Autumn signals not only the return of school days for many, but the organic apple farmer to our local farmer’s markets. It was Benjamin Franklin who coined the phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. True. But, it took until 2003, to find out that apples have 16 different biologic polyphenols. Polyphenols have a variety of different functions in the human body, including acting as antioxidants. One particular antioxidant, called quercetin, is not just a boon to the brain, but studies have shown that it may reduce cancer risks and prevent other diseases. Fresh, organic, whole apples are the best form of the fruit, as quercetin is found primarily in apple skin. Polyphenols may be responsible for some of the health-promoting effects of apples recognized by Franklin more than 200 years ago, but the apples in Franklin’s day weren’t treated with toxic or persistent pesticides. Today, apples are on the list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. So, while it’s still better that kids eat any apple rather than modern junk food, an organic apple a day (the way they used to be grown) is the best apple to keep the doctor away – according to both old wisdom and 21st century wisdom. See more information in Chapter 6 of the Natural Cures book).

A highly respected magazine for kids, once ad-free, is now packed with ads for fast food, candy, sugary cereals, snack cakes, and other products. At a time when nutrition-related health crises plague our nation, and especially our youth, it is unconscionable that this magazine has chosen to cram its pages with ads for meals such as fried chicken fingers with French fries, which provides 590 calories and more than half-a-day’s worth of fat and sodium. Junk food ads are clearly a major source of revenue for this magazine and others, in spite of some of the following facts which are not getting enough attention:

  • Feeding children hot dogs increases their risk of brain cancer by 300%. Strawberry yogurt, fruit punch and other red-looking grocery products are often colored with dead, ground-up cochineal beetles. The ingredient, called “carmine,” is made from insects, and is listed on the label of many favorite foods.
  • Many Florida oranges are actually dipped in an artificial orange dye in order to make them visually appealing; the same dye that’s been banned for use in foods because of cancer risk.
  • Girl Scout cookies are still made with hydrogenated oils that contain trans fatty acids, which are common in foods kids eat, including fried foods like French fries, and in many baked goods (cookies, pastries, crackers, chips, etc.).
  • Eating just one serving of processed meat each day increases your risk of pancreatic cancer by 67%. How many processed meat sandwiches are eaten daily?

Much is being said these days about incorporating healthier foods into the school lunch programs, but home is still the best starting point. Children, especially younger ones, learn by imitation of those around them. If foods at home are healthy, kids will pick their favorites from among healthy choices provided. It helps if the healthy choices are also tasty and appealingly presented. Sneak healthy vegetables or fruits into baked goods, if necessary, and as a safety net in this processed-food world, use daily multivitamins.

It’s hard to overestimate the enormous potential of families sharing meals together in this day and age. Prepare to be inspired! Try one new fruit or vegetable a week; take your children shopping and pick out the right foods for you and them; choose the healthiest version of snack foods if you do consume them; discuss dietary changes with your family. Family meals are associated with better nutrition, better health, better behavior, and happier children and parents. Experts are wringing their hands about the obesity epidemic in children, depression in teens; citizens are concerned about violence, educators are distressed by falling school performance. Getting kids to eat healthy can be frustrating, but as kids eat more meals at home with their parents, they naturally begin to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy dairy products than their peers do. Fast-food meals more than twice a week are associated with increased obesity and type 2 diabetes. Studies show that youth who eat more family meals perform better in school, spend more time on homework, get better grades, and spend more of their free time reading for pleasure; perhaps, while enjoying their fresh, juicy, organic “apple for the day”. Thank you, Benjamin!