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October 04, 2017

Are some apple varieties better for you than others?

'Infrequently Asked Questions' seeks the answer

October is prime picking season for apples, with as many as 25 varieties growing in the orchards of farms like Linvilla. But one must wonder: Do they all offer--in their infinite variations of tart and sweet--the same remarkable health benefits?

Curious, we reached out to Emily Rubin, a clinical dietician at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, for an answer.

For starters, the whole "An apple a day will keep the doctor away" saying. True or false? 

  • The world is full of questions we all want answers to but are either too embarrassed, time-crunched or intimidated to actually ask. With Infrequently Asked Questions, we set out to answer those shared curiosities. Have a question you want answered? Send an email to, and we’ll find an expert who can give you the answer you’re craving.


According to a study from Ohio State University [published in the Journal of Functional Foods], eating an apple a day for just a month may lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol by 40 percent. 

Do all apples offer the same nutritional benefit? There are literally dozens of varieties you can pick this time of year, with no indication of how they might be different nutritionally. 

Apples are one of the most popular types of fruit around the world. All varieties are high in fiber, low-calorie and contain antioxidants. Since there is no nutrition fact label on an apple, let’s start there.

Here's the nutrient content of an apple, about the size of a baseball:

Calories: 95. 

Carbs: 25 grams. 

Fiber: 4 grams. 

Vitamin C: 14 percent of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake). 

Potassium: 6 percent of the RDI. 

Vitamin K: 5 percent of the RDI. 

Manganese, copper and vitamins A, E, B1, B2 and B6: Less than 4 percent of the RDI.

There are few nutrient differences in the varieties of apples—the taste, size, sugar content and antioxidant content. These slight differences do not outweigh the nutrient benefits of all apples.

Golden Delicious, Pink Lady and Honeycrisp apples contain slightly higher levels of sugar as compared to Granny Smith, being the lowest in sugar.

Red Delicious apples contain the highest in antioxidants, or polyphenols, which are most prevalent in the apple skin.

The antioxidants found in all apple varieties may help reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

Another benefit: Weight loss. According to a National Institute of Health study, those who started their meal with apple slices also ate an average of 200 fewer calories than those who didn't.

Bottom line: Eat your favorite apple variety--with the skin--to get the maximum nutritional benefit.

You mentioned the idea that eating an apple before a meal can help stave off hunger. Any sense of why? Is it the fiber? 

The fiber in an apple makes you feel full, but an added benefit to the apple is the kind of fiber known as pectin (soluble fiber). Studies show that eating this kind of fiber can make you feel full longer, so therefore you eat fewer calories.

Do apples retain all their nutrients if you throw them in a blender, for a smoothie or just to juice it? Assuming you're also keeping the skin, of course.

As long as you keep the skin on the apples, the nutrients won’t be lost. Some points to consider: do not over-blend or over-juice your apples as some nutrients could potentially be destroyed. It would take about six to eight apples to make one glass of apple juice—which contains most of its nutrients but also a lot of sugar. Does anyone ever eat six apples at a time? That being said, eating the whole apple is the most beneficial.

Any advice for incorporating apples into your diet?

Add chopped apples to oatmeal, Greek yogurt, muffins, salads and sandwiches. 

And it's apple season. Pick your favorite at your local farms or shop at a farmer's market to get the most varieties.