Hy-Vee Dietitian: Apples

When it comes to healthy eating in the fall, consider the good ol' apple. Apple pies, bobbing for apples, apple cider all remind us of autumn. But consider the health benefits of the apple. The saying, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," does carry some weight.

Apples come in a variety of sizes and colors and have a variety of uses. Over 2,500 varieties of apples are grown and are the number-one fruit consumed in the U.S. Whether you bake or microwave them, or eat them raw, apples have a variety of health benefits.

Apples are packed with 4-5 grams of fill-you-up fiber. Apples are a good source of pectin, a fiber found to lower blood fats. These fibers, both soluble and insoluble, are abundant in apples and not only keep you fuller longer, but have the ability to lower your cholesterol level when eaten regularly.

Wash your fruit and be sure to eat the peel too! The red, green or yellow pigments in the peel of an apple contain health-protective flavonoids (antioxidant compounds) that may reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as breast, prostate and lung.

Consider these uses with apples for family fun this fall:

Apple-Cheddar Panini
Serves: 4 (1 sandwich each)
Source: usapples.org, adapted by Hy-Vee dietitians
If you don´t have a panini press, just use a non-stick skillet to make these tasty sandwiches.

All you need:
1/4 cup honey mustard
8 slices whole-grain bread
2 crisp apples, thinly sliced
8 ounces cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
Cooking spray

Directions:
1 Preheat panini press on medium heat.
2. Lightly spread honey mustard evenly over 1 side of each slice of bread.
3. Layer apple slices and cheese over 4 slices of bread, using about ½ apple and 2 ounces of cheese for each sandwich.
4. Top each with remaining bread slices, mustard-side-down.
5. Lightly coat panini press with cooking spray.
6. Grill each sandwich for 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese has melted and bread has toasted. Remove from pan and allow to cool slightly before serving.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 510, Protein: 25g, Carbohydrate: 53g, Saturated Fat: 13g, Cholesterol: 60mg, Sodium: 740mg, Dietary Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 16g, Fat: 22g, Trans fats: 0g.

Simple Slow Cooker Applesauce
Serves: 8 (1/2 cup each)
Source: Hy-Vee Test Kitchen.

All you need:
8 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped*
1 tbsp Hy-Vee brown sugar, optional
1/2 tsp Hy-Vee ground cinnamon, optional

All you do:
1. Put apples in a 3-quart slow cooker. If desired, stir in brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 to 5 hours, stirring occasionally to break up apples.
2. Transfer to a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher to desired consistency. For smoother applesauce, process in a food processor fitted with a metal blade or blend in a blender.
3. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

*Softer apples are best for making applesauce. Use Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Fuji and/or Gala apples.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 60, Protein: 0g, Carbohydrate: 16g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 0mg, Dietary Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 13g, Fat: 0g, Trans fats: 0g.
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