Breeding the world’s best apple varieties

24th September 2020 | Eativity editors

Western Australia has a strong pedigree in breeding outstanding apple varieties. While WA’s Pink Lady apples and the more recent Bravo apples are known around the world for their great taste, it turns out they’re also some of the best for our health.

New research, led by Dr Catherine Bondonno and Dr Nicky Bondonno from Edith Cowan University’s School of Medical and Health Sciences, along with Professor Michael Considine from the University of Western Australia, examined which WA-grown apples were the best for our health based on their content of polyphenols. These are natural compounds associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It’s hoped that this information could be used to breed new, even healthier apples in the future.

The study, published in the journal Food and Function, tested almost 100 apple varieties. It found that the WA-bred apple varieties had the highest polyphenol content.

Dr Nicky Bondonno says that while Pink Lady and Bravo apples are undoubtedly among the most delicious, they’re also among the healthiest.

the world’s best apple varieties
Bravo apples have a unique burgundy skin and a sweet, juicy bite.

When it comes to health benefits, it’s skin deep

The research revealed an important way to get the healthiest bang for your buck from eating apples. “This research showed us that, across all of the apples we sampled, more than half of the polyphenols were found in the skin,” Dr Nicky Bondonno says. “If you want to get all of the health benefits of eating apples, you’ve got to eat the whole thing.

“We know that apples are a rich source of polyphenols. Because they’re such a popular fruit, eating apples is one of the most common and most simple ways in which we can add these really important compounds into our diet.”

the world’s best apple varieties
Keep the skin on your Pink Ladies for the most health benefits.

The human factor

Dr Catherine Bondonno and the research team tested samples from the skin and flesh of 91 varieties of apple and identified the types with the highest concentration of polyphenols.

“Our analysis found that the Pink Lady variety contained the most polyphenols,” she says. “So we also wanted to assess the levels of these compounds and the smaller compounds that they’re broken down into after we eat them.”

The researchers gave 30 participants Pink Lady apples to eat and then measured the levels of these compounds in their blood.

“Interestingly, we found a very large variation between people in the level of polyphenol compounds in the blood,” says Dr Catherine Bondonno. “This indicates that there is a difference in how people absorb and break down these compounds, and that the beneficial effects of apples on health may differ from person to person.”

the world’s best apple varieties
Because Bravo flesh is slow to brown, you can have some fun with them.

An apple a day

On top of their polyphenol levels, there’s plenty of other reasons to eat apples for health:

1. High levels of dietary fibre
2. Low glycaemic index (GI)
3. Good source of potassium, vitamin C, essential minerals and B vitamins
4. No fat, cholesterol or salt

To find out more about Aussie apple varieties, their health benefits and enticing ways to use them in your cooking, head to We’ve also got this sweet and spicy recipe for an apple spice layer cake, and this recipe for apple and raspberry crumble bars.