Whoever first said “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was onto something. New research suggests that eating some apple on a daily basis might lower levels of cholesterol as well as C-reactive protein (CRP), a key marker of inflammation in the blood.

In the study of 160 women ages 45 to 65, half of the participants ate three-quarters of a cup of dried apples every day for a year, and the other half ate a cup of prunes – each 240 calories. Within six months, the apple eaters’ LDL (bad) cholesterol decreased 23 percent, their HDL (good) cholesterol increased 4 percent and their CRP fell 32 percent.

“Lower CRP is better for people with many inflammatory-related diseases, such as [rheumatoid arthritis] and atherosclerosis,” says study author Bahram H. Arjmandi, PhD, chair of Florida State University’s department of nutrition, food and exercise science in Tallahassee.

Those who ate the dried apples lost an average of 3.3 pounds compared with the prune-eaters’ 1.1-pound gain. “It’s the pectin, a soluble fiber that gels in the gastrointestinal tract,” Arjmandi says. Previous studies have shown pectin can help curb appetite.

Which are best: dried, fresh or baked apples? “It doesn’t matter, though over-ripeness breaks down the pectin,” he says. “The best apples are those you like to eat.”

At around 80 calories for a medium (tennis-ball-sized) apple, it’s hard to go wrong with any variety. In addition to lowering cholesterol and CRP levels, apples also contain vitamins A and C and they are a good source of antioxidants, substances that can protect your cells from the effects of free radicals, harmful molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to smoke. There is evidence that a certain type of apple, Red Delicious, is higher in antioxidants – especially when you leave the peel on.