By MARY ANN LIENHART CROSS
Extension Educator, Health & Human Sciences, Purdue Extension Elkhart County
As I write this column the cooler temperatures bring to mind so many great tasting locally grown foods. This time of year there are late grapes and cabbage with unlimited meal possibilities. Next is America’s favorite: potatoes; and I know you know the many meal possibilities with those. The next food that comes to mind is a food that you should eat at least once or twice a week, and that is the sweet potato. I really like the deep red-orange ones; and baked in a regular oven is my favorite way. There is also the wonderful winter squash which provides unlimited recipe possibilities and a bonus is they are so good for you.
With so many wonderful fall foods to choose from, the queen of fall is a fruit and that fruit is the apple! Talk about a food that tastes good and is good for you; you have to be talking about the apple. Locally grown apples will put the fresh, crunch into your healthy eating plan. A real plus is that there are so many locally grown varieties that you can pick yourself or purchase them freshly picked.
What’s great about apples is they’re flavorful, nutritious, low in calories and fat, and high in fiber. Each of us needs to effectively fight the stress of everyday life as well as reduce the risk of developing heart disease and some forms of cancer and diabetes. As adults, we especially need a diet high in nutrients, complex carbohydrates and fiber, but low in fat, sodium and calories.
Apples have no cholesterol and contain a water-soluble fiber called pectin that can actually help lower blood cholesterol levels. The potassium in apples can contribute to the control of high blood pressure. Potassium is also associated with a reduced risk of stroke. In addition, the carotenoids found in apples can actually help reduce the risks of developing some forms of cancer.
A medium apple only has about 81 calories, is full of fiber, and can help you maintain a healthy weight. An apple keeps blood sugar levels up making you feel fuller longer. The sweet taste and satisfying crunch adds to your eating pleasure.
The fiber your body can’t completely digest may decrease your possibilities of several other health problems. Apples can also help with the prevention of osteoporosis, which is the bone thinning disease that causes bone fractures in women over 60. Apples contain boron, which is a mineral that works with calcium. Retaining calcium is also important in preventing tooth loss. A recent U.S.D.A. study showed that boron in apples could help keep you mentally alert by influencing brain function. This fact helps support the need to have a variety of foods in our healthy eating plans.
To increase apples in your healthy eating plan, here are some suggestions you might want to try: (1) Mix apple chunks into a favorite high fiber breakfast cereal. The apple chunks add a sweet crunch and extra fiber. (2) Don’t forget apples at a salad bar. They’re great tossed in both fruit and green salads. (3) For a quick, low calorie dessert, microwave a cored apple in a little apple cider or other fruit juice until tender. (4) Apple slices, low fat cheese and whole-wheat crackers make a delicious snack or appetizer. A favorite for many of you is apple crisp. Try this heart smart recipe and enjoy apples in your everyday healthy eating.
Heart Smart Apple Crisp
3 medium baking apples, cored, sliced thin
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 T. sugar
2 T. flour
1 cup quick oats
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 T. heart-healthy margarine
Mix first four ingredients and place into 9-inch (square or round) baking dish. In small bowl, mix topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over the apples. Bake at 325 degrees until apples are soft and topping is golden brown (about 30 minutes).