Fruit is much more easily digested when it is cooked, especially during the winter when digestion is often sluggish. A simple, tried and tested therapeutic food – pureed apples with warming spices builds immunity and is wonderful for gut health. The healing properties come from the pectin in the skin of the apples that’s released during the cooking. Pectin repairs and maintains the mucosal lining of the gut, where 80% of our immune system is housed. The warming spices, especially cinnamon, are anti-inflammatory, immune boosting and contain good amounts of antioxidants.
A simple, tried & tested therapeutic powerhouse for your gut
Apples are one of the most potent gut-healing functional foods available when prepared in this way. Here are a few of the remarkable nutritional qualities of the humble apple.
Apples are rich in the usual range of nutrients such as vitamin C and potassium, however where they shine is their impressive phytonutrient content. Phytonutrients are compounds that are there to nourish us, but they also have a very beneficial effect in the body in terms of disease prevention, regulating our immune system and repairing DNA damage. Apples are particularly rich in a powerful group of phytonutrients known as polyphenols. These are antioxidants found in high concentrations in green tea and other fresh fruits and vegetables.
Quercetin is the main polyphenol in apples and predominantly found in the skin, along with the highest proportion of fibre and minerals, so it is best not to peel your apples, providing they are organic of course. Organic apples have also been found to have a higher concentration of polyphenols and nutrients across the board.
Apples, along with onions and garlic, are one of the richest food sources of quercetin – a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, which helps reduce inflammation in the lining of both the gut and lungs. So, it’s a wonderful nutrient for those with digestive issues and upper respiratory conditions like asthma.
The benefits of soluble fibre & prebiotics
Apples contain soluble fibre, but in particular, prebiotic fibre. Prebiotics are indigestible fibres that promote the growth and activity of beneficial gut bacteria. So, in essence, prebiotics feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut rather than feeding us. In turn, these beneficial bacteria perform diverse roles such as regulating our immune system (which is predominantly housed in the mucosal lining of our gut), producing vitamins and improving our absorption of the nutrients we consume. The perfect symbiotic relationship if we take care to feed them.
Pectin, the gut-healing super food
Supplementing with different prebiotic powders like inulin has become popular in the gut healing community, however pectin is often overlooked. As someone with a strong bias towards real food, it’s important to know there are equally beneficial types of fibre found in raw carrots and cooked apples which both have similar therapeutic effects on gut-health.
Several studies have demonstrated that the more often we eat these two foods, the less ‘overactive’ our immune system becomes, reducing the incidence of atopic conditions like allergies, eczema and asthma. Others have demonstrated that apples can even reduce inflammation in the brain via their beneficial effect on the gut (not surprising when you understand the significance of the gut-brain connection).
Pectin increases the production of substances like short-chain fatty acids and intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP) which dramatically improve gut-health via several different mechanisms. Firstly, they protect against ‘leaky’ gut by reducing inflammation and improving the integrity of the gut lining. They also bind to toxins excreted by any pathogenic bacteria which happen to be residing in our gut (endogenous toxins), ensuring they are easily excreted.
Whenever apples are cooked in this way, the gut-healing pectin is released. The traditional accompaniment of cinnamon – which itself a potent anti-inflammatory agent – is a wonderful aid in counterbalancing the potential impact of the fruit sugars on blood glucose. I also recommend stirring in a little coconut yoghurt or cream per serving, to keep your blood sugar levels nice and balanced.
This is such a simple technique and exact measurements aren’t really needed once you’ve got the hang of it, however here is a simple base recipe to get you started.Print
3 apples (unsprayed, preferably organic), skins on
5 whole cloves
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
1 star anise (optional)
1/4 cup filtered water, plus more if needed
Roughly chop the apples and add to a small pan with the spices and filtered water. Simmer over a moderate heat for about 10 minutes, or until the apples are tender and there is already a slight sheen. Remove the star anise and 3 of the cloves. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth. Serve warm with a tablespoon of coconut yoghurt or cream (the thick cream on the top of a can of coconut milk).
Leftover healing apples can be stored for up to 3 days in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. Warm through before serving.
My favourite toppings
- Pure carob powder
- Cashew, almond, or seed butter
- Cracked flax seeds
- Toasted slivered almonds
- Pumpkin, sunflower & sesame seed mix (toasted or untoasted)
- Toasted buckwheat groats (kasha)
- Chestnut flakes
- A little sweet white miso (so good)
- A little ghee
- Leftover wholegrain rice or quinoa
- Pinch of flaky sea salt
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