APPLEKENTUCKY (2/16/14) — Who has not heard the old adage, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away"? It may seem unlikely that one fruit could be so effective at maintaining good health, but apples really are a super food.

Apples are a member of the Rose family and are related to pears, peaches, apricots and plums. Though considered a fall fruit, apples can be enjoyed year-round thanks to commercial food production and importing.

Apart from being sweet, sometimes sour and refreshingly crisp, apples pack a number of nutritional benefits. Research has shown that apples can help to reduce a person's risk of heart disease and help those with diabetes. In addition, apples can help fight cancer and prevent dental problems.

According to new information from long-running studies published in the British Medical Journal, eating at least two servings a week of whole fruit, particularly apples, blueberries or grapes, reduces a person's risk for type 2 diabetes by around 23 percent.

Apples are high in many antioxidants and, as a result, this makes them especially valuable at fighting illness. For example, the disease-fighting compounds in antioxidants have been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers by neutralizing free radicals.

Apples also are very high in fiber. Fiber is needed to help a person feel full and can also regulate digestive function. Fiber also can help reduce cholesterol by preventing the buildup of cholesterol-causing plaques in the blood vessels, improving cardiovascular function and possibly reducing risk of a stroke as a result.

In addition to working their magic inside of the body, apples can have a noticeable impact on physical appearance as well. Apples are sometimes referred to as "nature's toothbrushes" because they can brighten and clean the teeth. The crisp, abrasive texture stimulates the gums and removes debris from the teeth. What's more, the natural mild acidity of apples helps to stimulate saliva production that can rinse away germs that lead to plaque.

An apple weighs in at under 100 calories per serving, making them a low-fat and ideal snack any time of the day. Because they are low in calories and full of fiber, apples can help men and women maintain a healthy weight.

Because apples can be plagued by insects and parasites, some growers repeatedly spray the trees with pesticides. It is adviseable to buy organic apples to avoid many of the pesticide dangers and to be able to safely eat the apples raw.

There are more than 7,000 varieties of apples on the market today. With such variety, availability and health benefits, apples make a convenient and nutritious snack.

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