11.09.2014
Apple are at the core of... our health
Apples are the new superfood - and there's nothing like the right time - now!

Apples are at the core, if you’ll forgive the pun, of our lives in England.  They are always around, in many guises, in every shop, canteen and café.  They were in our school lunchboxes, and we put them, in turn, in our children’s.  Even though tastes may be changing from traditional favourites like Cox’s to modern Braeburn or Gala,  we Brits still love them, munching away at 70,000 home-grown tonnes a year (and that’s not counting the imports!).

Last February our family moved to a house with a small orchard and right now the branches are hanging low with heavy fruit, many of them apples, as yet unidentified. They are looking wonderful: some plump red and juicy, heart-shaped, others a  gentler, rounder russet;  some are clearly eaters and others cookers.  I have plans, oh yes. But do I have the hours?

We must, of course, try to identify them – and the varieties of deliciously plumping plums and ripening pears – altogether quite a task.  We need to know so that we can use the right sort for the right thing, maybe juice, maybe whole, maybe cooked or frozen, maybe dried, or converted into jams and chutneys.  Frome, being Frome, has an annual Apple Day – this year’s venue is yet to be decided but will no doubt be a useful port of call.  Last year it was at Oakfield Academy, which  is part of the national Fruit-full Schools project on bio-diversity and grows a selection of traditional trees and hosts the annual apple day to help spread the love.

Meanwhile, as we flick through pages of self-sufficiency books, go searching online for knowledge and contemplate the purchase of a press and storage racks, it becomes ever clearer  that the apple is – yes! – a superfood.

Apples are packed to bursting with all sorts of wonderful medicinal properties:  that old adage ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ has truth. Proven truth.  Not just the experience of generations - which seems rarely to satisfy the pendants - but proper scientific proof.  Scientists have found, among the apple-y benefits:  improvement of neurological health (University of Quebec); help in preventing dementia (Cornell University); prevention of stroke (Finnish public health study of 9,208 people); lowered levels of bad cholesterol by 23% over 6 months (The Florida State University);  reduction of the risk of diabetes (cohort study of 187,382 people in the US, UK and Singapore) and breast cancer (Cornell University);  apples are just as good as statins in preventing vascular attack in the over-50s (University of Oxford). Shall I go on, or are you convinced!?

So what’s in these amazing health bubbles, a fruit so beguiling that it led Eve to persuade Adam to leave Eden?  The goodie list starts with Vitamin C, which boosts the immune system and is the powerful antioxidant that fights free radical damage alongside phytonutrients;. Vitamin B-complex which maintains healthy red blood cells and the nervous system. Then there is dietary fibre for a healthy digestive system; and trace elements potassium, phosphorus and useful bone-forming calcium. And only 52 calories! Munch on.

All this goodness can do great things for your skin too. Of course good skin is a product of healthy eating and exercise but there are many things you can do to improve it from the outside too. At this time of year, your skin has probably had a bit of a bashing from all the heat and holiday fun, so find a few minutes to replenish and give it a proper chance of healthy survival through the tougher months to come.

A deep clean and exfoliation is an excellent start.  Grab an apple. Grate half of one (peel on) and mix with a spoon of honey and some ground oats. Make a paste to spread on your face and neck, leave it for 5-10 minutes while you sit and listen to a favourite track. You could do a whole body exfoliation with the same mix (although greater quantities of course) but you might want to add a couple of large spoons of sugar and a little oil – sunflower or olive is perfect.  That way you can get to grips with the inevitable rough patches on bum and thighs.  Don’t forget your upper arms.

If your skin suffers frequent dry patches, you might want a richer, more hydrating mask: again, half an apple, grated finely;  now add an egg yolk, a tablespoon of warm milk and a tablespoon of ground oats if you like. Mix and apply as above.

If your skin is oily, then try half a grated apple, a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of cornflour. Again mix and apply as above.

When you’ve washed if off, dried and felt the wonder of your new skin, use a good face and/or body oil (Great Elm’s are superb, of course:  www.great-elm.com) to give your epidermis a deep-down feed of fabulous nutrients. Geranium and mandarin oils are known for their revitalizing, nourishing and healing properties, and can improve the skins elasticity and ease dryness. If you have oily skin, it may seem counterintuitive to use oils but there are plenty – like rice bran and borage oils, along with camellia and juniper - which can works wonders in rebalancing those over-active sebaceous cells.

You can of course devise far more complex masks, scrubs, spritzes, creams and oils but I’m always looking for fresh, easy , time-minimal but highly effective methods.  Simplicity works best, for me anyway:  could anything be simpler than an apple?  You could say it’s the apple of my eye, the core of my being – if you liked bad puns as much as I do.

   

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