Apples vs. Applesauce

Along with picturesque colors, fall also brings an abundance of produce with apples being one of the most notable on this list. From salads to desserts to simply a stand-alone fruit, apples are a key staple in many of our diets, and for good reason. Raw apples pack quite the nutritional punch, containing approximately 77 calories with 159 mg of potassium and 6.9 mg of vitamin C. Apples are also high in fiber, containing approximately 20% of the recommended daily fiber intake, which helps to lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease. It is also worth noting that apples contain many antioxidants which help to boost the immune system, and offer protective benefits against chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.  

In many families, applesauce is often used as an alternative to whole apples because it’s conveniently pre-packaged and easy for kids to eat, but does applesauce offer the same nutritional value as whole apples? Commercially prepared applesauce often brings along added sugars and, of course, more calories. Sweetened applesauce contains approximately double the calories of unsweetened applesauce, along with an average of 18 g of sugar in a single ½ cup serving. Approximately 11 g of those 18 g of sugar consists of naturally occurring sugars from the apples, whereas the other 7 g of sugar are added, usually in the form of corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. Additionally, when commercially preparing applesauce, the peels are disregarded, which offer the majority of the fiber present in raw apples. The peels also contain triterpenoids, which are compounds that have been shown to protect against liver, colon, and breast cancers. Processing also strips the apples of a majority of their other nutrients, including most of their potassium and vitamin C.

The Verdict: when comparing raw apples (with skin) to commercially prepared applesauce, the raw apples are a clear winner here due to their lower sugar and higher nutrient content. It is usually a safer bet to choose food as grown, rather than after it is processed, to obtain the maximal amount of nutrients and to avoid unnatural additives. However, not all applesauce deserves a bad reputation. Unsweetened applesauce can maintain some of the same nutrients with a lower number of calories than apples. Though both types of applesauce disregard the peel, thus lowering the fiber content, unsweetened applesauce still offers nutritional value, and it may be a viable option for children who have a harder time eating whole apples. Note: applesauce provides a healthier alternative to many fats in baking recipes. Try substituting half the amount of fat in a recipe with half applesauce (example: if a recipe calls for ½ cup of oil, you can substitute with ¼ cup of oil and ¼ cup of applesauce to lower the calorie content and sneak some other nutrients in).


Kaylynn Carew, WOTFV AmeriCorps Member

Kendel Rose-Chojnacki, Dietetic Intern, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay