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 healthy apple sauce – especially in the fall when apples are plentiful around where I live.
Apples contain a hefty dose of pectin, a type of non starchy, soluble fibre 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 bacteria that lives 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.
These researchers found out that butyrate can help protect us from pathogenic infection 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.
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.
The depletion of butyrate is emerging as an important mechanism contributing to antibiotic-induced irritable bowel syndrome.
Fermentable fibre like pectin has also been shown to play a role in weight management. In part we can credit its blood sugar stabilizing effect for this, but also, fibre can actually alter genetic expression related to fat deposition. Fibre like pectin seems to be capable of shifting bacterial gene expression to favour the expression of Bacteroides – a family of bacteria becoming known as “skinny bugs” since it’s found abundantly in normal-weight humans and not in obese humans.
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 here.
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.
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 favourite strategy of mine.
As is the potential with every food, some kids react poorly to apples. There could be a variety of reasons for this.
Wash the apples and chop them into large chunks (leave the skin but remove the cores).
Stick them in a pot with a touch of water so they don’t burn.
Stew them over medium heat until they’re soft (about 20 minutes).
Eat them like that or blend them in a high powered blender. 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 fibre, 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.
Give your child a little bit with every meal.
Dietary fibre 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
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Jess is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ and Family Health Expert, specializing in brain health & resilience for kids. She is the author of Raising Resilience: Take the stress out of feeding your family & love your life, a mother and an advocate for children’s health. Her book and online resources have helped families all over the world improve the lives of their children with learning differences, anxiety, ADHD, autism and mood disorders by fitting the food and feeding piece into their health puzzles. She is the 2019 recipient of the CSNNAA award for Clinical Excellence for her work helping families get healthier, and she continues to work at bringing an understanding of the power of good nutrition to the mainstream conversation about children’s mental health, learning, and overall resilience through her blog, courses and as a contributor to print and online magazines. You can reach Jess at www.jesssherman.com
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