Health Benefits of Apples and Cinnamon

Q I often hear the old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But how good are apples really, and does cooking them with cinnamon offer any health benefits?

A Apples are indeed nutritious—and delicious! Besides being rich in fiber, they pack a wealth of antioxidants and cancer-fighting substances such as quercetin and flavonoids. Eating one or more apples daily may lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate. Apples also fall low on the glycemic index, meaning they don’t cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar.

Ayurveda—the ancient health practice of India—describes apples as “kapha balancing,” meaning they help the body metabolize sugar and fat, as well as help reduce excess weight and mucus congestion in the body. Interestingly, modern research confirms these ancient beliefs with discoveries that eating apples may help prevent asthma, COPD (a congestive lung condition), and diabetes. In fact, in an October 2005 study, women who ate one apple per day reduced their type-2 diabetes risk by 28 percent. Apples therefore qualify as an especially good fruit choice for those prone to excess weight, asthma, bronchitis, or high blood sugar.

The pungent, aromatic spice cinnamon has long been added to cooked apples, apple pie, and apple crisp. By a curious serendipity, recent research, particularly a study done by the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland, has discovered that cinnamon also improves sugar metabolism by making cells more responsive to insulin. So a dash of cinnamon with your apple not only eases the sweetness but also boosts your body’s sugar-burning ability.

Some people find the crunchy, rough texture of raw apples hard on their digestion, leading to gas or bloating. You can solve this problem by cooking the apples and, if absolutely necessary, removing the skin, which unfortunately removes some of the fiber. Try baking an apple in the oven for an hour at 350 degrees or simmer apple slices in a little water on the stovetop for 30 minutes for a delicious treat. And don’t forget the cinnamon!