The health benefits of apples -- and delicious desserts to make with them

MILWAUKEE -- Did you know today is National Apple Day! Heather Ferber with Better Health by Heather joins Real Milwaukee to celebrate all things apples and orchards.

According to the University of Illinois, there are over 7500 varieties of apples grown worldwide with 2500 of those varieties being grown in the United States and 100 of those varieties are commercially available. Apples can be grown in all 50 states, but only 36 of them grow them commercially and most are handpicked during the fall months.

They were a favorite food of the ancient Greek and Romans. And for good reason! They come in many colorful shades of red, green and yellow with a wide variety of tastes and flavors.

Apple variety favorites at Heather's house include:
• Gala - distinctive yellow-orange skin with red striping and crisp, sweet taste that goes great in salads
• Grannie Smith - green apples are lower in sugar which is great for weight loss and breaking sugar habits
• Honeycrisp - creamy white flesh with pleasant sweet-tart flavor due to balance of sugar and acid
• SweeTango - hybrid of the Honeycrisp developed by the University of MN with a bit more tart flavor but very juicy
• Red Delicious - the most popular brand grown in the US

Apples contain antioxidants, phytochemicals and loads of fiber along with B vitamins and vitamin C. These powerful antioxidants have been linked to a reduction in risk for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Interestingly, the phytochemicals vary greatly between the different varieties of apples and they also change during the ripening and storage phases.

How to incorporate apples into your daily diet:
• Slice and top with your favorite nut butter
• Throw one into your morning smoothie
• Dried apple chips
• Apple snack/fruit bars
• Delicious desserts

Baked Apple with Coconut Milk
Serves 2
2 medium apples
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ to ½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the apples in half and remove the core and seeds. Place the apples face up on a baking tray. Drizzle with coconut oil and cinnamon. Bake about 20-25 minutes until soft. Remove from the oven and serve with warm coconut milk and top with pumpkin seeds.