By Lee Holmes
Affordable, nutritious and versatile, they’re a scrumptious fruity must-have that I love to continually replenish within my kitchen. Whether sliced thinly and thrown into salads, baked and stuffed with nuts and oats, stewed and made into apple sauce, or lovingly formed into a classic crumble, apples are the jack of all trades and a loyal friend that awaits transformation into all kinds of delectable creations.
Apples are nutritional ninjas, boasting loads of wellness boosting properties. Did you know that apples are a wonderful ingredient for regulating blood sugar? Recent studies have shown that the polyphenols contained within apples can help to prevent rollercoaster blood sugar spikes. Particular flavonoids like quercetin have the effect of inhibiting enzymes like alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase which normally break down carbohydrates into simple sugars. Therefore when you eat apples, your body deals with less simple sugars and releases you from spikes in blood sugar.
The polyphenols within apples are also excellent at lessening the absorption of glucose from your gut, and help stimulate your pancreas to secrete insulin. Apples are a trusty friend when embarking on any fasting protocol, as all these mechanisms help to keep your blood sugars and therefore your moods and energy levels stable.
The fibre found in apples has been shown to contribute to a healthy regulation of blood fat levels, which is particularly important when preventing heart disease; one of our leading causes of death in the western world. There’s no mistake that an apple a day will keep the doctor away! The soluble fibre content of apples; particularly the polysaccharide components known as pectins interact with other apple phytonutrients to bring about a significant blood fat lowering effect.
Apples are also high in vitamin C, with a single apple providing approximately 25% of the daily recommended intake. It’s vital for the production of a protein needed to make collagen in the skin, bones, teeth and cartilage, and is critical in regulating the immune system and keeping your body resilient against viruses and infections. Vitamin C also aids the absorption of iron from other foods, so eating apples during or after nonheme (plant based) iron rich foods such as leafy greens will increase the bio-availability of these iron sources within your body.
It’s very important that when searching for apples, you keep on the look-out for organic, un-waxed, pesticide free varieties. When it comes to fruit waxes that are found on conventional supermarket apples, many formulations are proprietary, meaning that their ‘recipes’ for the wax are secret. Because governments don’t classify these wax sprays as a food substance, this creates a loop hole whereby it doesn’t have the same labelling regulation as our packaged food products, organic products, and meat products. When in doubt, avoid waxes, sprays or any non-food component that is added to your fruits, vegetables or any of your produce. Just because it is permissible, it doesn’t mean it’s beneficial.
Pesticides are one of the major worries when consuming conventional apples. In fact, apples top the Environmental Working Group’s annual Dirty Dozen™ list of most pesticide-contaminated produce. Pesticides showed up in over 98% of samples the group tested and there were over 48 different kinds of pesticides on them. Some samples included chlorpyrifos, which is known to cause ADHD and lower IQ! This is a worry considering that they are the top choice for children’s lunch boxes.
Certain pesticides that are typically found on apples are known neurotoxins, which means they affect a child’s development and brain function. Infants are more at risk from pesticide toxicity than older children and adults because they can’t detoxify these chemicals.
I like to purchase my apples from farmers markets, from farmers who do not use any waxes or pesticides, or to be extra safe, choose certified organic apples. They’re definitely one of the cheaper ways to enjoy organic fruits and can be found in 1kg packs in most conventional supermarkets now.
For breakfast I delight in the sweetness of apples cooked with cinnamon into a quinoa porridge – a wonderfully light and sustaining breakfast option. A crisp apple fresh out of the fridge is a quick and easy snack, or chopped into wedges and dipped in nut butter will provide a more wholesome morsel. There are so many ways to enjoy this humble fruit, but you really can’t go past the scrumptious transformation of a cooked apple. The softening and caramelisation of a baked apple takes the edge off its sour bite, and is a dreamy, healthy way to enjoy sweetness.
This baked apple pancake is a delicious sweet-bake to include in your meal planning agenda. It’s gluten free and all its sweetness comes from the purity of the apple. Taking just a handful of ingredients, this baby can be whipped together on a Sunday afternoon, enjoyed for dessert; still leaving you with portions of delectability to be enjoyed through the week.
Kids will love some mini squares of this included in their lunch box, and the almond milk can be replaced with sunflower seed or rice milk to make for a nut free variation that’s pre-school or day care suitable.
Baked Apple Pancake
- 2 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- stevia, to taste
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 3 medium eggs
- 65 g (21/4 oz/1/2 cup) tapioca flour
- 1 tablespoon coconut milk
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) almond milk
- pinch of Celtic sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and line a 21 x 9 cm (81/4 x 31/2 in) loaf (bar) tin with baking paper.
- In a medium bowl, mix three-quarters of the apple slices with the stevia and lemon juice.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then mix in the flour, coconut milk, almond milk, salt and apple mixture. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes, then pour into the prepared tin.
- Top with the remaining apple slices, then sprinkle with the cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Bake for 20–25 minutes, until set. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, cut into portions and serve warm.
Tip: Letting the batter rest for 10 minutes before using is a good exercise in patience and results in a smoother mix and even hydration. This works for both baked and pan-cooked pancakes.