Healthy Homemade Apple Sauce: For Intestinal (& Overall) Health
I’m all about easy, efficient ways parents can use food to improve the health of their kids. And what’s easier than healthy apple sauce? My kids literally gobble this up. Which makes me happy.
We’re talking about strategies for busy families so we have to focus on yummy and nutritious foods that are easy to prepare and that give busy parents big bang for their buck.
This is why I love making apple sauce – especially in the fall when apples are plentiful around where I live.
There are instructions down below for how to make it on a stovetop , or you can download a recipe here and make it in a pressure cooker.
But let me first tell you what the research has to say about the humble apple.
It's all about the fiber... sort of
Apples contain a hefty dose of pectin, a type of non starchy, soluble fiber that is highly fermentable by bacteria.
Because pectin resists digestion (we lack the enzymes to break it apart), it ends up in the colon where it literally feeds the intestinal microbes that live there (If you’re new to the role gut microbes play in your child’s health take a look at this video post).
When the bacteria in the colon eat up the pectin, one of the bi-products produced is the short-chain fatty acid called butyrate.
Why We Love Butyrate….
Butyrate & Infection
These researchers found out that butyrate can help protect us from pathogenic infections like E-coli.
Butyrate, it turns out, feeds a protective cycle in the gut by increasing the oxygenation of the gut lining thereby limiting the availability of oxygen to enter the lumen (the lumen is the part of the intestine that comes in contact with food). This essentially shifts the environment of the lumen to one that is not conducive to pathogenic oxygen-loving bacteria like salmonella and E-coli.
Put another way…. the presence of butyrate instructs the cells on the gut lining to gobble up oxygen so that little is left to enter the lumen. An oxygen-depleted lumen is not a friendly place for pathogenic bacteria that might be introduced via food or water (which happen to love oxygen). So the beneficial flora (which happen to not love oxygen) can gain the upper hand and push pathogens out.
Maybe this is why apple sauce is a traditional remedy for tummy aches and food poisoning? More apples = more butyrate.
Butyrate & Digestive Rehabilitation
The cells of the intestinal lining are fragile. They quickly become damaged in the presence of inflammation but, luckily, they also quickly regenerate when the environment is right and the building blocks are available.
Butyrate helps promote epithelial cell growth and improve intestinal barrier function.
Butyrate’s ability to influence cell growth is in part why pectin has been studied for cancer prevention and treatment.
Butyrate & Constipation/Diarrhea
The depletion of butyrate is emerging as an important mechanism contributing to antibiotic-induced irritable bowel syndrome.
Because it seems to play a role in regulating the muscle contractions of the intestinal tract, butyrate can resolve both constipation and diarrhea making it one of the strategies I suggest in my Better Bellies e-resource.
So the Butyrate the body creates from the apple’s pectin is one of the reasons I like apples.
But there are other benefits to pectin….
Pectin & Cleaning and Detox
Pectin & Weight Management
Fermentable fiber like pectin has been shown to play a role in weight management. In part, we can credit its blood sugar stabilizing effect for this, but also, fiber can actually alter genetic expression related to fat deposition. Fiber like pectin seems to be capable of shifting bacterial gene expression to favor the expression of Bacteroides – a family of bacteria becoming known as “skinny bugs” since they are found abundantly in normal-weight humans and not in obese humans.
Then there are the flavanoids and polyphenols...
Apples & Allergy
This study concluded that apple consumption can reduce symptoms of allergy. They credit the effect to the polyphenols in apples which, they suggest, can help immune regulation through influence over mast cells and histamine production and by supporting T-cell function which play an important role in the development of oral tolerance.
It’s one of many studies corroborating this effect of polyphenols in allergy resolution.
Regeneration of the epithelial lining is also a key factor for immune system sensitization and, as discussed, butyrate can help on that front.
Apples & Inflammation
C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, has also been shown to go down when apple intake goes up. This time it seems to be the flavonoids we have to thank.
Inflammation has been connected with most disease states including cardiovascular disease, most autoimmune diseases, allergies, some cancers, and many mental illnesses.
The Bottom Line...
Because apples contain pectin and certain phytonutrients (like flavonoids and polyphenols), their consumption has been shown again and again to improve health markers. And, because they are delicious and easy to access they have become a favorite strategy of mine in Raising Resilience.
(Related post: The Pillars Of Resilience)
(Related Post: How to Identify A Superfood For Kids)
A Touch Of Caution...
As is the potential with every food, some kids react poorly to apples. There could be a variety of reasons for this.
- Apple cross-reacts with latex and birch pollen. So if your child has an allergy to either of these, apples might cause an allergic-type reaction.
- Their fermentability make apples a FODMAP food. In some people, this can cause bloating and intestinal pain. If this happens, reduce the amount, or try pears.
- Lastly, if you’ve read my book, you’ll have learned how some children with self-regulation struggles (impulsivity, hyperactivity, aggressive outbursts etc) react to dietary phenols. Apples are high in phenols, which is, you’ve just learned, partly what makes them so health-promoting. But if your child reacts to phenols they might not do well with apples. You’ll have to address the underlying contributors to that before using this strategy (often this has to do with the lack of a particular enzyme).
So go ahead and enjoy some healthy apple sauce!
* * *
Here's How To Prepare Nourishing Apple Sauce (stovetop)...
- Wash the apples and chop them into large chunks (leave the skin but remove the cores).
- Put the apple chunks in a pot with just enough water to cover the bottom of your pot with about 1/2 inch of water so the apples don’t burn.
- Stew them over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they’re soft (about 20 minutes).
- Transfer the stewed apples to a high-powered blender and blend until the skin has been incorporated well (about 3-5 minutes).
- Add cinnamon if you’d like.
THAT’S IT!! Keep it simple.
I suggest keeping the peels on because the content of phenolic compounds, dietary fiber, and minerals are higher in apple peel. You can use a high-powered blender to pulverize the peel and integrate it into a nice sauce if your child is sensitive to the texture of the peel.
If your child reacts to phenols, try peeling the apples to see if that reduces the reaction. They will still get some benefit.
Food holds a huge potential to help your child feel better, and grow stronger and more resilient. You just need to learn how to use this tool efficiently and systematically.
Dietary fiber and intestinal health: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170810173334.htm
Microbiota, butyrate and protection from pathogens: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/357/6351/570
Butyrate depletion and IBS: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/357/6351/548
Butyrate and constipation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4027827/
Butyrate and diarrhea: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15139502
Pectin and heavy metals: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.1953/full
Pectin and cancer: http://thescipub.com/PDF/ajptsp.2013.9.19.pdf
Pectin and weight: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20955691
Apples, polyphenols and allergy: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17039666
Butyrate and the epithelial lining: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20024905
Apples, flavonoids and CRP: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18356331
Phenolic compounds in apple peels: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20722929