As the weather starts to change and cooler days roll in, the switch in seasons is also evident by the festive dishes that start coming to the table: the tasty pumpkin bread, meaty chili, and of course apple everything.
Apples have always been a key component of autumn. They come into season just as fall kicks into high gear, with many apple fests taking place to celebrate the new crop. Apple lovers wait on baited breath for this time of year since fresh, ripe pickings can add a crisp, sweet flavor to plenty of dishes and are often a focal point of pies, turnovers, cider, even donuts.
However, before bobbing for some tasty apple recipes, it’s worth knowing why this fruit is so beneficial to your health and how to choose the right type for each dish.
Why eating apples is so good for you
While it’s obvious that a lot of people eat apples because they’re delicious and can fit into any diet plan—whether you are vegan, Paleo, or gluten-free—there are also plenty of health benefits at the core of this sweet fruit. Here are some of the key reasons that “eating an apple a day” is so important:
- Apples contain high levels of pectin, a fiber that has been shown to help block the absorption of bad cholesterol in the body, thus helping to lower overall levels, which also improves heart health.
- Apples also have very high fiber content. Fiber is a plant-based compound that cleans out the digestive tract as it passes through, helping to break down food, quell stomach-related issues, and also prevent bouts of constipation and diarrhea.
- Apples are a filling, diet-friendly snack. The high fiber in apples also means you will feel fuller for longer after eating them. Plus, apples contain ursolic acid, which has been connected to lowering the risk of obesity by helping to increase the rate at which the body burns calories. With these two benefits, and other lifestyle changes, apples can help you lose weight and improve overall diet results.
- Eating five or more apples every week has been connected to improved respiratory health. Scientists believe this is likely due to the high concentration of quercetin, an antioxidant that helps improve overall lung function.
- Apples are a good source of vitamin C, providing as much as 14 percent of the daily recommended value. Vitamin C can help boost the immune system, which in turn can lead to reduced risks of cold or other illness. In other words, an apple a day could very well help keep the doctor away.
- Apples have good amounts of anthocyanins. A study has shown that these compounds could help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and also help to control and manage blood sugar levels in those that are already diagnosed.
Combine these health benefits with the fact that apples are free of cholesterol and fat, and it’s easy to see that adding this fruit to a daily nutrition plan is quite valuable.
Picking the right type of apple
One of the things that sets apples apart from other types of fruit is the huge assortment available: in the U.S. alone, more than 2,500 different types of apples are grown; worldwide, that number jumps to 7,500. Each has its own unique taste, with certain varieties better suited to different cooking uses.
Still the most popular type on the market, the Red Delicious Apple is larger in size, red in color, and comes with a crunchy texture. The taste is mild and slightly sweet, which makes this particular apple the best choice for an individual snack.
The yellow-toned skin of the Golden Delicious may not be as iconic as the Red Delicious, but it’s still one of the best all-purpose options. Its tender texture and a very sweet flavor makes it great for baking, making sauces, even freezing to keep for later use.
One of the sweetest types (and the number-two most popular option), Gala Apples have a crisp texture and are perfect for pies, salads, and sauces. They’re also a great choice for beverages including apple cider and fresh apple juice.
If you’re looking for tart, crisp taste, choose the Granny Smith Apple. Once native to Australia, its heavy crunch and strong texture makes it great for making caramel apples, while the tart flavor balances out the sweetness of the toppings.
Also sometimes called Honeycrunch, this type of apple hails from Minnesota and is almost always best refrigerated. Its subtly sweet flavor and tender texture allows it to “melt” quite well, so it’s preferred for baking and making applesauce.
Originally developed in Japan, the Fuji is most similar to the American Red Delicious Apple. It actually continues to sweeten once it’s pulled off the tree, which makes it an ideal choice for any kind of sugary dessert.
Of course, these are just a few of the more common types of apples on the market, but they help to illustrate just how diverse the population of this fruit really is and how many different ways it can be used in the kitchen.
5 great apple desserts to make this fall
Apples work great in a wide range of dishes, from traditional pie to creative ideas like parsnip-apple puree (check out our recipe!). But it’s desserts where apples really shine. Check out some of Thrive Market’s favorite ways to cook them for your fall feast.
Forget the store-bought brands and make your own caramel apples at home! It’s a fun activity for the whole family, and uses real ingredients you can feel good about giving to your kids (or giving away at all those Halloween parties). Opt for tart and crunchy varieties like Granny Smith or Honeycrisp Apples and get a package of sea salt caramels, which you’ll melt with some coconut cream to thicken up the topping. To finish it off, roll the apple in coconut flakes, which provides a sweet alternative to regular peanuts, and add a popsicle stick or chopstick in the center to get a “handle” on the treat.
If you like oatmeal raisin cookies, you’ll love apple oat cookies, too. This batch has a crisp, golden edge and chewy center for the perfect marriage of texture, while the spice combination (cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger) adds some zing to balance out the sweetness. Opt to bake them with ghee or coconut oil for a healthier fat and use buckwheat flour and gluten-free rolled oats to keep these treats wheatless so everyone can enjoy them. Dried apples work best for this recipe (here are some tips on how to do so yourself using a dehydrator at home).
Apples not only taste good on their own, but they’re also delectable when paired with other tempting fruits. This crisp combines a mixed bushel of Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, and Gala Apples with a pint of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries for some extra tartness and a pop of color to make this dessert a stunning centerpiece. Using almond flour keeps each serving gluten-free while raw sugar makes it healthier than more processed varieties. It takes just 10 minutes to prepare and 30-40 minutes to bake, meaning that in less than an hour you’ll have a new fall favorite.
Few things are as quintessentially “fall” as apple pie, and this recipe lives up to its name by providing an unforgettable finished result. The trick is to sauté the apples first to maximize their flavor. Use a mixed variety (think, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and Braeburn) to further provide a range of full, rich taste and add some crème fraiche to the pot for extra texture. After adding all the ingredients into the pan, follow the instructions to make a perfect lattice crust that will give you extra presentation points.
Dessert for breakfast? It will taste like it with this tempting recipe that looks like oatmeal but comes off like apple pie. To make, soak gluten-free rolled oats overnight so they become soft and creamy. Then, stir in servings of Greek yogurt, apple juice, grated apple, pecans, hemp seeds, honey, cinnamon, ginger, and sea salt. It only takes eight minutes to whip together, making it the perfect breakfast option when your morning is a little manic. You can also save the leftovers to enjoy for dessert.
Photo credits: Paul Delmont