According to WebMD, an apple a day does, in fact, keep the lab-coat wearing man who asks you to turn left and cough away. “Researchers from Cornell’s Food Science and Toxicology Department in Ithaca, N.Y., found that the antioxidant properties of one fresh apple were equal to 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C,” the site reports.
Furthermore, the researchers found that it’s the combination of plant chemicals known as phytochemicals—found in apple skin—that make up most of the apple’s anti-cancer and antioxidant benefits. “The cooperative activity of these phytochemicals, they argue, has health benefits that are superior to those found in single compounds like vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene, which have been widely studied for their antioxidant activities,” per the same WebMD report.
In other words, when it comes to the nutritious value of apples, if you’re peeling the skin off, you’re basically stripping away all the good stuff.
But here’s the thing: There are 7,500 different types of apples grown throughout the world, and each one has a different chemical makeup. This being the case, there are many ways to rank them: In 2014, for example, Lifehacker reported on a study that ranked apples based on their antioxidant levels (Red Delicious came in first). But we’re going to keep it simple and rank the eight apples you’re most likely to encounter at the grocery store by how good they are for you in general. Let’s dive in…
1. Granny Smith: Confession: I reached out to at least five nutritionists for this story. Nearly all of them told me some variation of, “I’m not sure I can help you much, but I know that Granny Smith is the healthiest apple.” And while they were unhelpful, they were at least right about one thing: When it comes to nutrition value, Granny Smith is king (or perhaps queen?). “One of the most nutritious common apples, a Granny Smith apple has 13 times more phytonutrients than a Ginger Gold,” author and nutritionist Jo Robinson told Furthermore.
In 2015, dietician Andrew Weil wrote about a 2014 study that found that, when it comes to antioxidants that prevent obesity-related disorders, Granny Smith contained the most. “In addition, they concluded that the high content of fiber and polyphenols in Granny Smith apples promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in the colon, and reported that these compounds ‘actually changed the proportions of fecal bacteria from obese mice to be similar to those of lean mice,’” Weil wrote on his blog.
Short version: Granny Smiths are the greatest.
2. Pendragon: In 2009, a research study on apples was presented at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. “The apples were tested for various plant compounds, including those associated with lowering cholesterol and inflammation in the body,” reported Livestrong. The results revealed that the Pendragon apple—which has been around since the 12th century and is known for its light red skin that turns white as it gets closer to the core—was the healthiest. “Of all the organic varieties, Pendragon was the best apple variety and contained seven of the eight kinds of healthy components at the highest levels,” pharmacist Michael Wakeman, who led the study, told The Telegraph in 2009.
3. Red Delicious: Another frequently mentioned ultra-healthy apple is arguably the most classic iteration of them all. Because no matter how you feel about its taste, when you think of an apple, you think Red Delicious. “Red Delicious is another excellent choice because the dark red skin is rich in anthocyanins [a type of antioxidant],” says Sarah Rinsk, a nutritionist and registered dietician in L.A. As mentioned above, this apple boasts the highest level of antioxidants, based on a study by the American Chemical Society. And according to the Cleveland Clinic, Red Delicious is one of the top six most nutritious apples alongside Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Reineta and Jonagold.
4. Northern Spy: Also known as “Spy” or “King,” this apple—second to only Red Delicious in its antioxidant levels—has more antioxidants than Red Delicious in its meat. “Note, however, that while Northern Spy apples have fewer polyphenols in the skin than Red Delicious, they have twice as many in their flesh,” affirms Weil. Furthermore, Northern Spy is rich in a dietary fiber called pectin, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol and slow glucose metabolism in diabetics, according to Specialtyproduce.com.
5. Fuji and Gala: Tied for fifth place, both of these apples appear on the Cleveland Clinic’s list of most nutrient-packed apples. According to Livestrong, the Fuji apple has the highest overall concentration of bioflavonoids (which protect against heart disease and cancer) of any variety of apple. “They are also essential for maintaining your level of health and beneficial for controlling your weight,” reports Livestrong.
7. Braeburn: A good source of fiber, Braeburn apples help lower cholesterol, control weight and regulate blood sugar. “This bi-colored apple has a reddish-green skin, but look for one with the most red skin, which means it was exposed to the sun and developed an extra supply of phytonutrients,” Robinson told Furthermore.
8. Honeycrisp: According to Wellnessnova.com, in 2006 the Better World Report recognized the Honeycrisp apple as one of the top 25 best innovations of the past decade. Why? Because it was developed in a lab at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station’s Horticultural Research Center at the University of Minnesota (cue conspiracy theorist freak-out). “One medium Honeycrisp apple has 5 grams of fiber [more than any other apple on this list] and only 80 calories,” reports Hy-vee.com.
So all in all, if you’re constipated and searching for the apple with the most fibrous punch, Honeycrisp is sure to give you the power to poop.