All too often we are quick to reach for the latest supplement, super food or fad to improve our health. In most instances, everything we need is within our surrounding environment. Often, it is really easy to forget the therapeutic relevance of food and how food alone can make a significant difference to our health.
If I told you that you could potentially reduce the need for anti-inflammatory medication, improve gastrointestinal function, balance your good bacteria in your gut, have better mood, weight loss and better poos, simply by adding a food to your diet. Would you eat it? I know I would, especially if the food was accessible and cheap.
Signalling mechanism of food
Food provides important information to humans through direct delivery of macro and micronutrients. It also provides fibres (soluble and insoluble) that play a key role in the development and health of our microbiome, gut barrier and immune function. An imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the gut can lead to high blood sugar, high cholesterol, weight gain, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, autoimmune diseases and more. In this post about short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), I explain the importance of including an array of different vegetable and fruit that help to produce the food that nourish a healthy microbiome. Another amazing food, which is also brilliant at producing SCFAs is the humble apple.
Most of us grew up with the phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ and for good reason. Sadly, not everyone can tolerate apples, due to allergy, IBS or personal taste. Fortunately, I think the vast majority of people enjoy apples.
Before I share my delicious gut loving recipe for stewed apple with you all, I want to mention 3 key benefits of adding apples to your diet on a daily basis.
The humble apple is an amazing:
Apples are high in polyphenolic compounds. Polyphenols are beneficial compounds that consist of flavonoids, phenolic acid, and other polyphenols. Basically, they are the ‘superfood’ of the plant that support the body. In order for the phenolic compounds to be active and effective, they require the gut bacteria to act on them. The polyphenols in apples help to protect the intestinal tissues from inflammation and damage. They also directly inhibit the proinflammatory pathway, Nuclear Factor Kappa B (NFk-B), thereby reducing inflammation. As a result, the intake of apples can result in a reduction in serum C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a key inflammatory marker.
If you struggle with hay fever or allergies, then apples might be just what you need. Apples also help to modulate immune function by suppressing histamine through the reduction of mast cell degranulation.
The soluble fibre in apples are resistant to digestion, but highly fermentable, which makes them perfect for SCFA production. Butyrate (one of the key SCFAs) play a key role in modulating immune function, which is done by improving the quality of the epithelial barrier and positively influencing T-regulatory cells. In doing so it also prevents pathogenic bacteria from entering the gut.
A diet high in apples has a direct impact on bacterial colonisation in the gut leading to higher levels of Lactobacillus in the colon and thus improved immune function. After all, 70-80% of the immune system is located in the gut.
Apple pectin (the ingredient needed to make jam) is a key component for SCFA production and has been shown to be more effective at producing SCFAs than soy, sugar beet, oat or pea fibre.
When the microbial bacteria in the gut are imbalanced, they contribute to high blood sugar, high cholesterol, weight gain, type 2 diabetes and obesity. One of the mechanisms how apples may influence weight loss and cholesterol is through pectin. Apple pectin appears to have cholesterol lowering properties as well as a positive impact of glucose metabolism.
Interestingly a genus of bacteria, known as Bacteroidetes are found in higher levels in normal weight individuals, yet deficient in obese individuals. Apples favour Bacteroidetes growth promotion. Consequently, apples are a really good way to influence weight loss through the gut microbiota.
Let’s talk apple peel
Most people prefer to peel their apples when stewing them. However, you are likely to get more benefit by leaving the peel on. Why? The peel provides much higher levels of phenolic compounds, fibre, pectin and minerals compared to the flesh. If it is too much to leave it all on, then why not leave half of the skin on.
Organic vs non-organic?
Organic apples appear to have higher total phenolic content compared to non-organic. The higher flavanols, quercetin, hydroxycinnamic acids, dihydrochalcones might all be down to the fact that these guys had to work much harder to fight off disease. In doing so, we benefit from their strength and endurance when we eat them. Furthermore, sugar content in non-organic apples tend to be higher than organic, making it a valid consideration for diabetes and blood sugar balance.
If organic is not an option, then don’t worry, you will still get sufficient phenols to support inflammation, immune function, and helping your gut bacteria to assist in weight management.
Apart from the fact that it complements the taste perfectly, it also offers anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, cardiovascular, cholesterol lowering and immunomodulatory effects. Most importantly it helps to limit the impact on insulin and has been shown to be effective in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. When apples are stewed the fruit sugar content is higher, thereby having a bigger impact on insulin. Cinnamon can help to mitigate this.
- 10 cooking apples (preferably organic)
- 1 cup water
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- Wash the apples well.
- Core and chop in small chunks (I don’t peel mine). If you prefer you can peel your apples, it might be more palatable for young children and safer to eat.
- Put all the ingredients in a covered, heavy-bottomed pan, bring to boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Cook until soft and shiny (that’s the pectin working).
- The colour will be a light brown colour with the added cinnamon.
You can enjoy this warm or cold. I suggest eating two tablespoons a day with a few walnuts and natural yoghurt.
If you want to add some additional benefits for you or your children, then add a probiotic powder to the mixture once cooled or when serving.
Sweetness – I don’t recommend adding sugar. If you find you need a little sweetness, then you can either add a few raisins or currants whilst cooking or a little Manuka honey when serving.
I really hope that you enjoy this recipe and would love to hear your feedback.
Happy Wellness Wednesday.