Apples are the quintessential American food, brought by colonists from Europe early in the country’s history. Apples were a key player in the American tale of Johnny Appleseed, who preceded pioneers as they traveled west, planting trees. And then of course there’s the apple pie, synonymous with patriotism and wholesomeness and summed up in the phrase, “As American as apple pie.” While one might not think there’s anything special about the apple, based on it’s relative inexpensiveness and year-round omnipresence at the local supermarket, this humble fruit is a great example of a anti-cancer food and fits well in our nutrition guidelines for breast cancer risk reduction. Like it’s sister fall fruit the pumpkin, it really does keep the doctor away with it’s cancer-fighting properties.

How Apples Help Fight Breast Cancer

  • Fiber – As with all fruits and vegetables, apples are a good source of fiber. One study shows that those who ate the most dietary fiber had a 11% lower risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to those who ate the least.
  • Phytochemicals – In a recent study focusing on apples and cancer, it was found that the phytochemicals in apples substantially reduced the occurrence of malignant tumors in rats relative to the amount of apple extract consumed. In addition, the phytochemicals also inhibited an important inflammation pathway (NFkB) in human breast cancer cells.
  • Pectin – Apples are a source of pectin, which increases the feeling of fullness. Part of a complete diet, apples can reduce your calorie intake, helping reduce the risk of obesity, a major risk factor in breast cancer.
  • Low-calorie – Apples are a source of low-calorie nutrition, which also helps reduce the risk of obesity.

Eat Your Peels (But Wash Them First)

Studies have shown the majority of nutrition as well as 75% of the apple’s fiber is in it’s peel, not it’s juicy sweet inside, so don’t skip the peels! Apples are, however, #1 on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, a list of 12 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides. According to the National Cancer Institute Cancer Trends Progress Report, some pesticides have been classified as carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) and people in higher contact with pesticides have a higher rate of cancer. Buy organic apples if you can. If cost is an issue, the EWG recommends going organic for just the Dirty Dozen items; this will eliminate a large amount of pesticides from your diet. At the minimum, thoroughly wash your apples before eating (not before storing) so the anti-cancer benefit isn’t cancelled out.

Beware the Juice

Not only does apple juice not contain the fiber so lauded by health advocates, but a study just released says some samples do have concerningly high levels of arsenic, a carcinogen. As with all things nutrition related, when in doubt, eat fresh and unprocessed.

Cancer-Fighting Apple Recipes

These recipes pair apples with an array of other cancer-fighting ingredients.

[Photo by bee-sides(s)]