This amazing article was written by Nicole, a holistic nutritionist with a strong belief that it is possible for everyone to discover how good their body is designed to feel. Nicole works in partnership with her clients to achieve a lifestyle that is both balanced, fulfilling and nourishing. Go check out her fantastic blog with healthy recipes, or follow her on Facebook!
There are over 7,000 varieties of apples in our world, each with their own crunch and flavours. While I’m not going to share all 7,000+ names, I will share with you which ones are the most nutritious choices at your supermarket and I will also share what the biggest secret is when buying the healthiest apples.
Apples have long been associated with the story of Adam and Eve where the apple became a symbol for knowledge, immortality, and temptation. In Norse mythology, a magical apple was said to keep people young forever. It is fascinating how this fruit is still around today as it was thousands of years ago, while tastes and varieties have changed, what I have always found most interesting about apples, and fruit for that matter is first how they are grown.
If you were to plant an apple seed, the fruit it may bare will not be the same fruit that you removed the seed from. This is because fruit trees are sexual, which means they need to be pollinated in order to produce fruit. So a Red Delicious Apple seed, genetically, is really only half Red Delicious and the other half of the seed’s genes came from the pollen that a bee picked up from the blossom of another tree.
To grow apple varieties, farmers use both budding and grafting practices to produce a consistent variety that you would find in your grocery store. And while there are over 7,000 varieties of apples, only a few are actually edible! Fruit farming has never been as simple as planting a seed and watching it grow, this is why it was one of the last farming practices to be developed.
Apples Can Be a Superfood in Many Ways
The sweet taste of fruit, however, is well worth the effort it took to grow it! Apples are in many ways a superfood, they are a source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, vitamin C and antioxidants! They are also an excellent source of polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant that gives fruits and vegetables their colour and some of their taste characteristics. Polyphenols have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and many other beneficial health properties. While ‘antioxidant talk’ can get super confusing, especially if you do not have a science background, another antioxidant called flavonoids may ring a bell. Flavonoids are a form of polyphenol; sources being dark chocolatee and red wine – which you might be more familiar with now (flavonoids are our justification for including red wine and raw dark chocolate on the regular!).
Somehow it was apples that ended up with an amazing variety of these polyphenols. But interestingly enough there is a reason for this – the polyphenols in apples are a form of protection from UV-B radiation. Polyphenols are like the apple’s natural sunscreen. The polyphenol content of apples is also related to their easy ability to brown when sliced or bruised. Just as onions make you cry when you break open their cells which release a tear causing gas when the cells of the apple are sliced through or physically damaged when an apple is dropped, the enzymes begin to oxidize the polyphenol content inside, as a result, you see browning around the damaged apple portion. Handle apples delicately in order to protect their health-supportive polyphenols!
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The Best Apples To Buy
Now to the core of this post (haha)… The best apples to buy… While there are over 7,000 apple varieties, you will only ever see about 5-10 varieties in your grocery store. This is because those varieties have been tried and tested over the years through consumer research.
In Canada, a group of researchers  studied the antioxidant content of eight different apples which you will likely have in your grocery store. This study ranked the total phenol content in parts per million, here are their results:
- Red Delicious (2,012)
- Northern Spy (1,548)
- IdaRed (1,479)
- Cortland (1,323)
- Golden Delicious (1,265)
- McIntosh (1,163)
- Mutsu (1,017)
- Empire (782)
The researchers chose these varieties because these apples all grew on the same orchard in Ontario, Canada so the growing and soil conditions were the same.
This group of Canadian researchers also found that the polyphenol levels were five times higher in the skins than in the flesh! So when choosing apples, think ‘redder is better’ and use your skins whenever possible. For some apple inspiration, check out this healthified Apple Crumble Recipe.
Were you surprised by the results? While some apples were left out, since this study was done on one orchard, these eight apples provide us with a fair comparison of phenols.
What Are The Healthiest Apples?
There is still one secret to buying the healthiest apples.
You should without question buy ORGANIC apples. The average conventionally grown apple has more pesticide residue on it than any other fruit or vegetable. According to the Environmental Working Group‘s analysis, pesticides showed up on 98 percent of the more than 700 apple samples tested (and yes, they were washed). Unfortunately, there wasn’t just one pesticide either – apples from around the country, domestically grown and imported, were found to have up to 48 different kinds of pesticides on them!
To be honest, we’re also not quite sure what some of those pesticides do to humans or the environment. When you choose organic you are also supporting the farmer who grew that apple and you contributed to the safety of their work environment. In the USDA’s 2007 Agricultural Resource Management Survey , they found that organic apple producers chose organic methods because they could increase first their income, but many also stated that they choose to grow organic apples to protect the health of their families and their community, and also because many wanted to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.
Pesticides not only make our food toxic, but they pollute our world. So choose organic for your health and for the planets. Support a farmer that chooses not to use a list of harmful chemicals on your food instead of resorting to one that does! If pesticides are dangerous enough to require protection for the person spraying it, why would we want to put that in our mouth?
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