Although the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may not be medically accurate, there are still plenty of reasons to enjoy apples regularly.

Apples are among the most popular and widely consumed fruits in the world. Besides being easily accessible and boasting a shelf life of up to a year, they’re also highly nutritious (1, 2, 3).

They’re rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. Polyphenols are a group of antioxidants, molecules that fight free radicals in your body. Among their many health benefits, antioxidants may help prevent cancer, inflammation, heart disease, and weight gain (2).

Perhaps surprisingly, apples are considered a major source of antioxidants in the United States and worldwide (2, 4).

If you’ve ever browsed the supermarket’s produce aisle wondering if the nutritional benefits vary among apple varieties, know that the short answer is yes — and that this has a lot to do with these polyphenol antioxidants.

Polyphenols are part of the reason different apples have their characteristic colors and flavors. In fact, different apple varieties feature significantly varying amounts and types of polyphenols, which affects their health benefits (1, 2).

This article reviews the nutritional qualities of 5 of the most popular apple varieties.

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When I think of apples, Red Delicious apples’ dark red color and sweet flavor come to mind, resembling the classic red apple pictured in movies, cartoons, and paintings.

Research suggests that red-skinned apples have more anthocyanidins than other varieties. Anthocyanidins are the pigments responsible for red, blue, and purple hues in fruits and vegetables. They also happen to be antioxidants belonging to the polyphenol group (1, 5).

Besides anthocyanidins, Red Delicious apples contain high levels of polyphenols called epicatechin, flavonoids, flavonols, and phloridzin (4, 6).

Studies have determined that the antioxidant content is higher in the peel than in the pulp, although this applies to all apple varieties (2, 4, 6).

Besides these many polyphenols, Red Delicious apples contain at least 28 additional bioactive compounds, all of which contribute to their health benefits (7).

A study that compared the mineral content of five apple cultivars grown in Pakistan, including Kashmiri Amri, Sky Spur, Kala Kulu, Golden Delicious, and Red Delicious, determined that Red Delicious had the most calcium in both the peel and the pulp (6).

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body. It supports your bones and teeth while regulating nerve and muscle function (6, 8).

Summary

Red Delicious apples are rich in anthocyanidins — which are responsible for their red color — and many other antioxidants that belong to the polyphenol group. They may also offer more calcium than other types of apples.

You may easily recognize Granny Smith apples by their bright green color and slightly tart flavor.

Research shows that they contain no anthocyanidins, as demonstrated by their lack of red, blue, or purple color. Still, they have other benefits to offer (1).

One animal study found that fiber from Granny Smith apples could modify gut microbiota profiles in mice with obesity to resemble those of lean mice, suggesting a potential weight control capacity (9).

This is because the composition of your gut microbiota — the friendly bacteria in your gut — may influence your weight. For example, research suggests that people with lean bodies have a greater Bacteroidete to Firmicute ratio than people with obesity (10).

However, more studies in humans are needed.

Summary

Fiber from Granny Smith apples may improve your gut microbiota to help with weight control. However, more studies in humans are needed to confirm this benefit.

As the name implies, Golden Delicious apples are not red but yellow-skinned. This is due to their content of carotenoids, the pigments responsible for yellow and orange colors in fruits and vegetables (11).

Like polyphenols, carotenoids are a group of antioxidants. Aside from their antioxidant activity, carotenoids also benefit eye and heart health and improve brain function (12).

Environmental factors like location, altitude, rainfall, and temperature are believed to affect the antioxidant content of apples. Research on Golden Delicious apples is a perfect example of that (4).

For instance, two studies found that, when compared with certain Italian and Chinese apple varieties, Golden Delicious apples had the lowest content of almost all the phenolic compounds (2, 3).

Additionally, two other studies analyzing Himalayan and Brazilian cultivars found that Golden Delicious apples had the highest content of certain phenols — namely epicatechin and chlorogenic acid (4, 13).

Thus, the antioxidant-related benefits of Golden Delicious apples may vary depending on their origin.

Regardless, both the peel and the pulp of this tasty variety contain some amount of the minerals iron, zinc, and potassium. Potassium deficiency may lead to muscular cramps, twitching, and irregular heartbeat (6).

Summary

Aside from polyphenols, Golden Delicious apples are rich in carotenoids, another group of potent antioxidants. They’re also a good source of potassium, iron, and zinc.

Fuji apples have a sweet flavor, a yellow and red peel, and a juicy, crisp texture — all factors that may contribute to their widespread popularity (14).

In several studies, Fuji apples consistently show a higher polyphenol content than other apple varieties (15, 16, 17).

One animal study determined that polyphenols from Fuji apples may help prevent heart and liver injury by lowering blood cholesterol levels and improving liver enzyme markers (18).

One test-tube study also found that Fuji apple extract affected liver cells to improve glucose metabolism. This suggests that Fuji apples may improve insulin resistance, the primary symptom of type 2 diabetes, although research in humans is needed (2).

Summary

Fuji apples are another polyphenol-rich variety. Animal and test-tube studies suggest they may benefit heart and liver health, but research in humans is needed.

Gala apples are another red, sweet type of apple.

Research suggests that they contain high levels of polyphenols throughout their ripening stages, with catechin being the predominant type (15).

What’s more, they appear to protect against heart disease by lowering the main risk factors.

One 6-week study in 46 people observed that eating three Gala apples per day reduced obesity-associated inflammation, which is directly linked to increased heart disease risk (19).

A 13-day study in mice found that Gala apple juice significantly reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels (20).

Still, keep in mind that larger human studies are needed before researchers can draw any firm conclusions.

Summary

Gala apples offer many health-promoting antioxidants throughout their ripening stages. Small human and animal studies suggest they may protect heart health.

Apples are tasty, versatile, and nutrient-rich fruits full of fiber and beneficial plant compounds.

While some varieties contain more of certain antioxidants than others, these differences are what make them unique and delicious.

They’re all great sources of beneficial plant compounds and offer multiple health benefits.