No single food can keep anyone healthy or reverse previous damage caused by poor diet or lifestyle. But we need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and apples are an inexpensive, readily available choice.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We’ve all heard this old saying, but is there any truth to it?

Studies have long shown that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can decrease the risk of numerous chronic conditions. The Women’s Health Study, which involved 40,000 women, determined that those who ate an apple every day had a 13 to 22 percent decreased cardiovascular risk compared to those who didn’t.

Apples are a favorite fruit in the United States. They are available year round in grocery stores and even convenience stores. Some 2,500 varieties of red, green and yellow apples grow in the United States. All 50 states produce apple trees, but Washington produces 58 percent of our apple supply. An apple tree can take four or five years to start producing but can live and produce apples for 100 years.

Apples are loaded with good nutrition, as the following facts show.

• Averaging less than 100 calories, with no fat or sodium, apples are an excellent snack choice.

• Apples are a good source of soluble fiber. This type of fiber helps improve symptoms of intestinal disorders and hemorrhoids. Soluble fiber also helps lower cholesterol levels. Plus, it fills you up and helps with weight loss, especially when combined with an apple’s 85-percent water content.

• Apples have a low glycemic index, meaning that their sugar releases slowly into the bloodstream, which is important for blood sugar control.

• The pectin found in apples helps lower cholesterol and acts as a prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria in your gut.

• Apple skin is full of cancer-fighting antioxidants that target free radicals.

• Quercetin, a flavonoid found in the apple skin, helps regulate the immune system, decreases inflammation and makes oxygen more available to the lungs.

• Apples are nature’s toothbrush. Chewing on an apple stimulates the production of saliva, reducing tooth decay by decreasing bacteria levels. The result is whiter, healthier teeth.

• Apples are a good source of potassium, which helps with blood pressure control.

• Many of the nutrients in an apple are found in the skin or just under it, so peeling can take away some of the apple’s nutritional value. Commercial apple trees are usually sprayed with pesticides, so you do want to wash apples well before eating. Sometimes apples are treated with an edible wax coating. You can eat this, but there is a chance that the wax is trapping pesticide residue, so if you can’t scrub it off, it may be better to peel these apples.

• Apple juice doesn’t have all the nutrients or the fiber found in fresh apples. It takes about 36 apples to yield a gallon of juice, so the calories are concentrated. Plus, it is easy to drink more than a serving (4 ounces) of juice, but you probably aren’t going to eat more than one apple at a time.

• Apples are easy to combine with healthy fats and proteins to make a filling light lunch or snack. Spread nut butter on apple slices, or pair them with some reduced-fat cheese. Chop them up for a salad. They also make a convenient snack to grab and go. There’s no prep needed, and what little waste is in the core is environmentally friendly.

No single food can keep anyone healthy or reverse previous damage caused by poor diet or lifestyle. But we need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and apples are an inexpensive, readily available choice. Store them in the refrigerator, and they will stay crisp for months.