'All fruit' jam: spreading the fable of nutrition

EATING WELL

June 01, 1993|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

Label fables continue to abound. They will continue, I guess, until the labeling laws become fully effective a year from now. Have you fallen for the "all fruit" jam scam?

Manufacturers are capitalizing on the popular belief that all-fruit jams are somehow more nutritious than traditional products. They're not.

The trick to making jellies jell is to cook the fruit and try to achieve the right balance among sugar, acid and pectin, all of which occur naturally in the fruit. Pectin is a soluble fiber (the kind that reduces cholesterol) present in large quantities in some fruit, like grapes and apples, but only slightly in others, like apricots and pineapple. Fructose is the sugar found naturally in fruit. The type of acid varies.

Just cooking the fruit and hoping it will jell is, at best, a risky process. If you're off the mark, you could end up with either runny, sugary water or something akin to rubber.

So, manufacturers use sophisticated equipment to evaluate the natural levels of sugar, pectin and acid present in fruit, then

adjust each ingredient to achieve balance.

When you read the label, you'll see they've added pectin (which comes from fruit), citric acid (which comes from citrus fruit) and "sugar," meaning table sugar, which comes from sugar cane, and/or high-fructose corn syrup, from corn.

Recently, some manufacturers have substituted concentrated grape juice and concentrated pear juice for the sugar and corn syrup.

Technically, the product is now "all fruit," because the added sugars come from fruit. Is it better for you? Not really. Sugar is sugar.

Whether traditional or "all fruit," it's just a condiment, nothing else. It was never intended to be a high-nutrition food. And that's OK.

For nutrition, eating whole fresh fruit is better than eating sugar, jellies and jams because fruit contains fiber, a lot of water and some vitamins and minerals.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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