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La convivialité végétalienne de la pectine: Diététiste Végétalienne

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7 min temps de lecture

Is pectin vegan?

With more and more dietary choices becoming available, a plant-based diet often requires navigating through the intricate details of food labels. As a result, you may have noticed pectin, a common food additive, on the ingredient list of some of your favourite food products.

You may therefore be wondering: is pectin truly vegan? As vegan dietitians, we can confirm that the answer is yes – pectin is vegan.

Stay tuned as we explore pectin further. This article will delve into pectin’s origins, use, health benefits and its potential role in a plant-based diet.

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What is pectin?

Pectin is a compound that is naturally present in fruits as a structural component of the cell wall, which helps fruits to keep their shape. More recently, the food industry has been using pectin as a food additive for its gelling properties.

Where does pectin come from?

Funnily enough, chances are that you have already eaten pectin, even though you might not have realized it!

Pectin is abundant in many fruits, particularly in:

  • Citrus fruits (orange, tangerine, lemon, lime, pomelo, etc.)
  • Apples
  • Stone fruits (peaches, apricots, etc.)

Pectin is routinely extracted from different parts of fruits, namely:

  • Peels
  • Cores
  • Pomaces

Although the pectin that’s used in the food industry is primarily sourced from fruits, it can also be found in some vegetables, such as:

  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Peas

Is pectin nutritious?

Pectin itself is not a significant source of nutrients. The exact nutrient content may vary depending on the source of pectin, but it generally bears a minimal caloric value.

However, pectin is a soluble fibre and is recognized as a prebiotic. This means that even despite not having a great variety of nutrients, pectin can still be nutritious.

What is pectin used for?

Pectin can be used in many ways given its diverse chemical structure. When heated and combined with sugar and acid, pectin forms a gel-like structure. It serves as a gelling agent, making it a great additive to use in food preparation processes such as the making of jams, jellies, and fruit preserves.

The primary purposes of using pectin in the culinary sphere include:

  • Gelling
  • Stabilization
  • Thickening
  • Texturization

Pectin can also be utilized in the pharmaceutical industry for:

  • Drug encapsulation (used as a material to encapsulate drugs)
  • Gelling (e.g. pharmaceutical jellies, gels, and suspensions
  • Binding (e.g. tablet formulations)
  • Mediating drug delivery (e.g. sustained release and localized delivery formulations)

What are the health benefits of pectin?

Pectin is a soluble fibre, which can have many benefits for health. The functional properties of pectin include:

  • Relieving gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. constipation)
  • Lowering blood cholesterol levels
  • Lowering blood glucose levels
  • Aiding in achieving or maintaining a healthy weight
  • Supporting the gut microbiome

Book a free discovery call today with one of our registered dietitians to see how pectin

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Is pectin vegan?

Yes, pectin is vegan. It is sourced from fruits using processes that do not involve animals or animal products, making it 100% plant-based. Pectin is a gelling agent option that is suitable for both vegans and vegetarians.

Is jam/jelly vegan?

Both jam and jelly can be vegan. However, you have to be on the lookout for gelatin, an animal-derived gelling agent. With jelly having a more smooth and consistent texture, it’s more likely to contain gelatin.

When buying jam or jelly, it is important to check the ingredient list. Vegan-friendly jams and jellies are made from pectin (among other ingredients like fruit, juice, and sugar) whereas non-vegan ones are made from gelatin. Caution is advised when reading labels as some manufacturers may use a combination of pectin and gelatin.

Is pectin the same as gelatin?

No, pectin and gelatin are not the same. While they are both routinely used as gelling agents, they differ greatly – particularly in terms of their sources, structures, properties, and other applications (See Table 1 below for details).

Table 1. Primary differences between pectin and Gelatin

Pectin

Gelatin

Sources

Fruits & vegetables

Animal collagen

Primarily extracted from the cores and peels of:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Apples

Primarily extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of:

  • Cows
  • Pigs

Structure

Soluble fibre (polysaccharide)

A protein

Properties

Forms a gel when combined with sugars and acid

Forms a gel when cooled

Stable in acidic conditions

May breakdown in highly acidic conditions

Applications: Food Industry

  • Gelling
  • Thickening
  • Stabilizing
  • Gelling

Types of food products

  • Jellies
  • Jams
  • Fruit preserves
  • Desserts
  • Confectionary/sweets

Applications: Pharmaceutical Industry

  • Encapsulating
  • Optimizing of a controlled-release formulation
  • Capsule coating

Suitability

Suitable for both vegans and vegetarians

Not suitable for vegans or vegetarians

As someone who follows a vegan lifestyle, you may already practice keeping an eye out for unfamiliar additives in foods and drugs that could potentially be sourced from animals. However, as vegan dietitians, we can assure you that pectin is 100% plant based. Pectin can therefore be a suitable addition to a balanced vegan diet.

Can pectin be substituted for gelatin?

For those embracing a plant-based diet, substituting pectin for gelatin is a suitable alternative that can help you keep away from the animal-derived nature of gelatin.

However, pectin may not be able to flawlessly mimic the texture achieved by gelatin in certain recipes (e.g. mousses, gummies, etc.) due to their structural differences. The function of pectin is optimal in recipes that call for a quick-setting gel (e.g. jams, jellies, etc.). Agar-agar is another plant-based gelatin substitute more on the firmer side that may be worthwhile to try.

Keep in mind that recipe modifications may be needed when substituting pectin for gelatin. To form a gel-like structure, pectin requires sugar and acid. As a result, you may have to consider incorporating additional sweeteners and/or citrus fruits to achieve your desired texture with pectin.

As registered dietitians, we highly value exploring and experimenting with foods. Don’t let a few failed attempts at recipes using pectin discourage you. By trying different ratios and making recipe adjustments, you can learn how to tailor the recipes to your culinary preferences. Practice makes perfect!

Final thoughts – the vegan-friendliness of pectin

For those embracing a vegan lifestyle, you can rest assured that pectin is 100% vegan as it is sourced from fruits using processes that do not involve animals. Food and pharmaceutical products that contain pectin can therefore be suitable for vegans, assuming the other ingredients are also vegan-friendly.

While it may require some recipe modifications, pectin can also be used as a vegan-friendly substitute for gelatin when cooking at home. Keep in mind pectin usually works best in recipes that call for a quick-setting gel such as those for jams and jellies. As plant-based dietitians, we highly encourage you to embrace the experimentation process!

If you have any questions about pectin or think you could benefit from some assistance in your plant-based journey, our team of vegan dietitians is ready to help! We invite you to book a free discovery call to see how we can support you in meeting your goals.