According to the Oregon State University Micronutrient Information Center, pectins are a type of dietary fiber that is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Pectin makes up the majority of the fiber in citrus fruits.
What Is Pectin?
Pectin is a type of water-soluble fiber. It's commonly used to make jams and jellies because it thickens to create a gel-like substance once it is combined with water.
Viscous fibers such as pectin have been shown to help lower cholesterol by binding to it in the digestive tract, as shown in a November 2018 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Naturally occurring pectin cannot be digested, so it must be modified in order to be digestible.
Because the pectin mixes with water to form a gel, it swells to fill the stomach and slows the gastric emptying process. This can make weight loss easier because you feel fuller for longer.
According to a February 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, aiming to consume 30 grams of fiber every day can help you lose weight, improve the body's response to insulin and lower your blood pressure as effectively as following the multiple components of the American Heart Association's diet and lifestyle guidelines.
The Mayo Clinic says a high-fiber diet comes with many other benefits, as well. In addition to weight loss and cholesterol lowering benefits, you'll also see normalized bowel movements, along with maintaining bowel health and better blood sugar control. Daily fiber requirements vary depending on age and gender and whole food sources are better than using supplements or fortified foods.
An April 2018 study published in Molecules shows that pectin is considered a prebiotic dietary fiber. It also demonstrates the potential for a wide variety of therapeutic uses, including anticancer, heavy metal-binding capacity and antiobesity applications.
Pectin is available in both liquid and powdered form for use in recipes. It is a main ingredient for making your own jams and jellies. Pectin requires acid and sugar to gel properly because acid helps to extract pectin from the fruit. Adding sugar enhances gel strength, by pulling water away from the pectin.
To maintain the proper balance of acid, sugar and pectin, fruits that are low in pectin are often combined with fruits that are high in pectin. If you make a jam or jelly with a fruit that isn't naturally tart enough, recipes will generally call for adding lemon juice.
Foods With Pectin
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, pectin is found in nearly all fruits and vegetables because it's found in the cell walls of all green plants. The richest sources of pectin are found in the peels of citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and passionfruit.
The amount of naturally occurring pectin depends on the ripeness of the fruit. Fruits that have just ripened have the highest pectin content and as the fruit continues to ripen, pectin decreases.
A September 1985 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that of apples, peaches, strawberries and oranges, oranges contained the most pectin. The same study found that of green beans, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes, carrots contained the highest amount of pectin.
Other fruits high in pectin include: apples, bananas, peaches, raspberries, blackberries and apricots. Peas, green beans, sweet potatoes and tomatoes also offer a high amount of pectin.
Though it should come as no surprise given that pectin is naturally found in fruits and vegetables that are considered healthy for you, a January 2014 article in the Polish journal, Hygiene and Experimental Medicine, points out pectin has many health promoting properties.
These properties include lowering cholesterol, delaying gastric emptying and a strong mucoadhesion capacity in the gastrointestinal tract to protect it from microbial invasion during periods of stress.
You'll also find pectin in a number of processed foods since the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lists it as a food additive. It is a thickener and used in a variety of products.
Pectin is related to pectinase. Pectinase is the enzyme that breaks down pectin, meaning that all foods that contain pectin are also foods with pectinase. Plants start to produce pectinase during the ripening process. If you're looking for foods with pectinase, opt for ripe produce.
According to a June 2016 study published in 3 Biotech, pectinases are eco-friendly enzymes that are widely used in varying industries from food and wine, tea and the paper industry. Relying on enzymatic action is preferred over using chemical methods because it saves energy, is more specific and less aggressive. Foods with pectinase provide a natural source of enzymes.
Though more research is needed to discover additional strains of microbial pectinases, to produce pectinase in combination with other enzymes and to determine which combination of enzymes is most effective for a particular application. Once determined, however, using pectinases will greatly decrease production costs for various applications.
Difference Between Pectin and Gelatin
Where pectin is a plant-based thickener and food additive, according to MedlinePlus, gelatin is an animal-based product. Gelatin is made of collagen from cartilage and bone. Pectin can generally be substituted for gelatin in recipes that you wish to make vegetarian or vegan, but gelatin is more versatile and can be used in a wider variety of foods.
Gelatin is used as a supplement to lose weight, strengthen bones, joints and fingernails, to shorten recovery after exercise or sports injury and to improve hair quality. At this point in time, however, there is insufficient evidence to support that it is an effective option for any of these uses.
While pectin may have a number of healthy qualities, more research is needed to determine how or if taking it in supplement form will provide any benefit. There is some speculation that drinking a mixture of pectin and grape juice will help treat arthritis pain, but according to the Arthritis Foundation, there is no evidence to support this claim.
- Oregon State University Macronutrient Information Center: "Fiber"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Effect of Psyllium Fiber on LDL Cholesterol and Alternative Lipid Targets, Non-HDL Cholesterol and Apolipoprotein B: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials"
- Annals of Internal Medicine: "Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Trial"
- American Heart Association: "The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet"
- Molecules: "Pectin and Pectin-Based Composite Materials: Beyond Food Texture"
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: "2.2.5 Pectin and Papain"
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association: "Dietary Fiber Constituents of Selected Fruits and Vegetables"
- Hygiene and Experimental Medicine: "Health-Promoting Properties of Pectin"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "What Are Food Additives"
- 3 Biotech: "Microbial Pectinases: An Ecofriendly Tool of Nature for Industries"
- MedlinePlus: "Gelatin"
- Arthritis Foundation: "10 Arthritis Food Myths"