It’s that time of year again, when nature explodes with 7,500 named varieties worldwide, ranging in hue from shades of purple and pink to brown. Yes, you can believe that number! From the usual array lined up at the local supermarket, you wouldn’t guess that the realm of apples extends far beyond the tried-and-true. They come as small as walnuts or larger than softballs, and incorporate flavors of berry, pineapple, nutmeg, anise, wine, and more. To sample the full spectrum, you would need to eat a different apple every day for more than 20 years — not such a bad idea, when you take their health benefits into account.

Apples contain an ample dose of fiber (two-thirds is in the peel), some potassium, and a modest amount of vitamin C. Their star quality, however, lies in a high content of antioxidants, nutrients that guard calls against damage from oxidation. One medium apple is a good source of flavonoids such as quercetin (also in the peel), which protects nerve cells from oxidative stress, suggesting that the fruit may help prevent Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases. Scientists at University of Massachusetts, Lowell, even discovered that drinking just a couple glasses of apple juice can boost brain function. Studies have also linked apple consumption to protection against cancer and diabetes, as well as lung and cardiovascular health.

Apples grow in each of the continental United States, with 100 varieties available commercially. Such abundance begs the question: Are some apples better for you than others? In several tests, Red Delicious got high marks for antioxidant activity, as did Northern Spy, Granny Smith, and Fuji. But more importantly, is the apple organic? If not, be aware that the average conventionally-grown apple is exposed to as many as 37 separate pesticide applications, which remain on its skin even after rinsing. Fresh organic produce contains an average of 50% more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micro-nutrients than intensively farmed produce. These scientific facts should cause us to question which apples we buy, and maybe change the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away, to, “An apple a day gives the doctor his pay.” Sadly, everyone pays for the poor health of society. Besides – organic apples simply taste so much better.