It’s no secret apples are great for you. They’re sweet without any added sugar, and crunchy enough to feel substantial. Plus, for just 80 calories in one medium apple you get 5 grams of filling fiber. Even more, they’re portable and can easily be kept in your gym bag or desk drawer for a go-to snack.
It turns out the popular saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” might actually be true. A 2013 study in the Journal of Functional Foods found that otherwise healthy, middle-aged adults who ate an apple a day for a month experienced a significant drop in their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
However, not all apples are created equal. Here’s how to hone your apple-eating repertoire for maximum nutrition return.
THE BEST TIME TO EAT APPLES IS FALL AND EARLY WINTER
Sure, apples are available year-round, but in most of North America, they’re only harvested in the fall. To keep apples on supermarket shelves year-round, merchants store apples in cool spaces and spray them with 1-methylcyclopropene, a gaseous compound that helps preserve freshness and texture, and that the USDA has deemed safe.
But, just because the apples are still crisp and tasty out of season, doesn’t mean they’re as nutritious. In fact, a 2007 study by the American Chemical Society found apples lose significant amounts of polyphenols (disease-fighting compounds found in some plants) after three months of storage, and nearly all of the polyphenols are gone after a year.
ALWAYS EAT THE SKIN
While it’s a myth that all of an apple’s nutrients are in the skin, that colorful outer layer definitely packs a major nutritional punch. An apple with skin has nearly twice as much fiber as an one without skin, according to the USDA, plus more vitamin C, vitamin A and other important nutrients.
SOME VARIETIES ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS
To be clear, there’s no bad choice when it comes to picking an apple, but some types have higher levels of micronutrients than others. Here, six of the most nutrient-packed apples and how to eat them:
HOW TO COOK THEM
Try roasting them and serving over yogurt.
“Because they’re on the smaller side, they’re ideal for enjoying as a portion-controlled chocolate- or caramel-dipped treat,” says Pine.