"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
Are apples and applesauce as good for us as we think they are? Or is it all a big conspiracy concocted by doctors and apple farmers to get us to eat more of them? Learn more about this nutrient-packed fruit and whether apples cooked down into applesauce make a fantastic addition to our diet.
Apples are the quintessential image we conjure when we think of fruit. They are incredibly accessible to us in North America, as they grow almost everywhere, including Northern, colder-climate areas.
There are thousands of varieties (7,500, to be exact). Each type offers juicy flavor ranging from softly sweet Fuji or Honeycrisp to the mouth-puckering tartness of a Granny Smith, which means almost everyone can find an apple they enjoy.
Generally, all fruit is good for us in moderation, and apples are no exception. They are full of water, fiber, and vitamin C, which can aid in weight loss and prevent heart disease.
But what about applesauce? Does cooking apples remove their health benefits? Here's the lowdown on apples, applesauce, and the potential health benefits of both!
What is Applesauce?
Applesauce is cooked-down, peeled or unpeeled apples with water or apple cider. If unpeeled, the skins are typically removed later on in the process by a food mill so that the result is a smooth puree.
A more acidic apple will result in a more significant fruit breakdown, meaning a smoother result.
Sugar and spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg, are often added to the sauce to enhance flavor. Adding lemon improves storage quality, and vitamin C preserves the colour of the applesauce while adding some nutritional value.
The beauty of making applesauce at home is that it's really simple: all you need are an apple peeler, water, and some apples of your choice. Having a simple snack to turn to can mean making healthier food choices throughout the day.
What are the Health Benefits of Applesauce?
Apples are an incredibly healthy, natural fruit full of nutrients, and they can be included regularly in any diet, whether you’re aiming for weight loss or consuming more vitamins and minerals.
Applesauce can also be great for you if you choose the right kind.
Here's everything you need to know about applesauce nutrition.
Organic apples and pesticides
Commercially-grown apples are near the top of EWG's list, the Dirty Dozen, making them one of the most highly-sprayed crops by pesticides. To avoid consuming those extra chemicals, get organic apples whenever possible.
If you don't have access to organic, wash the apples thoroughly to remove buildup on the skin, and consider peeling the apples before cooking to be on the safe side.
Applesauce is a high source of a few forms of antioxidants, namely polyphenols and phytochemicals, which help reduce cancer and disease-causing free radicals, repair cell damage, and prevent chronic illness.
Antioxidants help support a comprehensive healthy immune system and reduce inflammation in the body.
Many of the apple's nutrients are in its skin, so grind it into your applesauce to get the most significant antioxidant boost!
Store-bought applesauce contains ascorbic acid, another name for vitamin C. This critical vitamin boosts your immune system, speeds up healing processes, and improves your ability to absorb iron from foods.
You can purchase and add ascorbic acid into your homemade recipe if you'd like to give your applesauce an additional healthy kick.
Applesauce, much like whole apples, contains soluble fiber, which improves blood pressure and lowers blood cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels contribute to heart disease. So, lowering cholesterol will go far to promote heart health, which becomes increasingly important as you age.
Fiber for digestion and weight loss
Pectin, the soluble fiber in applesauce, helps to balance the digestive tract. Issues with diarrhea, constipation, and even Irritable Bowel Syndrome can improve with adequate dietary fiber.
Healthy digestion can help to promote weight loss as well. Fiber helps to keep you feeling full for longer so that you go back to the fridge a little less often each day.
Those antioxidants we mentioned earlier work to help fight and reverse oxidative damage in your lungs. If you're a smoker, ex-smoker, or asthmatic, think about supplementing apples and applesauce into your diet regularly.
Even for those without lung issues, applesauce can help to prevent your chances of developing asthma.
Sweetened vs. unsweetened
Apples naturally contain some sugar and can make delicious applesauce without needing the use of any other sweeteners.
Regardless, many people choose to add extra sugar into their applesauce to enhance sweetness.
The natural sugar in apples is fructose. Fructose, paired with fiber in the apple, doesn't have much of an effect on blood sugar. Like white, brown, or corn syrup, added sugars make blood sugar levels skyrocket and then plummet, which is terrible for everyone, especially for people with diabetes.
If you'd like to keep your diet healthy, be sure and stick tounsweetened applesauce.
Applesauce in baking
You can use applesauce to replace oil or butter in baking recipes. It's a great way to cut some calories, add some extra nutrition, and keep the texture soft, fluffy, and rich.
Most recipes call for a specific amount of sugar. The applesauce's sweetness can interfere with the flavors, so it's best to stick with unsweetened applesauce for baking as well.
Final Note: Is Applesauce Healthy for You?
You can easily incorporate applesauce into any diet and keep it healthy.
Like any food, it should be enjoyed in moderation, as natural sugars are still sugar. It's best to eat various foods daily to give your body the right mix of nutrients from many different sources.
The beauty of applesauce is that it's easy to make while apples are in-season and plentiful. Applesauce stores well in sealed jars for months in your cupboard, ready for the next time you need it for a snack or recipe.
Eat applesauce regularly to benefit from this fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidant-rich fruit!