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Pectin is a unique fiber found in fruits and vegetables.

It’s a soluble fiber known as a polysaccharide, which is a long chain of indigestible sugars. When heated in the presence of liquid, pectin expands and turns into a gel, making it a great thickener for jams and jellies (1).

It also gels in your digestive tract after ingestion, a function that provides numerous health benefits.

Most pectin products are made from apples or citrus peels, both of which are rich sources of this fiber (2).

This article reviews what pectin is, its nutritional content and health benefits, and how to use it.

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Pectin is a fiber and contains almost no calories or nutrients. It’s a key ingredient in jams and jellies and used as a soluble fiber supplement.

Nutrition

Pectin provides little nutrition.

One fluid ounce (29 grams) of liquid pectin contains (3):

  • Calories: 3
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbs: 1 gram
  • Fiber: 1 gram

Powdered pectin has a similar nutrient content (4).

Neither the liquid nor powdered form contain significant amounts of vitamins or minerals, and all of its carbs and calories come from fiber.

That said, some products called pectin dry mixes contain added sugar and calories. These mixes can also be used to make jams and jellies.

Uses

Pectin is primarily used in food production and home cooking as a thickener.

It’s added to commercially produced and homemade jams, jellies, and preserves. It may likewise be added to flavored milk and drinkable yogurt as a stabilizer.

For home kitchen use, pectin is sold as a white or light-brown powder or a colorless liquid.

Pectin is also used as a soluble fiber supplement, which is often sold in capsule form. Soluble fiber may help relieve constipation, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improve blood sugars, and promote a healthy weight (5).

Finally, this fiber is a key component of time-release coatings used in some medications (6).

Summary

Pectin is a soluble fiber found in fruits and vegetables, especially apples and citrus peels. It’s a strong gelling agent used to thicken jams and jellies.

Supplementing with pectin may offer several potential health benefits.

Improves blood sugar and blood fat levels

Some studies in mice have noted that pectin lowered blood sugar levels and improved blood-sugar-related hormone function, which could help manage type 2 diabetes (7, 8, 9, 10).

However, studies in humans have not observed the same powerful effects on blood sugar control (11, 12).

Pectin may also improve blood fat levels by binding with cholesterol in your digestive tract to keep it from being absorbed, which could lower your risk of heart disease (13).

In one study in 57 adults, those who received 15 grams of pectin per day experienced up to a 7% reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol compared with a control group (14).

Animal studies have also demonstrated the cholesterol and blood-fat-lowering properties of these supplements (15, 16, 17, 18).

However, more research in humans is needed to better understand how pectin affects blood sugar and fat levels.

Decreases colon cancer risk

In test-tube studies, pectin has killed colon cancer cells (19, 20).

In addition, this fiber helps decrease inflammation and cellular damage that can trigger colon cancer cell formation — thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer (21).

Researchers theorize that pectin can decrease colon cancer risk by binding with and inhibiting the absorption of galectin-3, high levels of which are associated with an increased risk of colon cancer (22, 23).

Test-tube studies have also shown that pectin killed other types of cancer cells, including breast, liver, stomach, and lung cancer cells (24, 25, 26).

However, more research is needed to understand whether and how pectin affects cancer in humans.

Promotes a healthy weight

Pectin may also promote a healthy body weight.

In human studies, increased fiber intake has been linked to a decreased risk of overweight and obesity. It’s believed that this is because fiber is filling, and most high fiber foods are lower in calories than low fiber foods like refined grains (27, 28).

Additionally, animal studies have demonstrated that pectin supplements promoted weight loss and fat burn in rats with obesity (17, 29, 30, 31).

Specifically, one study in rats found that pectin promoted fullness and decreased calorie intake to a greater extent than a high protein diet. Similar studies have noted that pectin increased the levels of satiety — or fullness — hormones in mice (32, 33, 34).

Helps with gastrointestinal issues

As a soluble fiber with unique gelling properties, pectin aids digestion in many ways.

Soluble fibers turn into gel in your digestive tract in the presence of water. As such, they soften the stool and speed the transit time of material through the digestive tract, reducing constipation (35).

Also, soluble fiber is a prebiotic — a food source for the healthy bacteria living in your gut (36).

In a 4-week study in 80 people with slow-transit constipation, those who consumed 24 grams of pectin daily had higher populations of healthy bacteria in their gut and fewer symptoms of constipation than a control group (37).

Additionally, some animal studies have revealed that these supplements improve the health of gut bacteria, which can decrease inflammation and improve gastrointestinal symptoms (17, 32, 38).

Furthermore, this unique fiber may form a protective barrier around the gut lining to prevent harmful bacteria from entering your body (1).

Summary

Pectin may improve blood sugar and blood fat levels, kill cancer cells, promote a healthy weight, and improve digestion. However, more research in humans is needed.

Pectin has few side effects.

That said, given that it can affect digestion, it may cause gas or bloating in some people.

Moreover, you should avoid it if you are allergic to the food it was sourced from. Most commercial products and supplements are made from apples or citrus peels.

If you have any concerns about these products, consult your healthcare provider.

Summary

Pectin supplements may cause gas or bloating in some people. If you are allergic to apples or citrus, avoid these supplements.

One way to add pectin to your diet is to eat more foods that are high in this fiber, such as apples.

Nearly all fruits and vegetables contain some pectin, so eating a variety of plant foods is an excellent way to boost your intake.

However, although most jams and jellies are made with pectin, eating more jam or jelly is not a good way to include more pectin in your diet. Jams and jellies contain only small amounts of the fiber and are high in sugar and calories. Thus, they should be eaten in moderation.

In addition, you can purchase pectin in supplement form, usually as capsules. These supplements are often made from apples or citrus peels.

Summary

Eating more fruits and vegetables or taking a supplement are good ways to boost your pectin intake. Jams and jellies should be eaten in moderation, as they are high in sugar and calories.

Pectin is a soluble fiber with a powerful gelling ability.

It’s commonly used to thicken and stabilize jams and jellies.

Although it has many potential health benefits, more research in humans is needed to better understand how it affects health.

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is a great way to boost your pectin intake.