Variations of Apple Sauce
There are a few different varieties of apple sauce on your grocery store shelf. These are the key two types that we’re interested in.
Organic Apple Sauce
Organic apple sauce means it’s made from apples, which have not been treated with chemical pesticides or weed killers. This gives you the peace of mind that you’re not consuming any nasty chemicals with when you enjoy your apple sauce. If you want to make your own apple sauce at home, check that the apples you’re buying or picking are certified organic. Locally grown apples are great as you can check straight with the grower what their process is.
Unsweetened Apple Sauce
Apples are full of sugar, and it is very rare to need to add any sweetener to homemade apple sauce. Some store-bought apple sauce may be made with varieties of apple that are so tart or sour that they need sweetening. Unfortunately, many brands still use corn syrup or other additives that boost the glycemic index of the apple sauce, making it much less healthy.
Look out for natural, unsweetened apple sauce, or apple sauce sweetened with natural, non-sugar based sweeteners such as stevia.
Benefits of Apple Sauce
One question on every apple sauce fan’s lips: Is apple sauce good for you?
As you saw in the nutritional profile above, apple sauce is rich in vitamin C and provides dietary fiber and other nutrients. However, most of the calories in apple sauce come from sugar. So, what are the actual benefits of eating apple sauce?
You probably know that dietary fiber is great for a healthy digestive system. Apples are rich in fiber- and so is apple sauce. In fact, there is virtually no difference in the amount of fiber in a raw apple to the amount in apple sauce- around 3 grams per cup.
More Calories than Fresh Apples
Wait, why is this a good thing? Well, if you’re on the go or very active, you might need the extra calories found in apple sauce. This is why apple sauce makes a great energy-boosting snack. If, however, you’re trying to limit your calorie intake, go for the fresh apple instead.
Apples or Apple Sauce for Weight Loss?
Apples have a very low glycemic index. This means that the carbohydrates are slowly transformed into blood sugar, which is better for you and can help with weight management.
Apple sauce is not quite as low on the glycemic index. Raw apple is around 38, classed as low, and unsweetened apple sauce is about 53, which is borderline between low and medium. For reference, the highest glycemic index number is 100, which is pure glucose.
Apple sauce will be converted to blood sugar faster than a raw apple, but as long as only small portions are consumed, this can still help with weight management. Apple sauce is easy to portion out, which means there’s no reason to have a “spike” in blood sugar- as long as it’s enjoyed in moderation.
Pectin, a type of soluble fiber, may also help suppress the appetite. Pectin is found in both apples and apple sauce, making both viable for helping with weight-loss and dieting. Fiber may help to reduce or control cholesterol as well.
Apple Sauce for Kids
Apple sauce is a great energy boost for busy kids. Kids who are active and have a relatively low sugar diet can handle the extra sugars in apple sauce, as they get used up as energy. A pouch or tub of apple sauce in a lunchbox or the car could be the difference between your kid feeling fatigued or having a great day. Plus, you know they’re getting a good boost of vitamin C too- great for their immune system.
Apple sauce is also really easy to make (see below) and is a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen.
Is Too Much Apple Sauce Bad for You?
As the adage goes, “A little of what you fancy does you good.” The flip side of that is that too much of anything is, of course, not good for you at all. Apple sauce is generally served in small portions, as a snack or side dish. This is because it’s high in sugar, which is something many people are trying to consciously reduce in their diet.
Too much sugar may lead to:
- Weight gain
- Risk of acne and skin breakouts
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Increased risk of mental health conditions such as depression
It’s important to note that many of these conditions are correlated with high sugar diets as part of a wholly unhealthy lifestyle. For example, someone who eats lots of candy and never exercises is clearly at a higher risk of obesity than someone who eats moderate amounts of sugar as part of a balanced diet and an active day-to-day routine.
Best Dishes Made with Apple Sauce
Apple sauce is totally delicious on its own but is also a key ingredient in some classic dishes. Here are some ideas you can try in your own kitchen.
- Add apple flavor to any muffin or cake recipe
- Apple sauce is a well-known substitute for butter when baking
- Add apple sauce to baked potato toppings for sweetness and texture
- Use apple sauce as a glaze for meats such as pork
- Apple sauce is a great topping for pancakes
- Add moisture and flavor to meatloaf with half a cup of apple sauce
How to Make Apple Sauce at Home
The best apples for apple sauce are the softer, less crisp kind. This is because they break down faster, making smoother apple sauce. For very sweet apple sauce, try Golden Delicious or Fuji apples. For a touch of tartness, use Braeburn, Liberty or Rome varieties. Mix and match to find your favorite apple sauce flavor.
Set some time aside as all these apples need coring and peeling. You can either use a knife or an actual apple coring tool. Chop the peeled and cored apples and either put them in a pan on the stovetop with a splash of water or into a crockpot.
At this stage, adventurous chefs might want to add some additional flavors. Popular flavors for apple sauce include:
- Lemon juice (also helps the apples break down)
- Cinnamon, for that classic apple pie flavor
- Other fruits, such as raspberries
Cook until soft and don’t add sugar or sweetener until you’ve tasted it. Most apples are plenty sweet enough without any added sugar. Apple sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for a week if covered, or in portions in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Healthier Apple Sauce Alternatives
If a hit of apple flavor is what you need, then there’s no real substitute for fresh apple. Simply dice the raw apple and add it to cereal, yogurt, puddings, or just eat it as is. Apple sauce is only considered “less healthy” because so much of the water in the apple is cooked off, concentrating the sugar.
For sweetened apple sauce, look for apple sauce sweetened with stevia, as the sugar content won’t be any higher than the unsweetened variety.
Apple sauce for baking can be replaced with any other high-pectin fruit puree or even a mixture of water and pectin. This won’t have the apple flavor but should give a similar texture in the finished product.
Homemade apple sauce is the healthiest way to enjoy this American classic, as you know exactly what’s gone into your sauce- with no hidden surprises.