A recent study suggests that apples can help prevent some types of heart disease, as well as a number of other conditions. Bahram Arjmandi, who chairs the Department of Exercise, Food, and Nutrition Sciences at Florida State University in Tallahassee, related that she had not expected the consumption of apples to lower bad cholesterol levels, and that in fat the apples helped raise good cholesterol levels by roughly four percent. The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that some foods have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. Foods that contain dietary cholesterol, trans fat, and saturated fat can increase your level of cholesterol over time, as opposed to foods containing more healthy types of fats (like olive and safflower oil), which can actually help lower your overall cholesterol. Foods high in fiber, including many vegetables, fruits, and grains, play a role in the reduction of cholesterol levels. On the other hand, carbohydrates that have low levels of fiber will tend to increase levels of triglycerides and reduce the level of HDL or “good” cholesterol.
Those conducting the study recruited one hundred sixty women aged between forty-five and sixty-five. These women were assigned randomly to one of the two groups for dietary intervention. One group of women was provided with 75 grams of dried apples each day for one year, with the other being given prunes. This daily amount of dried apples consisted of roughly 240 calories. Apples contain roughly 5 grams of fiber each. The researchers discovered that the women who ate the dried apples reduced their overall level of cholesterols by fourteen percent, with LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) dropping by twenty-three percent, on average. Any effects by the prunes, if any, were omitted from the report.
Regardless of the inclusion of a few hundred calories each day to the women’s diets, the apple-eating women did not experience any weight gain during the study. Conversely, they lost an average of almost three and a half pounds. According to the study’s authors, the pulp of an apple turns into a gel-like substance that literally helps pull cholesterol out of the body, likening it to a natural toothbrush for cholesterol. Pectin is another beneficial aspect of apples, and is the substance in fruit used to make jam and jelly. Pectin helps increase the viscosity of food traveling through the body, and can help remove it. Apples are also rich in antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients. Fresh apples also come recommended over dried ones, as the drying process can remove some of the nutrients.
Making changes to your diet to include healthier foods can only go so far, say experts. Jessica Shapiro, a registered dietician, says that making changes to one’s diet can help improve things, but healthy food choices are only a part of good nutrition. She warns that if your cholesterol is high, changing your diet may not be enough on its own. Genetics make some people predisposed to high levels of cholesterol, and thus a healthy diet should be combined with regular exercise.