We in the gut health space love talking about the benefits of bone broth for gut health. But another lesser talked about and most certainly just as beneficial food is the humble stewed apple.
And my favourite part about both of these foods – how basic they are. Nothing fancy. No need to know how to be a Masterchef in the kitchen. No specialised equipment or ingredients. The both keep it simple. And honestly that is how our guts like it.
We so often want to reach for the latest supplement, the newest superfood or a quick fix pill from the doctors to improve our health. More often than not we can harness the benefits of some of our most basic foods to make significant changes to our health.
At the heart of all gut conditions is inflammation to some level. This can be something as simple as constipation or bloating, through to the more complex Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Stewing apples, and enjoying the tastiness they bring, can be a really great way to help reduce some of that inflammation.
The humble stewed apple not only reduces inflammation, it can help improve the function of your gut, balance your good gut bacteria, which helps with better mood, better poos and in some cases weight balance.
So what makes stewed apples so damn amazing for our guts?
Reduction in inflammation, increased beneficial bacteria, improvement in leaky gut
When we stew apples they release this super cool fibre called pectin that we don’t get as much of when we eat the apple raw. You know you’ve nailed releasing the pectin when your stewed apples have this lovely gel like sheen.
Pectin is a soluble fibre, which in the gut is a prebiotic, helping to feed our beneficial gut bacteria, allowing them to thrive. There have been studies that show that this fibre can help repair and maintain the all important mucosal lining along our intestines, which reduces and even helps repair leaky gut (intestinal permeability).
The fibre helps produce something called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which actually help stop the growth of the bad bacteria, help regulated blood sugar and cholesterol and increase absorption of nutrients, particularly minerals. My favourite thing that SCFAs do in the body is help produce serotonin – our happy hormone. Serotonin not only makes us happier but can also reduce our perception of pain. Very needed if you have inflammation through the gut or abdominal area (my ladies with period pain, I’m talking to you here too!).
And for those of you taking probiotic supplements, pectin can help lactobacillus adhere to the wall of your intestines, ensuring you are getting the most from your supplementation.
I could absolutely stop there – I mean how wonderful this all that not just for our guts but for our overall health and vitality, but there is more.
Reducing Oxidative Stress
Apples also contain polyphenols, which are antioxidants. Oxidative stress is a huge underlying driver for so many chronic lifestyle conditions, so having protection against this is important. Polyphenols are found in plants so lots of our fruits and vegetables have them. The body absorbs about 5-10% of the polyphenols from our food through the small intestines and distributes them in the body. The rest makes their way down into our colons where they do a similar job to pectin. They help stop the bad bacteria growing, increase the beneficial bacteria and reduce inflammation. It has actually been shown that C-Reactive Protein – a marker of acute inflammation – has been shown to decrease as an intake of apples increased.
Improving Food Sensitivities
I know you aren’t meant to play favourites but this could be a game changer for those with food sensitivities. Stewed apples can increase immune system tolerance which is a fancy way of saying that is becomes reactive to things it should be such as parasites and less reactive to harmless things like food. It hypothesised to do this through increasing T-regulatory cells – the cells in our immune system that turn on and off it’s responsiveness and changing dendritic cell function. Dendritic cells live on the outside of our intestinal walls (where 80% of our immune system resides) and reaches through the wall to have a taste of what is passing by. By doing this, these cells are likely to provide tolerance to the proteins in foods we can be reactive too.
I absolutely need to talk about FODMAPs and the sensitivity that many with gut issues can have reactions to apples – bloating, pain, gas. If you find you are reactive to apples, this is where you need to have a chat with a health professional. Reactions to foods are generally not normal and is your bodies way of telling you something is going on. It is also where working with a health professional will allow you to gently introduce these kinds of food, working to build back your gut integrity and overall health, allowing you to enjoy all your favourite foods once more.
Honestly anything that makes my taste buds and my gut happy is a win for me!