What Is the Healthiest Fruit Spread?

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but not all breakfast items are equally healthy. Indeed, many of the breakfast standards in the typical American diet are notably high in fat and sugar, two elements that can lead to obesity when not eaten in moderation. Yet even if you make a decidedly healthier choice like whole grain toast, it makes a big difference what goes on top. Jam and jelly and other fruit spreads may seem like a healthy option, but they can vary greatly in terms of nutritional content.

Overview of Fruit Spreads      

The terminology used for spreadable fruit products can be somewhat confusing since different companies and regions of the country have their own conventions. Whether you call them jams, jellies, preserves, or something else, though, they’re all terms for gelled or thickened fruit products that are made with a combination of fresh fruit juice, pieces of whole fruit, and usually some type of sugar. And while these terms may vary, there are some commonly accepted definitions:

  • Preserves: Preserves are usually the chunkiest type of fruit spread because they are made with whole fruit or large pieces of fruit. As the name implies, fruit preserves were originally used to actually preserve fruits for times outside the harvest season. Where fresh fruits would obviously go bad within days or weeks, preserved fruit could be kept for months.
  • Jam: The term “jam” is often used interchangeably with preserves since they both tend to be thick. The main difference between them is that jam uses mashed or finely diced pieces of fruit and preserves use larger pieces. This makes fruit jam generally smoother than preserves.
  • Jelly: Jellies are different from jams and preserves in that they contain fruit juice rather than fruit pieces. After the fruit juice is strained to remove solids, it is mixed with sugar and pectin, a natural thickener. The net effect is a translucent and smooth spread with a firm texture.
  • Marmalade: Marmalade is almost a cross between jelly and jam; they usually involve a jelly-like consistency with small pieces of fruit or peel. Citrus fruits like orange or lemon juice are the most common type of fruit used in marmalade.
  • Fruit butter: Despite the word “butter” in the name, fruit butter doesn’t involve any kind of dairy product. Rather, fruit butter is a type of spread made by cooking fruit until it develops a thick, smooth consistency.

What Makes a Healthy Fruit Spread?    

In recent years, as more and more Americans have been on the lookout for more healthy eating options, familiar brands like Smucker’s, Welch’s, and Polaner have developed new versions of jelly and jam recipes. Since all of these products are primarily fruit and sugar, though, the main way to make them healthier is to reduce carb-heavy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup or other sugars. In addition to having a negative impact on blood sugar and insulin levels, a diet high in sugar can lead to weight gain.

Whether you purchase from a grocery store or farmer’s market, most store-bought jams and fruit spreads come in low sugar or sugar free varieties; many versions also use artificial sweeteners as an alternative. But even beyond having less sugar, these newer healthier versions offer a higher proportion of actual fruit with nutrients and antioxidants that provide a number of health benefits like lower cholesterol or improved blood pressure. This is all possible because the production process involved in creating fruit spreads retains most of the nutrients found in the raw fruit.

Healthy Ways to Use Fruit Spreads  

The healthiest fruit spreads prioritize natural sweetness from fruits over added sugars and artificial sweeteners. In order to determine the healthiest option for you, you need to get used to reading ingredient lists and figure out how many grams of sugar you would consume per serving. In general, spreads with more fruit tend to be healthier; so, for instance, concord grape jam would be better than grape jelly and strawberry jam would be better than strawberry jelly. It also depends on how you use the spread; below are some examples of healthy fruit spreads and ways to use them:

  • Chia seeds: Chia seeds offer a healthy boost of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, and they can be made into a jam. They can also be used to thicken other flavored jams in lieu of pectin or other thickening agents.
  • Strawberry and basil: Strawberry preserves are already a healthy option because of the nutrients packed into strawberries. But an ordinary strawberry fruit spread can get a major upgrade when combined with basil; in addition to a unique flavor profile, the basil provides another boost of nutritional value.
  • Cranberry: Cranberries are naturally high in various vitamins and minerals that are great for health. Though usually used in cranberry sauce, cranberry jam or fruit spread can be smeared on baked goods or stirred into a smoothie or yogurt.
  • Applesauce: Though not technically a fruit spread, applesauce is made from pureed apples and can be cooked down to a thick, spreadable consistency. The natural sweetness and familiar apple flavor can be used in many different applications.
  • Apricot: The natural sweetness of apricots makes them an ideal fruit for a jam because only a small amount of added sugar or sweetener is added.
  • Peach and ginger: The combination of peaches and ginger creates a flavorful spread with a hint of warmth. Moreover, ginger is believed to be a hugely beneficial food that is thought to reduce inflammation, fight infections, and relieve gastrointestinal symptoms.

High-Quality Ingredients from FruitSmart   

Fruits are little marvels of nature that are simultaneously enjoyable to eat and full of the nutrients our bodies need on a regular basis. At FruitSmart, all of our expertise and processes are aimed at providing only the best fruit ingredients from juice concentrates to purees. But even more than offering high-quality products, we are passionate about partnering with you to develop new and exciting recipes that deliver consistent value to your customers. If you’d like to learn more about FruitSmart and how we can find a solution for you, please contact us today.

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