Health and Wellness, Nutritionally Speaking

September yields apple harvest

This year, as September marks the celebration of Organic Harvest Month, instead of offering “apple cookies” at Natural Grocers as is our tradition, I will be celebrating my first month as a retiree. I’ll stop in for this fun (do try this at home) treat.
What the heck is an apple “cookie,” you are probably wondering. This is simply sliced (cored) apples (organic, of course – more on this later) with a schmear of sunflower butter, topped with dried cranberries, coconut flakes, walnuts, dark (low-sugar) chocolate chips and cinnamon, or your other favorites. This is a tasty and simple treat that can be enjoyed by all ages, and is a perfect after-school treat for sure!
September is the beginning of apple harvest season, and each week we find additional locally (northwest) harvested new crop apples.
Apples always make a great choice for a healthy treat – just make sure they are organic. The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) tests our produce for pesticide residues each year, and apples are typically the produce item at the top of their “Dirty Dozen” list, (competing with strawberries for this honor), so toxic as to always be avoided unless certified organic – or from your own chemical-free backyard.
The original wild apples we used to enjoy before our cultivated apples were available were a lot healthier. In a 2013 survey, the USDA measured the phytonutrient content in 321 wild and domesticated apples and found that the wild apples had up to 15 times the health-supportive nutrients of our favorites, including Fuji and Gala varieties. Maybe the best bet would be two apples a day to disappoint those docs?
The two types of fiber in apples are helpful in supporting cardiovascular health. The insoluble fiber, which works like bran, helps remove LDL cholesterol from our bodies. The apples’ soluble fiber, pectin, reduces the amount of cholesterol produced in the liver. The cholesterol lowering and antioxidant effects last 24 hours, according to George Mateljan, author of “The World’s Healthiest Foods.”
According to Mateljan, apple juice is not as beneficial to our health. Apple juice does not have as much of the fiber, and contains a greatly reduced amount of antioxidants and other nutrients, but has a more concentrated sugar content. Apples also contain malic acid, which supports magnesium absorption, so your daily apple(s) may reduce those cravings for chocolate!
As our new crop of apples hits the produce racks this fall, enjoy your organic apples, a great treat, with their many health benefits. Below is a simple and delicious recipe from the Natural Grocers website. Salud!

Simple baked
apples

Usher in fall with these wholesome, nutrient-dense baked apples. They make a great after-school snack or can be a part of a healthy breakfast. Add an optional topping to kick it up a notch into a healthy dessert you could serve to company.

Ingredients:
4 medium baking apples, (such as Granny Smith, which are less sweet, Jonagold, Braeburn or Honeycrisp)
1 tablespoon bulk shredded coconut
3 tablespoons bulk pecans or walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons bulk raisins, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup, optional (use less with sweeter apples)
1 1⁄2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
Optional toppings: whipped cream, ice cream, lightly sweetened coconut cream, or vanilla yogurt

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Cut each apple in half and trim away the stem and blossom ends. Using a small spoon, scoop out the center of the apples where the seeds are, and discard. Then scoop out some of the apple flesh into a bowl, leaving about a quarter-inch of apple to create a “bowl” from each half. Set apple bowls cut-side down in a baking dish.
To make the filling, coarsely chop the apple pulp you scooped out and combine it with the coconut, nuts, raisins, cinnamon, salt, and maple syrup. Mix the ingredients well.
Divide the filling among the apple bowls, using a spoon to gently press the filling into each bowl. Use all the mixture, heaping it up if necessary.
Place the filled apple bowls carefully into a baking dish. Top each with a thin slice of butter or about half a teaspoon of coconut oil. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil from the baking dish (watch out for hot steam!) and return the apples to the oven to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until apples are soft and the topping is just browned.

Source: Heather Pratt @ Natural Grocers