The saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” originated in Pembrokeshire in the 1860s. It started out as “eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread”, then changing to “an apple a day, no doctor to pay” and “an apple a day sends the doctor away”. However, apples have been recognised as a healthy food for centuries including by the Ancient Romans and Ayurvedic medical practitioners in Asia about 1500 years ago.
Apples are in fact well studied in research and have been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties. This is in large part due to their high level of antioxidants, although some varieties of apples have higher levels than others, and it can also depend on how and when they are harvested. Much of the antioxidant content and mineral content is contained in the skin so we recommend you don’t peel apples as it takes away a lot of the health protective benefits, just give them a wash.
Depending on the variety of the apple and the weather, the apple season can start as early as late July and run through to late October/early November and once they’re picked and stored correctly they can last for months! Like us, you may have seen apples which have fallen from trees and on the roads and pavements. If you don’t know what to do with them it’s tempting to leave them lying there or take a few to make apple sauce or maybe a crumble? But they’re a really versatile fruit and there’s a couple of ways of using them that we really love because of huge health benefits.
Apple cider vinegar
Vinegar was used by Hippocrates to help manage wounds and it’s been claimed to have benefits in managing blood sugar, preventing cardiovascular disease, treating skin ailments and many other health issues. It’s also great for cleaning (fantastic for cleaning windows!), killing weeds and removing pesticide residue from fruit and vegetables.
Apple cider vinegar is helpful for digestion and we use it a lot for clients with digestive issues. Having a teaspoon in water before each meal can help stimulate stomach acid and therefore help break down food. You can buy apple cider vinegar and we recommend you avoid the stuff you see in supermarkets and instead go for a really good version with the ‘mother’, which is a combination of beneficial bacteria, proteins and enzymes that have developed as a result of the fermentation process. Liz recommends Higher Nature Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, which you can get from the Natural Dispensary. Put in code ELC15 at the checkout to get a special 15% discount.
If the apple cider vinegar has been filtered the mother has been removed and this also removes many of the benefits.
Alternatively, making your own guarantees the mother is retained and here’s a really simple recipe that we came across recently from Wellness Mama.
- Get a large clean glass jar or Kilner Fermentation Jar and either wash in a dish washer or sterilise in the oven on 170 degrees for 10 minutes.
- Wash, core and roughly chop 3-4 large organic apples (you just don’t want the pips).
- Add then to your jar until three quarters full.
- Place the chopped apples in the jar and cover with pre-boiled water. You can add some maple syrup or xylitol to the water (approximately one tablespoon per cup of water) to speed the fermentation process up but if you use very sweet apples you do not necessarily need to do this.
- Ensure apples are fully submerged – if they’re not they could go mouldy. You could weigh them down with a smaller jar or some fermentation weights (these can be purchased from Amazon).
- If you have a Kilner Jar, seal it with the airlock lid; otherwise, cover your jar with cheesecloth, muslin or even a thin clean tea towel and secure it with a rubber band.
- Store it in a dark place at room temperature, stirring each day with a wooden spoon (not a metal spoon), ensuring there are no bits of apple going mouldy.
- After three weeks, strain the apple out and return the liquid to the jar, ensuring it’s covered in the same way again.
- Leave it for between two to six months until it has the taste you require. It should taste vinegary, not like apple juice or cider. A white film will form on the top and this is the mother, which will thicken as time goes on, and should be kept as it can be added to your next batch after the apple has been strained out. This speeds the whole process up so that the next batch will only take 6-8 weeks. If the mother sinks in your second batch, discard it and use the floating mother for the third batch and so on.
It sounds so simple and yet stewed apples are extremely beneficial for gut health, particularly in those with inflammatory bowel disease. Many people who struggle to go out without rushing to the toilet have told us how their life has been turned around just by including stewed apples in their daily diet. Why is this so effective? Apples have several benefits but they have been shown to reduce inflammation in the gut as well as increase levels of beneficial bacteria and reduce pathogenic bacteria. They also contain pectin, which provides substrate for bacteria to produce SCFAs, which are important for nourishing colonic cells.
Combining the apples with cinnamon increases the health benefits further, as cinnamon is also anti-inflammatory as well as an anti-microbial so good for reducing pathogenic bacteria, and an antioxidant.
To stew apples just peel and core them and slice into thin slices. Put in a heavy bottomed saucepan with about 3 tablespoons of water and put on a medium heat with the lid on. After 3-4 minutes give them a good stir. Depending on the apple they may break down into a puree at this point as you stir them or they may need another couple of minutes on the heat. Just keep an eye on them so they don’t burn on the bottom of the saucepan. Sarah usually has some stewed apple frozen in a jam jar in the freezer to use in sauces or in baking too.
We recommend you eat this every day as a snack or you could add it to overnight oats or a coconut yoghurt!
So the answer to our question is “yes” but there are many ways of getting health benefits rather than just eating the apple!