The apple belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae) and is a derivative of its wild variety, Malus sieverslli, still grown and consumed in Central Asia. It is a Pome fruit, which means it is a fleshy fruit with a thin skin and the seeds are contained within the fruit. The apple blossoms are pink and gradually turn white as they mature. It comes in various colours and sizes and has a variation even in taste, ranging from sour to sweet. This quality of the fruit makes it a culinary specialty as it can be served in various ways – cooked and uncooked. The apple has ruled the health business for years owing to its immense qualities and benefits. Right from being on the teacher’s table to the platter of the healthy eater, the apple has continued its journey for thousands of years without compromising or losing out on its popularity as being the king of all fruits.
Historically, apples have known to be an integral part of ancient mythologies. Extending to countries and continents all across the globe, the fruit has found favour and acceptance by both old and young, rich and poor, the famous and infamous and has even been associated with gods and goddesses. According to the famous English scholar, H.R. Ellis Davidson, apples have been linked to religious practices in Germanic paganism. Offerings of apples to gods and goddesses have known to be made in exchange for eternal youthfulness and fertility. The Germans have long believed that apples are no less than a life giving fruit that has found favour even with celestial beings.
Among the Greeks, the fruit is a part of many religious traditions and is often looked upon as the ‘mystical’ or ‘forbidden’ fruit. The apple is considered to be sacred to the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. To throw an apple at someone was symbolic to professing one’s love and to catch the apple was an expression of acceptance of that love.
Popular Christian belief has held that it was an apple with which Eve (the first woman) coaxed Adam (the first man) to commit the first sin of disobedience against God. As a result, the apple became symbolic of knowledge and immortality as well as of temptation and sin. Also, following the story, the larynx in the human throat came to be called as the Adam’s apple because of the notion that Adam never really swallowed the forbidden fruit and it remained in his throat.
Apples have been grown and consumed for thousands of years now. Study reveals that there are about 7500 cultivators around the world contributing to different varieties of apple on the basis of colour taste and use. The reason for breeding apples may vary from cooking to eating or for cider production. Domestic apples can be produced either naturally through seeds or through grafting. Apple trees are prone to a lot of fungi, bacteria and pests and so special care is taken by cultivators. In the year 2010 itself, 69 million tones of apples were produced around the world with China and the United States being the major contributors producing about 10% and 6% of the produce respectively. The third position was gained by Turkey followed by Italy and India.
‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’. This is not just a statement but also an advice given by the doctors to individuals across all age groups. The statement, however, may not really be as precise as it claims, but with a host of nutritional benefits, apples are a smart choice to munch your way to health. It’s believed that the apple is one unique fruit richly endowed with nutrients and activated enzymes which if consumed, helps in building up the body and improves its immunity, thus, making it possible that we remain healthy and free from diseases. The antioxidants in the fruit help in neutralization of potentially harmful free radicals that are known to cause cellular damage.
Not just that, apples are a popular choice among the health and diet conscious being extremely low on calories. A whole medium unskinned apple has calories equivalent to 100 units which is about 5% of an average daily calorie intake. The smaller varieties have a lower calorific value. This means, one could enjoy an apple based dessert without disturbing one’s calorie budget; one would just need to scale down or scale up the size of the fruit as per need. It’s both a healthy as well as a wise choice. The fruit is a rich source of fiber as well. A medium unskinned apple provides with approximately 4gms of fiber. Fiber, as we all know, helps maintain a healthy weight and is crucial for waste elimination from the body. Daily consumption of an apple may also reduce LDL or bad cholesterol levels, thanks to the apple fiber.
There are, however, a few negative attributes associated with the famous fruit. Apples are a rich source of the naturally occurring sugar, fructose. A medium sized apple would contain sugar equivalent to 16-20 grams. The sugar content may, however, vary depending on the size, type and quality of the fruit consumed. In such cases, individuals suffering from lifestyle diseases like diabetes must ensure that consumption of the fruit is done only after consulting a doctor. Apart from this, individuals who have problems digesting fiber, or have a weak digestive system following gastrointestinal issues, may find it difficult to digest the high fiber content in the apple resulting in loose stools. Another matter of concern is toxification of the fruit by harmful pesticides, which can be eliminated by washing the fruit well before consumption. One could also resort to organic varieties which would further reduce the problem.
All this must not stop you from including an apple in your daily diet. Not only is it a healthy option, but, having an apple daily is also a wise decision. It will not only keep diseases at bay, but would also ensure you healthy nutrients as you go through the day