Pectin: the only fibre that makes apples really healthy

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. This English phrase which translates directly as ‘one apple a day keeps the doctor away‘ is a reflection in popular culture that a good diet is essential for iron health. The physician of Ancient Greece, Hippocrates, considered the father of medicine, already explored this theory more than 2,400 years ago: “May your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food. In the particular case of apples, this is a true truth.

All said and done: it is not an extraordinarily nutritious fruit, at least not the old-fashioned way. Its content of micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, is considerably low, as well as its energy contribution. In fact, according to the Spanish Food Composition Database (BEDCA), 100 grams of this fruit contain only 50 kcal and truly ridiculous amounts of nutrients.

But it’s more than healthy because of what makes it unique: pectin. It is a soluble fibre. A polysaccharide consisting of a very long chain of sugars that cannot be digested. As researchers A. Wikiera, M. Irla and M. Mika from the Uniwersyter Rolniczy in Krakow explain, when this polysaccharide comes into contact with water, it expands and forms a gel.

This peculiarity has been used in the past and continues to be useful from a gastronomic point of view, because it gives the chef the ability to make the most dense jams, jellies and sauces, with a very particular texture.

Of course, considering what the nutrition market has become today, we can find pectin separated from food, usually in powder form, and use it as a food supplement.

This polysaccharide alone contains very few nutrients. 100 grams only means 10 kcal, 0 grams of proteins and fats, 1 of carbohydrates and 1 of fibre. Anyway, if we decide to buy these products that separate this nutrient from the food, we will have to take into account that (regretting the comparison) like many drugs, can be ‘cut’ or what is the same: add other components that reduce the purity of the product. The most common addition to pectin is sugar, which gives it an ‘extra’ from a pastry point of view.

But its true value is not gastronomic, but healthy. Pectin is a soluble fibre, and this is important as an adequate intake of this ‘nutrient’ (in inverted commas because it is never absorbed by the body) is essential for good transit and good gastrointestinal health. What sets pectin apart from other types of fiber is that, whatever our traffic problem is, it can help. It is able to increase the volume of faeces while smoothing the edges and gives the alimentary bolus the quality of being slippery, which prevents the development of constipation. Similarly, it is able to absorb excess fluid in our intestine, which directly fights the symptoms of diarrhea.

The best news is that these are not the only benefits this molecule offers:

Sugar levels

There is controversy over this issue. A large number of studies have proven that pectin intake is capable of lowering blood sugar levels and also improving the effectiveness of the hormones that regulate this factor, which would be a major finding for people with glucose-related metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, these effects have only been described in rats. On the other hand, the work that has been carried out on humans has not been shown to have such powerful effects. Yes, pectin has helped, but not in a dramatic way.

Anyway, it’s not the only thing this molecule does. A study by researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia, describes a relationship between consumption of this polysaccharide and an improvement in fat levels in the bloodstream, as it has the ability to bind to cholesterol in the digestive tract, preventing it from being absorbed. That’s a benefit to our cardiovascular health.

In fact, another study conducted by the University of Maastricht with 57 study subjects who ingested 15 grams of pectin a day found that they experienced a 7% reduction in their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels compared to the control group.

Reducing the risk of colon cancer

Various scientific studies have shown (always in vitro) that pectin has the ability to kill cancerous colon cells.

Similarly, another study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that pectin can reduce gastrointestinal inflammation, which is known to be a risk factor for colon cancer.

We must bear in mind that all studies end with a warning: more research is needed.

Helps you lose weight

Yeah, we’re back to everything. We have read so many times that nosequé substance or food makes us lose a barbarity of kilos in a matter of minutes (well, this, perhaps, is an exaggeration, but is not so far from the barbarities we have read). This is why we may not trust you, but several studies carried out with humans and animals have proven that high fiber consumption is directly related to a lower risk of obesity and overweight. It is believed that the main reason this is so is that it is a satiating. A food that gives us nothing but a full stomach and intestines.

From this point on, it is up to each one of us to observe the effects this polysaccharide has on our own organism, which, as far as science says, has absolutely nothing wrong with it. So… everyone to eat apples.