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Monday, November 7, 2011

An Apple a Day

I like to start my day out by eating an apple for breakfast. I have found that even on mornings when I am sluggish and grumpy, an apple improves my mood. Apples are an enigma to me.

When I was diagnosed as diabetic 10 years ago, the diabetic educator told me to limit my carbs, and as an example, she told me that a medium sized apple would count as the maximum amount of carbs I should eat at any meal. Therefore, if I wanted to eat carbs for lunch, and I wanted to eat an apple, then I couldn't have ANY other carbs with it. She suggested that I only eat half, that way I could also have half a sandwich to go with it.

Throughout the years, I have learned that not all carbs are equal. Therefore, eating the WHOLE apple with a couple of slices of meat for lunch is much healthier for me than putting those slices on bread. HOWEVER, as I was learning about nutrition, I realized that there is pretty much nothing in a carbohydrate based food that cannot be easily found in abundance in a good steak or an egg.

Take an apple, if you look at this nutritional profile, you'll see that all apples really have going for them nutritionally is fiber and vitamin C. Nutritional Profile for Apples

Compare that to a nutritional powerhouse such as eggs. Even factory farmed eggs are packed FULL of vitamins and minerals. If a person ate nothing but eggs, they would live a long and healthy - if dietarily bland - life. Nutritional Profile for Eggs Eggs are also beneficial in that the Vitamin A in it is already in the optimal Retinol form. Some people have trouble converting Beta Carotene into the Retinol form, so no matter how much Beta Carotene they ate, it wouldn't help them.

Even comparing apples to another type of plant, such as broccoli, apples seem to pale. Broccoli has a surprisingly similar profile to eggs, except it has no Vitamin A Retinol and an enormous amount of Vitamin A Beta Carotene - which is the precursor to Retinol, or in other words, it's what the body converts into Retinol. Nutritional Profile for Broccoli

Why then has the phrase "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" been so commonly accepted as true? I truly believe that it's because of the other things apples do for a body. Without going into a tediously long list of enzymes and how they act in the body, I like to think of it like this:

Digestion is vitally important to the body, and any food that is high in enzymes to help digestion is extremely valuable. Ideally - from an enzyme point of view - all food would be eaten raw since enzymes are destroyed by heat or cooking. When I think about my three examples of food, I realize that eggs are normally cooked, thereby destroying their enzymes. This is not because cooking is necessary before one eats an egg but because most people deeply object to consuming an unappetizing blob of goo.

Even broccoli - which technically can be eaten raw - is most often cooked. Therefore, both eggs and broccoli are consumed without enzymes and actually need to be eaten with something containing enzymes for optimal digestion to occur. I didn't really believe this when I first learned about it. It didn't make sense to me that something as fragile as an enzyme could help with digestion, but, I figured I didn't have anything to lose by trying it.

So, every morning for breakfast, I started eating an apple. I notice something strange... well strange for me. Normally when I wake up, I have no appetite. As a diabetic, if my blood sugar drops too low, I start shaking and feeling sick. Therefore, after waking up, I should eat something to prevent sugar dropping.

Most mornings, I just couldn't force myself to eat anything. I would even go hours before I felt hungry. I would eventually eat something for lunch, feel nauseous for hours, and then eat a huge dinner when I finally felt hungry. I used to believe that I should only eat when I'm hungry, but my diabetic educator was very insistent that I needed to maintain my sugar levels - never allowing them to rise too high or drop too low. This meant I needed to eat something every four waking hours at the very least.

Imagine my surprise at how difficult it is for me to eat on a schedule! Anyway, after deciding to try eating an apple in the morning - when my stomach turned at the thought of eating anything - I noticed that I started feeling better. Within an hour of eating the apple - which also has the benefit of getting rid of my morning breath - I would be hungry! Not the ravenous hungriness of a diabetic who has gone too long without food, but the clear thinking hungriness of someone who knows they are hungry, and has plenty of time to grab a bite to eat.

I even felt like cooking things! Don't get me wrong, I love to cook, just not when I'm feeling blah. Eating the apple took away the blah feeling. These days, I can always tell when I've gone a few days without eating an apple because I start falling into my old patterns. I'll feel blah and not want to cook or eat anything until even my hubby is on his hands and knees begging me to feed them. I'll complain, and then realize that it's been more than 4 hours since they've eaten because I didn't feel like cooking.

I am now completely convinced that enzymes and a good digestive system really are vital to good health! An apple a day. It may not make sense to anyone else, but seriously, try it! See the benefits for yourself :-)

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