Nature's answer to cholesterol meds

Forget statins. If you want to protect your ticker, prevent a heart attack, stop a stroke, stay healthy and enjoy a great snack all at the same time, bite into a crisp, juicy apple.

Yes... an apple. Call it nature's original wonder drug.

One new study out of the prestigious Oxford University compares the benefits of statins to the benefits of apples. Do I even need to tell you which one comes out on top?

Apples, of course.

Since the researchers were British, they used UK numbers. They estimated that if everyone in the nation over the age of 50 was offered statins -- as some would just love to see happen -- and 70 percent of them actually took the drugs, the number of vascular deaths would drop by 9,400 per year.

A life saved is a life saved, I won't argue otherwise.

But in this case, those lives saved would come at a terrible cost: The drugs would also cause 10,000 new cases of diabetes and 1,000 new cases of muscle disease (and leave countless others suffering from other statin side effects, including memory loss, kidney and liver problems and sexual dysfunction).

Giving those same over-50s apples instead of drugs, on the other hand, would save almost as many lives and come with none of the risks. In fact, helping to prevent diabetes, not cause it, is one of the added benefits of apples-- and that's not the only science at the core of this issue.

One study I told you about recently shows apples truly are nature's answer to statins, cutting LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 40 percent in just one month.

Apples can also raise HDL ("good") cholesterol, and eating them regularly can help you to feel full so you're less likely to overeat -- potentially helping you to lose weight.

The only downside is that conventional apples have topped the Environmental Working Group's "dirty dozen" list for three years running -- and that's not an honor.

That's a list of fruit and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticides. And with apples, studies have shown that the chemicals can penetrate the skin and enter the fruit -- so you can get dosed even if you wash and peel it.

Go organic instead to get all of  the benefits of apples without any added pesticides. You'll pay a little more, but it'll be worth every penny.