Health Benefits of Applesauce

As the saying goes, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” What about applesauce? Applesauce, in its simplest form, is cooked apples. As such, it has many of the same incredible nutrients that fresh whole apples have.

There are many varieties of applesauce available. Some contain nothing more than apples, water, and ascorbic acid. Others have added sugar or other fruits. 

Apple-based sauces date back to Medieval Europe. People served sweet and tart versions as an addition to a variety of different dishes, such as beef, pork, fish, and goose. These sauces weren’t called applesauce, though. The word didn’t appear in print until the mid-1700s. 

Health Benefits

Applesauce contains antioxidants called phytochemicals. These antioxidants may help to reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Making fresh applesauce using the whole fruit, including the skin, helps to ensure that you get the most antioxidants possible.

Many store-bought brands of applesauce have vitamin C in them. The added ascorbic acid acts as a preservative, but it also has many health benefits. It boosts your immune system, helps your body absorb iron more effectively, and speeds up your body’s healing process. It helps to form muscle, blood vessels, and cartilage, the tough but flexible tissue at the ends of your bones in your joints. Vitamin C is also used in the production of collagen, the most common protein in your body that gives your skin its strength and elasticity.

Because it functions as an antioxidant, Vitamin C can also help to fight free radicals, which are harmful substances that build up in the body. They occur as your body converts food into energy. Other free radicals exist in the air and can enter your body when you breathe. As they build up, they can damage your cells, increasing your risk for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more. By fighting free radicals, antioxidants help to reduce your risk of developing these diseases.

Homemade applesauce typically doesn’t have the same amount of vitamin C, but it still contains some, enabling it to provide some benefits. 

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Applesauce can provide such health benefits as:

Heart Health

 Applesauce contains about the same amount of fiber as whole apples. The fiber is soluble, which helps to lower your blood cholesterol levels. Like fresh apples, applesauce also contains polyphenols, which may help to reduce blood pressure. Lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels can help to reduce your risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Digestive Health

The soluble fiber in applesauce, in the form of pectin, can be helpful in treating digestive issues, such as diarrhea and constipation. It can help to neutralize the effects of irritable bowel syndrome. Pectin also acts as a prebiotic, which feeds good gut bacteria and promotes good digestive health. 

Cancer Prevention

The phytochemicals in apples can help to reduce the risk of cancer. While most of these compounds are in the apple skin, there are some in the flesh. Applesauce retains some of the antioxidants, so it can help lower your cancer risk as well. 

Lower Risk of Asthma

The antioxidants in apples can help fight oxidative damage in the lungs, which can lower your risk for asthma. The quercetin in apples and applesauce can also give your immune system a boost and reduce inflammation.  

Nutrition

Applesauce is a low-fat source of vitamins, and can serve as a sweet, nutritious snack between meals.

While applesauce, and apples in general, are high in sugar, these sugars occur naturally in the fruit. Sweetened varieties contain added sugars, typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup.

Nutrients Per Serving

In 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce, you’ll find the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 103
  • Protein: 0.4 grams
  • Fat: 0.2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 27 grams
  • Fiber: 2.7 grams
  • Sugar: 23 grams

In addition to the above nutrients, unsweetened applesauce also has:

Applesauce also has a small amount of quercetin. Quercetin can help to boost your immune system. A healthier immune system means that your body is better able to fight infections and illnesses. 

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What to Watch Out For with Applesauce

Applesauce provides many helpful nutrients, but there are some things to watch for. Many brands that you buy in the store have added sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup. These varieties also aren’t typically made with the apple skins, which is what contains a majority of the fiber and antioxidants. Look for unsweetened versions. Another option is to make your own.

If you are allergic to peaches, plums, strawberries, or almonds, you may also have an allergy to apples. Signs to watch out for with an apple allergy include:

  • Itching on your lips, tongue, or throat
  • Redness or swelling of the lips
  • Rash
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of the face or eyes
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath

If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical care right away.

How to Prepare Applesauce

You can buy unsweetened or sweetened varieties of applesauce at your local grocery store. You can also make applesauce at home with just a few ingredients.

To make fresh applesauce, you need whole apples and water. Sugar is an optional ingredient. Recipe variations include using apple cider in place of water, squeezing in some lemon juice, and adding spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. You can add other fresh fruit to your applesauce as well.  

Start by slicing your apples and removing the cores. You can peel them if you want, or you can leave the skins on for extra fiber and antioxidants. Put your apples and water in a large saucepan or pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Next, simmer the apples for 20 to 30 minutes until they’re soft. For a smoother texture, you can blend your cooked apples in a food processor or blender. 

You can eat applesauce on its own, or you can:

  • Top it with sliced almonds, or another favorite nut for a well-rounded, healthy dessert
  • Stir it into plain or vanilla yogurt
  • Mix it in with baked goods as a substitute for some of the fat 
  • Use it as a glaze for meats such as pork
  • Serve it as a side dish with a meal
  • Pair it with cheeses such as Manchego or extra sharp cheddar
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on August 20, 2020

Sources

SOURCES

Foodtimeline.org: “Applesauce”

Nutrition Journal: “Apple Phytochemicals and Their Health Benefits”

Oncology Nutrition: “Constipation, Diarrhea, and Fiber”

USDA Food Data Central: “Unsweetened Applesauce”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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