Fall is here and I find myself teetering between summer’s sweet lighter fare and autumn’s hearty, grounding ingredients. This time of year is the essence of the in-between—mornings are glorious, but daylight is waning. And although afternoons are still warm, winter is on the horizon. It’s all a lesson in enjoying the here and now. Inevitably, my cravings are shifting. I’m still buying pints of blueberries and pounds of peaches, but apples, pears, and cabbage are making their way into our kitchen. Raw, roasted, or steamed, these foods are a wonderful way to switch up repetitive meals and snacks. They’re also an easy way to diversify nutrition, especially when boosting immunity is key. Speaking of diversifying produce, let’s talk about apples. Other than pumpkins, apples are a trademark fruit of fall. Not to mention the health benefits of apples are numerous making them a deliciously versatile fruit—there’s an apple variety for every palate. Read on to discover more about apples, their health benefits, apple varieties, and apple recipes to try!
So, What Are Apples?
Did you know that apples originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan? Now, they’re amongst the world’s most popular fruits. In fact, apples are the top consumed fruit in the United States. Typically eaten raw, apples can also be used in various recipes (both sweet and savory), juices, snack bars, kids foods, and drinks. Various types abound, but they all grow on trees, harvested when their skin color deepens. With a variety of colors and sizes to choose from, it’s no wonder that apples are remarkably popular. Plus, eating apples can have multiple health benefits. They’re loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, dietary fiber, and a range of other micronutrients.
Apples Are Packed With Health Benefits
It’s apple-picking season, and there are plenty of good reasons to fill up a basket. Apples have been linked to numerous health benefits, including improved gut health and reduced risk of stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and more. As they say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. If you enjoy tart, green-skinned apples, you’re loading up on even more nutrients. Green apples are a better source of vitamin A, B, C, E, and K. They also contain more iron, potassium and protein than red apples.
Eating Apples for Heart And Digestive Health
As a whole, apples pack an impressive nutrient punch. They may lower high cholesterol and blood pressure—thanks to their soluble fiber. In fact, a study found that a higher intake of soluble fiber was associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Apples can aid in digestion, again because of their fiber content. In addition to containing soluble fiber, apples contain insoluble fiber, which is necessary for regular bowel movement.
Apples Can Boost Immunity and Regulate Blood Sugar
Apples may also boost immunity, given that they contain immune-boosting vitamin C. And vitamin C helps the immune system function by strengthening the body’s tissues which fight pathogens. In terms of brain health, flavonoid-rich foods (like berries and green tea) can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease and related types of dementia. All apples contain quercetin, a flavonoid. Last but not least, apples can support healthy weight, and their insoluble fiber can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Paired with a source of protein (like string cheese) or fat (like peanut butter), apples can have a minimal effect on blood sugar. If you can tolerate fruit and you’re not on a low-carb or ketogenic diet, by all means, enjoy apples! They’re a wonderful source of energy.
Conventional Vs. Organic Apples
Unfortunately, apples are one of the most highly contaminated crops when it comes to pesticides. Buying organic apples will reduce your exposure to potential pesticide residues. And, minimizing your exposure to pesticides will reduce free-radical damage. Luckily, apples are currently in season and their price point should reflect in-season produce. When possible, choose organic. However, here’s a helpful guide to removing pesticides to conventionally-grown produce.
10 Most Popular Types of Apples
Depending on the variety, apples are available from late-July through early-November. Around the world, there are approximately 7,500 different apple varieties. Of those, 2,500 are grown in the United States. Deep red and golden apples have a sweeter flavor and are usually very juicy. They’re great for applesauce, for example.
According to the U.S. Apple Association, the 10 most popular types of apples sold in the U.S. (in 2019) were:
- Red Delicious
- Granny Smith
- Golden Delicious
- Cripp’s Pink/Pink Lady
Depending on where you live, apples may be grown in your state! As of 2018, 32 states raise apples commercially. A few of the top apple-producing states are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and California.
How to Keep Apples Fresh
To prolong freshness, store apples in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. They should remain fresh for at least 1-2 months (if not longer!). Apples are considered a climacteric fruit—meaning, they continue to ripen after harvesting. Once picked, they emit a gas called ethylene, but cold temperatures slow down the production of ethylene. Keep in mind that apples will still emit some ethylene when refrigerated, speeding up the ripening of other produce stored nearby.
Therefore, store apples in their own drawer, apart from other produce. This will help all of your fruits and veggies last as long as possible. If stored at room temperature, an apple’s enzymes and ethylene gas will cause a fast ripening. They will last on your counter for about 1-2 weeks, but their texture can change during this time.
What to Do With Apples That Are Soft, Bruised, or Mealy
In case your apples ripened much faster than expected (or maybe you came home with a few bruised pieces of fruit), don’t fret. There are plenty of ways to incorporate apples that are slightly ripe or dotted with bruises.
The Best Cooking Apples
Whether you’ve recently visited an apple orchard, grabbed a bag of your favorite apples at the farmers market, or have weeks’ old apples sitting in the back of your crisper drawer, there are plenty of delicious, creative ways to use them. The best apples for cooking have a mild texture. With these, feel free to use them in pies, tarts, dumplings, and cobblers. Granny Smith apples, Fuji apples, and Honeycrisp apples work well for baking recipes.
6 Sweet & Savory Apple Recipes
From pureeing, to baking, to drying apples, the sky’s the limit. And while you can certainly go the minimalist route and eat sliced apples on their own (a spoonful of peanut butter and a dash of cinnamon goes a long way), here are 6 delicious apple recipes—both savory and sweet—to satisfy hunger any time of day.
This might just become your go-to fall dessert. Granny Smith apples keep the pie from being overly sweet and the warm spices make a slice of pie the most comfy cozy dish to curl up with after dinner. We won’t judge if you eat a slice (or two) for breakfast the next morning. It pairs beautifully with a cup of coffee.
This fall harvest salad is packed with a variety of autumn-inspired ingredients. It’s the perfect way to welcome hillier temps. Seasonal and satisfying, this dish makes for a hearty lunch or light dinner—the kind of salad that leaves you feeling nourished from the inside out.
Apple sausage stuffed butternut squash has all sorts of deliciousness in one easy recipe. The squash is creamy and soft, while the filling is hearty, flavorful, and naturally gluten-free. You’re going to love this wholesome, seasonal recipe.
Indulge in something a little sweet with these healthy apple pie bars. Made with an almond butter crumble, ripe honeycrisp apples, and a delicious glaze, these bars are the perfect autumnal treat.
Apple pie is a classic, but sometimes you’re in the mood for something healthier and a little more unique. Enter: Vegan Apple Tarte. In the spirit of enjoying yourself without going into a sugar coma or having a hangover this holiday season, this simple yet delicious vegan apple tart with walnut crust is the answer.
Healthy apple nachos layered with fresh apples, bits of chocolate, coconut flakes, and drizzled with gooey, warm nut butter and sprinkle of cinnamon. These will be your new favorite quick and healthy dessert (or breakfast).