People have been making applesauce for hundreds of years. Cooked apples form a soft purée that may be sweet, tart, or savory, depending on the type of apples and whether any spices have been added.
You can eat this fruity sauce in many ways. You can eat it by itself or alongside meats and vegetables, or use it in smoothies, baked goods, or salad dressing.
Whole apples have many known health benefits, so you might wonder whether applesauce has the same benefits.
Similarly to whole apples, plain applesauce is low in calories, fat, and salt. It contains some carbs and natural sugar, as well as small amounts of vitamins and minerals, including copper, B vitamins, and vitamins C and E.
However, its content of other nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, depends on a few key factors.
- the variety of apples used
- how the apples were processed
- the cooking temperature
- whether the peel was included in the sauce
Furthermore, the amount of sugar can vary if the cook or manufacturer has added other ingredients to the applesauce.
On average, a 1/2-cup (122-gram) serving of unsweetened applesauce contains:
- Calories: 51
- Protein: 0.2 grams
- Fat: 0.1 grams
- Carbs: 13.7 grams
- Fiber: 1.3 grams
- Sugar: 11.5 grams
- Sodium: less than 1% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Copper: 4% of the DV
- Iron: 2% of the DV
- Folate: 1% of the DV
- Potassium: 2% of the DV
- Magnesium: 1% of the DV
- Thiamine: 3% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 2% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 2% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 1% of the DV
- Vitamin E: 1% of the DV
Factors that affect nutrition
The amount of fiber in applesauce may vary depending on whether the apple peels were left on. Apples also contain antioxidants. However, levels of these antioxidants differ by the variety of apples. Applesauce made with peels may be higher in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds.
Apple peels appear to be a rich source of antioxidants. Some older research found that the peels have significantly higher amounts of flavonoid and anthocyanin antioxidants than apple flesh. The flesh of apples also contains antioxidants, though sometimes in different quantities than the peel.
A recent study found higher amounts of vitamin C in apple flesh. Vitamin C is known for its antioxidant properties. However, other studies have found less antioxidant activity in apple flesh.
The cooking methods a person uses to prepare applesauce may reduce the number of antioxidants from both the peel and flesh, though researchers don’t know to what extent.
Applesauce contains some carbs and sugar but is low in fat, salt, and calories. It’s also low in most vitamins and minerals, but it may be a good source of antioxidants and plant compounds.
Aside from being low in calories and containing nutrients that support human health, applesauce may provide a few specific benefits.
May contribute to a healthy diet
Research has found that regularly eating apples and apple products are associated with eating a more well-rounded diet overall. One survey found that children who regularly consumed apple products consumed less fat and sodium but more fiber, magnesium, and potassium in their diets.
May reduce the risk of chronic disease
Researchers have begun to investigate the links between regularly eating apples and chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Research has suggested that apples may help fight chronic disease, but it’s still unclear whether applesauce may offer the same effects.
Researchers need to conduct many more studies focusing specifically on applesauce and its effects on those with chronic diseases.
Can applesauce soothe an upset stomach?
You may have heard that applesauce is a good food to eat when your stomach is upset. Applesauce is one of the four main foods in the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) — a diet of bland foods that are low in fiber and easy to digest.
Proponents recommend the BRAT diet for children and adults experiencing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. People have used the BRAT diet for many years as an easily digestible and well-tolerated diet during gastrointestinal illness.
However, there’s a lack of research on the BRAT diet and how effectively it treats these symptoms. In recent years there has been a rising interest in other therapies for treating an upset stomach, such as probiotics. Eating only bland foods like plain applesauce may provide some initial relief while your stomach is recovering.
However, limiting your diet to these foods for an extended period of time may not provide all the nutrients your body needs to recover.
Due to the beneficial nutrients it provides, applesauce contributes to a healthy diet. It may also help reduce the risk of chronic disease.
When you consume it in moderation, applesauce may have some benefits. However, there could be some downsides to eating applesauce too often.
Low in vitamins and minerals
A 1/2-cup (122-gram) serving of applesauce only provides 1–4% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for the vitamins and minerals it contains. Manufacturers often add extra vitamin C to commercially made applesauce to help preserve the color.
Homemade applesauce could also be higher in vitamin C if either lemon juice or other fruits that contain vitamin C are added. Applesauce provides a limited amount of vitamins and minerals. Therefore, consuming a variety of other fruits and vegetables in combination with applesauce will help ensure a nutritionally balanced diet.
Some brands are high in sugar
Commercial applesauce is sweetened with added sugars that may lower the nutritional value of the applesauce. Added sugars not only increase the sugar content of applesauce but also add more calories.
In fact, sweetened applesauce may contain up to 15 more grams of sugar and 60 more calories per serving than unsweetened varieties. The chart below shows the nutritional differences between 1/2-cup (122-gram) servings of sweetened and unsweetened applesauce. The amount of added sugar will vary from brand to brand. Always read the label before choosing a brand of applesauce, and try to choose one with low or no added sugar.
Applesauce that has been sweetened may be more than two times higher in calories and sugar. It’s important to note that eating fruit alone does not increase your risk of chronic disease. Rather, consuming too much added sugar may lead to health issues.
While eating sweetened applesauce may lead to consuming too much-added sugar, a person would need to eat large quantities of sweetened applesauce to experience these negative health effects. It’s more likely for a person to experience weight gain and an increased risk of chronic disease from consuming foods that deliver a lot more added sugar per serving, such as sugar-sweetened beverages.
To make sure applesauce benefits your health, read the label and choose a variety with low or no added sugar.
Choosing an applesauce sweetened with a low calorie sweetener may help moderate your calorie intake and ward off weight gain in the short term. Examples of low calorie sweeteners include stevia, sucralose, and saccharin.
There’s no current evidence that eating applesauce sweetened with a small amount of low-calorie sweetener would cause any health issues.
Not as filling as whole apples
Although applesauce is made from whole apples, when it comes to nutritional value, the two are not quite the same. In general, whole apples are a better source of fiber than applesauce. A recent analysis of studies found that a diet high in fiber was associated with a decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.
Furthermore, eating whole apples that are higher in fiber may feel more satisfying.
One small study found that adults who consumed whole apples reported feeling fuller than when they consumed applesauce or apple juice.
Some brands of applesauce may contain added sugars and therefore extra calories. Applesauce is also lower in fiber than whole apples. As such, it may not be as filling.
How much applesauce to eat
Applesauce is a very versatile food. You can eat it by itself or use it as an ingredient in other dishes.
Governmental health guidelines recommend that those following a 2,000-calorie diet consume 2–2.5 cups of fruit each day.
Applesauce can be used to help meet this recommendation. However, including a wide variety of fruits in your diet is the best way to ensure you get enough nutrients.
For the healthiest applesauce, look for an option that is:
- Low in Added Sugar
- Higher in Vitamin C
- Free of Artificial Colors and Flavorings
To find a brand that’s low in added sugar, look for the word “unsweetened” on the label. Watch out for terms like “sugar-free,” “low in sugar,” or “all-natural.” They may not ensure that your applesauce is free of added sugars.
Food companies sometimes add artificial colors and flavorings to commercial applesauce, especially those marketed to children.
Scientists do not fully understand what health effects these types of food additives may have.
Other additives may affect children and people with allergies, sensitivities, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, more human research is needed on the topic.
Guidelines recommend that those following a 2,000-calorie diet consume 2–2.5 cups of fruit each day. Avoid versions with added sugar and artificial colors or flavors.
How to make your own applesauce
You can make applesauce at home with just a few simple ingredients. To make your own unsweetened applesauce, follow this recipe.
Makes eight 1/2-cup (122-gram) servings.
- 3 pounds (1.4 kg) of apples
- 3/4 cup (177 mL) of water
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) of lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp (1.2 grams) of ground cinnamon (optional)
- Rinse the apples and remove any stickers.
- Core, peel, and quarter the apples.
- Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring them to a light boil over medium-high heat.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10–20 minutes.
- Remove the mixture from the heat once the apples are soft and cooked through.
- Allow to cool to room temperature and then process the mixture into a purée using the tool of your choice. Consider a fork, food mill, potato masher, food processor, stand blender, or immersion blender.
For a chunkier applesauce, use a fork or potato masher and process the mixture for a shorter length of time. For a smooth applesauce, process the mixture longer in a food processor or blender.
To make apple butter, continue to cook your apple mixture a second time after puréeing it to a smooth consistency. Cook for another 1–2 hours on medium-low heat until it reaches a thick consistency.
To sweeten your applesauce, add 1/3 cup (81 grams) of sugar. You can use brown sugar, white sugar, maple syrup, honey, or another sweetener of your choice.
Cinnamon and other spices like nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and vanilla are another easy way to add flavor. Since cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants, it may slightly improve the nutritional profile of the sauce, too.
Apple varieties people often use to make applesauce include Fuji, McIntosh, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious. However, feel free to use any apple of your choice.
Applesauce that’s low in sugar and free of artificial colors and flavors is a healthy and nutritious serving of fruit. You can even make your own applesauce at home in a few simple steps.
Applesauce is fruity purée that you can enjoy on its own or in a number of other dishes. Because it’s made from whole apples and just a few other basic ingredients, applesauce may offer many of the same health benefits as whole apples. It may contribute to a balanced diet and help protect against chronic disease.
However, the nutritional profile of applesauce can vary significantly based on the methods used to prepare it and how much-added sugar it contains if any. Eating unsweetened applesauce along with a variety of other fruit can help you meet the suggested healthy eating guidelines.
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