GROWING UP, I have always loved the crunchy, juicy sound of that very first bite into an apple. And when they fill up to the brim the crystal fruit bowl that my mother puts on the dining table, they really look lovely.
Till today, the humble apple is always on my list whenever I go grocery shopping.
Who would have thought that there are over 8,000 varieties of apples grown around the world!
Its history dates back thousands of years and is even referred to as the symbol of beauty in ancient Greek mythology.
Much of modern-day apple farming uses grafting techniques to get species of apples that are sumptuously delicious. You may be familiar with these varieties which are commonly found in our grocery stores:
This originates from New Zealand. It has a reddish-yellow colour and its almost gold-coloured flesh tastes a little tart. It’s eaten fresh or used in cooking.
Fuji : One of my favourites because of its succulent and sweet taste. Like the name implies, it originates from Japan. I often use it for juices.
Granny Smith: A native of Australia, this variety has a green skin and it tastes very tart. It’s my favourite mid-afternoon snack as it always perks me up and freshens my breath.
Interestingly, this variety of apple is named after Maria Ann “Granny” Smith who discovered this species in 1868.
Red Delicious: This apple is deep-red in colour and is nicknamed “Hawkeye”. It originates from Iowa in the United States. It is widely used in the culinary world in salads because of its mildly sweet taste and crunchy bite that adds a lovely, appetising texture to a bowl of mixed greens.
Pink Lady: Originating from Australia, this variety won’t turn brown so easily after it has been cut. That’s why it is popular in salads.
McIntosh: The McIntosh apple is originally from Canada. It has a crisp texture when it is just ripe but thereafter turns soft rather quickly.
The McIntosh apple is usually used to make cider and is cooked into sauces.
NUTRITIONAL GOODNESS FOR THE FAMILY
The adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may hold some truth.
The humble apple is chockfull of nutrition. A medium sized apple (roughly about 180g) has only 95 calories.
It has 4g fibre and 8mg Vitamin C, which is a good amount from a food source.
Other important vitamins and minerals include B Vitamins, biotin, choline, folate, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, iron, chromium, copper and calcium.
All these nutrients collectively are important for good health. Do eat the apple with the skin as that’s where many of the nutrients are found.
Apples also contain phenols and polyphenols which make up its antioxidant content. Antioxidants are natural-occurring compounds found in plant-foods such as grains, seeds, beans, vegetables and fruit.
Pectin is the main type of soluble fibre found in apples. Pectin slows down the rate of how fast the food we eat travels along the digestive tract.
This helps your body to better stabilise blood sugar. Phloretin, a phenol compound in apples, has shown promising results in studies that look at diets to help stabilise blood glucose levels and plasma insulin more efficiently. It also helps to lessen insulin resistance.
Studies also show that the apple is a heart-friendly food. As part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, regular consumption of apples helps lower bad LDL cholesterol levels, which in turn lowers the risk of atherosclerosis.
The Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2010 recommend that we consume two servings of fruit per day as part of a well-balanced healthy diet.
A medium-sized apple that fits in the palm of your hand is considered one serving.
HANDLE WITH CARE
When it comes to buying and storing apples, the other saying that “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch” holds true.
Apples are very delicate fruit and should be handled gently from store to home. Once they bruise, they give out the natural gas, ethylene, that can hasten the ripening of other fruit.
So if you buy apples in bags at the grocery store, make sure that they are free from bruising. If you keep your apples in a fruit bowl, remember that the bruised apple will make other fruit to ripen very fast too because of their close proximity.
Conversely, if you have any fruit that isn’t quite ripe yet, you can place it together with an apple in a brown paper bag and the natural ethylene will help it ripen quicker.
APPLE OAT BRAN MUFFINS
A delicious treat to help boost your fibre intake with the goodness of apples and oat bran.
Makes: 12 muffins
1 cup finely grated red apple
2 cups oat bran (available in supermarkets or health food shops)
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup low fat milk
2 egg whites — lightly beaten
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp vegetable oil
* Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius
*Grate the apple until you loosely fill up one cup.
* In a large mixing bowl, add in oat bran, brown sugar, baking powder, ground cinnamon and blend well.
* In another mixing bowl, combine the low fat milk, lightly beaten egg whites, vegetable oil, vanilla essence and grated apple.
* Add the apple mixture into the bowl with the oat bran mixture.
* Use a large spoon and stir until all the ingredients are combined.
* Line a muffin tray with paper liners. Fill each muffin cup with about 2/3 of the muffin batter.
* Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Serving tip: Serve the muffins warm with a light pat of cream cheese or butter.
Nutrition Information (per muffin without the cream cheese or butter)
Dietary Fibre: 3g
Total fat: 4g
* Indra Balaratnam is a consultant dietitian who believes in simple, practical ways to eating well and living healthy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org