At upwards of $4 per pound in some cities, is it worth adding the latest designer apple to your diet?
December 23, 2019
By Danielle Centoni
Danielle Centoni is a food writer and cookbook author based in Portland, Oregon. Visit her website at https://daniellecentoni.com.
At the dawn of the last month of the decade, a new product hit stores across the nation with the kind of media fanfare usually reserved for mind-boggling game-changers and industry disrupters. But this wasn’t a new Apple device, it was a new, well, apple.
More than 20 years in the making, the cross between the fabulously flavored Honeycrisp and the fabulously red Empire apples hit produce departments and food media sites with a garnet-hued splash. Its nerdy orchard name, WA 38, was cleverly replaced with a much more alluring, crowd-sourced moniker: Cosmic Crisp. It was designed to be a super apple of sorts, one that both growers and consumers would love. But from a nutritional standpoint, are they worth the hype compared to other apples?
That remains to be seen. Big, red, and stippled with fetching white freckles like stars in the night sky, the Cosmic Crisp mostly earns ink for blending great flavor with an easy-growing attitude.
It hit stores across the nation with the kind of media fanfare usually reserved for mind-boggling game-changers and industry disrupters. This wasn’t a new Apple device, it was a new, well, apple.
“It really combines the delicious flavor of the Honeycrisp with some of the good growing aspects of the Enterprise,” says Kathryn Grandy, marketing director of Proprietary Variety Management, which markets the apple. “It’s a grower-friendly apple. It has an enormous crunch, tons of juice, and it’s as high in tartness as it is in sugar, which is what defines the flavor and makes it slow to brown when cut. And it can last up to a year in controlled-atmosphere storage, giving us an apple we can have year-round that tastes really good.”
The only catch is the price tag. Depending on the market, this new kid on the block costs anywhere from $1.99 to $4 per pound. Considering the ubiquitous Fuji often rings up at under $1 per pound, the Cosmic Crisp can seem less like a darling and more like a diva.
Or here’s a thought: Maybe the Cosmic Crisp is so densely packed with nutrients it’s actually worth the splurge. As anyone embarking on a career as a nutritionist knows, studies show diets high in fruits and vegetables can decrease the risk of chronic diseases. And just one apple consumed with its peel offers a range of phytochemicals that are strong antioxidants, known to protect against cancer, heart disease, and other diseases. Clearly apples didn’t earn their “keeps the doctor away” status for nothing.
Just one apple consumed with its peel offers a range of phytochemicals that are strong antioxidants, known to protect against cancer, heart disease and other diseases.
So, is it possible the Cosmic Crisp, with its deep red skin, is so nutritionally superior that it’s worth the extra few bucks? Probably not, says Cynthia Lair, adjunct professor in nutrition at Bastyr University. Although different varieties of apples do contain different levels and types of antioxidants, the overall nutritional differences among apple varieties is negligible. “The fiber content among apples is the same, about 5 grams per large apple,” says Lair. “Red skin adds anthocyanins (pigments that give plants their color and also act as antioxidants when consumed) that green apples won’t have, but green apples are less sweet, so you get a slightly lower carbohydrate and calorie count—but not enough to get hugely excited about.”
Still, studies show there are differences between apple varieties. According to the review article “Apple Phytochemicals and their Health Benefits” by Jeanelle Boyer and Rui Hai Liu (Nutrition Journal, May 2004) researchers “have found distinct differences in total phenolic and total flavonoid content between different apple varieties. …Out of 10 varieties commonly consumed in the US, Fuji apples had the highest total phenolic and total flavonoid compounds. Red Delicious apples were also quite high, and the apples containing the lowest amounts of phenolics and flavonoids were the Empire apples and the NY647 apple.”
These compounds act as antioxidants to help prevent an array of diseases. And it looks like the bargain Fuji really packs them in, while the Empire—a parent of the Cosmic Crisp—falls a bit short. But don’t load your shopping basket with Fujis just yet. The article goes on to detail a variety of different studies comparing the concentration of specific phytochemicals between one apple variety to another. In one study, Golden Delicious takes the lead for its quercetin content, a compound that can…