with a glass of hard cider and a slice of homemade apple pie.
More of a cocktail fan? Have regular, nonalcoholic apple cider on hand. Rum, bourbon, and brandy all go well with it, and for a simple cocktail that dates back to the days of the American Revolution, mix 2 ounces of any of those liquors with 5 or 6 ounces of fresh apple cider, pour over ice, and stir gently.
For a little more variety, add apple cider to an organic beer, as in this recipe that came from my friend Dan – the same Dan that asked the question that started this post today. Or try the second recipe called the Uncle Buck.
Caribbean Apple Pie
1½ ounces rum
2 ounces apple cider
½ ounce lemon juice
4 ounces spiced beer (try Bison Brewing's Organic Gingerbread Ale)
1 apple slice
Shake together the rum, cider, and lemon juice. Strain the mixture into a glass. Add beer. Garnish with the apple and a shake of cinnamon.
The Uncle Buck
This libation features hard cider and comes courtesy of another friend of mine, Tom.
2 ounces rye
1 ounce apple cider molasses
2 drops hot water
1 ounce ginger beer
1 ounce semi-dry hard cider
1 drop allspice dram (an allspice-flavored, rum-based liqueur, also known as pimento dram)
Fill a rocks glass with ice. Pour the rye over the ice and stir gently.
Add two drops of hot water to the cider molasses and stir to loosen. Then mix it with the allspice dram and ginger beer, and pour the mixture into your glass. Stir until combined. Top with hard cider and serve.
Look, the bottom line is that you need to eat apples. Apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavanoids, and dietary fiber. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in apples may help reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. These are all great reasons to add apples to your daily diet, but my number one reason is simply that apple taste too damn good to miss out on!