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'An apple a day might keep the doctor away'

October 20, 2004|by LYNN F. LITTLE

An "apple a day may keep the doctor away" is proving true, based on current research. Apples help in promoting cardiovascular health, maintaining a healthy weight and protecting against certain cancers.

Children, teens and adults all can benefit from an apple a day. Apples are full of complex carbohydrates, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron and carotenoids such as Vitamin A, phosphorus, thiamin and magnesium.

· Apples are sodium-free.

· Apples contain no fat or cholesterol.

· Apples are a great source of dietary fiber. Pectin, a water-soluble form of fiber, has been found to contribute to the body's ability to reduce levels of cholesterol by removing it from the blood stream.

· Apples are an important source of potassium and micro-nutrients. High levels of potassium help to decrease the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels.

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· Apples contain natural sugar that provides the body energy for a quick energy boost.

Properly-refrigerated apples can have a shelf life of 90 days or more, according to the U.S. Apple Association. For best quality, store apples in a ventilated plastic bag, or plastic bag in which you've made several small holes, in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Check often and remove any apples that have begun to decay.

Store apples and other fruits in a separate refrigerator crisper drawer from vegetables. Fruits give off ethylene gas that can shorten the storage life of vegetables. Some vegetables give off odors that can be absorbed by fruits and affect their quality. Store fruits and vegetables unwashed to lengthen their storage life and maintain quality. Wash at the time of using.

Keep cut fruits (such as apples, pears, bananas and peaches) from turning brown by coating them with an acidic juice such as lemon, orange or pineapple juice. Or use a commercial anti-darkening preparation with fruits, and follow the manufacturer's directions.

Cut apples as close to serving time as possible. Cover and refrigerate them until ready to serve. Refrigerate peeled or cut fruits and vegetables so the total time they're at room temperature is less than 2 hours.

With only 80 calories per apple, they are a great choice for meals and snacks.

Include apple juice and snack-size applesauce in your children's lunches. Juice boxes can be frozen and they will keep the rest of the food products safe. The frozen juice should be thawed out by lunch time.

For a great afterschool snack, slice an apple into quarters and spread a small amount of peanut butter on each slice.

Core and quarter an apple and serve with slices of sharp cheese.

Expand your horizons, by trying new apple varieties that are unfamiliar to you. With more than 100 varieties in commercial production in Maryland, there's an apple for everyone. Visit the Maryland Apple Promotion Board's Web site at www.marylandapples.org/ for descriptions, photographs and suggested uses of the many apple varieties grown in Maryland. Each variety has its own unique flavor and best uses.




Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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