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My grandchildren – who can sometimes be picky about certain types of fruit and vegetables – have a different story when my two apple trees burst out with sweet, crisp fruits at this time of year.

“Can we pick apples, Grammy?” They beg. When my grandson’s apple is to the core, he carefully selects the stones and puts them in his pocket to plant when he gets home. I love that.

Aside from being one of the most convenient and delicious snacks (and a great source of vitamin C), experts say the old saying “an apple a day” keeps the doctor away.

Researchers in Poland observed that people who ate at least one apple a day had a lower risk of developing colon cancer than those who didn’t. They attributed this finding to two possible reasons: Apples are a rich source of phytochemicals – natural substances that include polyphenols and flavonoids. These plant chemicals can fight cancer cell growth. Apples are also a good source of fiber – another plant substance that has been linked to a lower risk of colon cancer.

Other studies have found that phytochemicals in apples can help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Quercetin, a natural flavonoid found in apples, may help reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer. And a research team from Cornell University found other phytochemicals with the potential to kill or slow the growth of at least three different types of human cancer cells: colon, breast and liver.

A rule for eating apples. Do these three. Wash your hands with soap and water. Then wash your apples with clean water (no soap required, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration). After all, you’ll be eating your apples with their peel on (unless you have a health reason not to). This is where most of the fiber and phytochemicals are found.

Speaking of fiber, apples are a great source of a soluble fiber called pectin. Yes, this is the same substance that makes jams and jellies gel.
Soluble fiber like pectin is known for its ability to lower cholesterol and blood sugar when it passes through our intestines undigested. These undigested fibers also feed the friendly bacteria in our intestines, which helps defeat the bad disease-causing bacteria.

I get calls from neighbors about my apples when they see the fully grown fruit fall from my trees. Then experts at the University of Illinois Extension say my apples are ready to harvest. They also say apples are ripe when the “bottom” or “primed” color around the stem changes from green to greenish-yellow. Even fully ripe apples can be picked straight from the tree without any problems. That’s what my grandchildren love most. I also.

Barbara Intermill is a registered nutritionist and specialist in diabetes care affiliated with the Monterey Peninsula Community Hospital. She is the author of Quinn-Essential Nutrition: The Uncomplicated Science of Eating. Send her an email at [email protected]