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An Apple a Day...

Scientists are confirming that old saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away". Apples, especially the skin of red apples as well as other fruits and veggies, help stave off Alzheimer's, as well as some cancers and other diseases, according to  reports in Science Daily:  Compound In Apples May Help Fight Alzheimer's Disease and for the more technically minded: Researchers Reveal Apples' Protective Ways: Molecular Mechanism Of Flavonoid-rich Fruit Discovered.

Cooking doesn't destroy most of these valuable nutrients, but peeling often does.   Whenever possible, cook with scrubbed, unpeeled apples for the shortest time possible, as I do with Apple Soufflé Pancakes.  Other foods have high amounts of these nutrients, especially quercetin.  According to Science Daily:

"For those who don't like apples or may have difficulty eating the whole fruit, there are some promising alternatives, Lee suggests. Other foods containing high levels of quercetin include onions, which have some of the highest levels of quercetin among vegetables, as well as berries, particularly blueberries and cranberries. Like other antioxidants, quercetin has been associated with an increasing number of potential health benefits, including protection against cancer."

I read a sobering speculation the other day - some scientists and dietitians believe that the present generation will live 10 to 15 years less than their parents and grandparents, reversing a trend towards a longer life-span, up from the 35 to 40 years life expectancy of our ancestors not so many generations ago.  Although many strides have been made in medicine, especially early detection of formerly fatal diseases that can be cured, many supplements having been added to foods such as folic acid, trans-fats being pretty much discouraged, and smoking being down (although rising amongst the youngest generation), never-the-less, this is the first generation that eats primarily a man-made "diet"; frozen microwave goodies, fast food, soft drinks, fruit "ades", cookies and chips, etc.

Eating a better diet as one ages is certainly important and valuable, but the groundwork for health is built in youth.  Osteoporosis is prevented mainly by being active and building bones when young, and a healthy body is built then too.  There's a big difference between an after school snack of a bag of chips and a candy bar, and a big red crunchy apple.  If the foundation isn't well done, the building will never be as strong.

What's the answer?   When I was young, treats and desserts were usually calcium rich puddings, custards, fruit tarts and pies, or fresh berries with a little cream and sugar, and we didn't get any unless we finished our dinner (which included veggies and often beans).  For the more adventurous or less affluent, a neighbor's apple or other fruit tree was fair game for a snack.  City living and less adult supervision has pretty much eliminated all that.  But there's things you CAN do:

  • Eliminate from your home all those junk foods we tend to chow down on even when we know we shouldn't.
     

  • Don't buy any junk at the grocery; let kids spend their own allowance on junk treats if they must.
     

  • Keep some fruit right out in plain sight, perhaps in bowls on the table or kitchen counter; apples, bananas, peaches, plums, nectarines, even vine-ripe tomatoes.  In the fridge, baskets of berries, baby carrots, grape or cherry tomatoes, healthy low-cal dips.
     

  • Learn shortcuts to healthy cooking.  Make extras of favorite dishes to freeze later.  Cook on weekends, or do prep at night for the next day's meals.  Do stir fries, crock pots, buy prepackaged salad fixings, add cheese, ham or whatever it takes to get them to eat it. 
     

  • Take the time to eat together as a family, and create a relaxed atmosphere for dining.  This is important not only from nutrition standpoints but for behavioral and psychological ones as well.
     

  • Instead of a trip to a fast food outlet or a trip for ice cream, make treats a trip to the park, a family bike ride, basketball or baseball practice or other sport.  Or play their favorite indoor game.  Your time and the diet you provide are the best investments you can make for your spouse, your children, even your elderly parents.

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