An apple a day might not always keep the doctor away. But two apples might do the trick -- especially for older women.
In a new study, postmenopausal women who ate 2.6 ounces of dried apples a day -- the equivalent of two medium fresh apples -- saw dramatic improvements in cholesterol levels.
At three months, their levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol fell by 16 percent and their total cholesterol dropped by 9 percent. At six months, those LDL levels fell by 24 percent, and total cholesterol by 13 percent.
They also saw a 4 percent boost in HDL ("good") cholesterol. That may not sound very big, but raising HDL levels even a little bit is often a big challenge for many people.
Those cholesterol changes alone are impressive enough for something as simple as apples, but those weren't the only benefits. The women who ate the dried apples also lost an average of 3.3 pounds, possibly a "side effect" of the pectin in the fruit, which is known to help make people feel full.
A control group of women given a daily helping of prunes saw slight dips in cholesterol, but nothing like what was seen among those who ate the apples. They also dropped a couple of pounds.
And while women in both groups saw drops in their levels of C-reactive protein -- an inflammation marker linked to everything from heart disease to brain disorders -- the women who got the prunes had bigger drops in this department.
Looks like prunes are good for more than just regularity, and I see no reason not to enjoy both prunes and apples if you like them. Just keep it moderate, since the sugar and calories can add up fast if you eat too much fruit -- especially dried fruit.
And when it comes to apples, don't just pick up anything on sale at the supermarket. Go organic, because conventional apples have some of the highest levels of pesticides of anything in the produce aisle.