Pectin: Benefits and Properties

16 November, 2020
Pectin is a vegetable fiber with multiple health benefits. In this article, we’ll tell you why it’s important to consume it and what foods contain it.

Pectin is a vegetable fiber in fruits that, when combined with water, generally forms gels. It works as a thickener when combined with sugar or the acids in sugar. The amount of pectin present in fruit depends on the fruit’s ripeness. The riper a fruit is, the less pectin it contains. Generally, quinces, apples, and citrus fruits contain the most pectin.

Pectin is used primarily in the food industry to produce jams. Adding pectin helps reduce the amount of sugar needed to thicken jams and jellies and, in turn, reduces cooking times. As if this weren’t enough, this substance allows them to produce more jam per pound of fruit.

The properties of pectin

Pectin features several notable properties:

  • This substance can regulate your lipid profile because it absorbs the juices secreted by the liver at an intestinal level. This contributes to the elimination of LDL cholesterol.
  • It improves symptoms of intestinal problems. When it’s mixed with water, it increases the volume of the bolus and, therefore, improves diarrhea or constipation.
  • It’s virtually a calorie-free substance. It increases food content without adding energy. Therefore, it can help generate a feeling of fullness (without the calories!). This substance helps slim diets because it decreases the need to eat.
  • It absorbs sugars and fats in the intestine and prevents their absorption. This characteristic, along with the previous one, contributes to weight loss.
  • It increases bile acid excretion. Therefore, it regulates blood pressure.
A woman eating an apple.

Apples, as well as citrus fruits and quinces, are significant sources of pectin.

You should also read: Ten Healthy Foods to Regulate Digestion

The importance of fiber intake

The WHO recommends the regular consumption of fiber, both soluble and insoluble. It’s shown that regular intake of this substance improves the composition of gut microbiota. Moreover, it’s a protective factor against various types of cancers related to the gastrointestinal tract and improves the symptoms of certain intestinal disorders.

Also, fiber intake is crucial for people with diabetes, as it helps regulate the glucose curve and facilitates the management of the disease.

Also, in recent years, experts have discovered the importance of a healthy microbiota on health. These colonic bacteria are related to proper organ function. Overall, having a healthy microbiota may decrease the chances of depression, improve athletic performance, and prevent complex and chronic diseases. To keep these bacteria in a good state, a regular intake of pectin, probiotics (such as yogurts) and prebiotics is essential. The latter are non-digestible substances that stimulate selective bacterial growth. Moreover, they’re usually included within fiber.

Some citrus fruits.

Some supplements may contain pectin. However, it’s best to get it from fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables.

The problem with the food industry

In recent years, the consumption of processed foods has increased. These foods are characterized by their high sugar and low fiber content. Reducing fiber intake in the diet leads to a worsening of bowel function and an increased risk of disease.

One way to mitigate the consequences of this situation is to increase the consumption of fruits. The pectin in fruits increases the volume of the bolus, cleansing the intestinal walls and facilitating the synthesis of short-chain fatty acids in the intestine. These fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory role and ensure proper intestinal functioning. Also, they represent a lower risk of disease.

This article may interest you: 12 Home Remedies for Constipation in Children

Conclusion

Pectin is a fiber used mainly in the food industry as a thickener.

However, it’s naturally found in fruits and consuming it regularly may help improve intestinal health and prevent associated problems, such as diarrhea and constipation. Also, it may improve blood pressure and the glucose curve in diabetic patients. It’s interesting to combine the use of pectin with regular intake of probiotics and prebiotics. Thus, the selective bacterial growth and formation of short-chain fatty acids in the intestine, with a clear anti-inflammatory role, will be stimulated.

One of the best tips when it comes to increasing pectin consumption is to prioritize the intake of fresh foods versus processed foods. A frequent intake of citrus fruits and apples is the best way to do this!

  • Eswaran S., Muir J., Chey WD., Fiber and functional gastrointestinal disorders. Am J Gastroenterol, 2013. 108 (5): 718-27.
  • Aleixandre A., Miguel M., Dietary fiber and blood pressure control. Food Funct, 2016. 7 (4): 1864-71.
  • Holscher HD., Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota. Gut Microbes, 2017. 8 (2): 172-184.