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Jam-full of antioxidants?

Are you jam fancier? Do you yearn for nothing more than a slice of toast with jam to start your day? After all, jam is based on fruit and fruit is a source of healthy antioxidants, right! We’ll come to whether your jam toast is the best way to start your day in a moment but first let’s turn our attention to how much of the antioxidant goodness that exists in fruit makes it into your pot of jam.

The substances in fruit that provide antioxidant properties are a group known as phenols. So some researchers set out to evaluate the effect of jam processing of strawberries, cherries, apricots, figs and oranges on the total phenolic content that resulted in the jam. The antioxidant power of the jam through five months of storage at 25 °C was also tested.

The results showed that fresh strawberry jam had the highest contents of total phenolics followed by cherry, apricot, fig and orange, respectively. However, jam processing decreased the total phenolic content and antioxidant activity of all fruits. Strawberry jam maintained around 54 per cent of the antioxidant activity of its component fruits. The slightly better news for jam fanciers was that the phenolic content of jam during storage decreased only in apricot, fig and orange.

Hence, although some antioxidant activity is lost in jam processing it does seem that after the initial loss, making a fruit into a jam does preserve it quite well for at least five months. That’s the good news, but the bad news is not so sweet.

Unless a deliberate attempt is made to create a sugar-free jam, sugar is a major part of jam manufacture. Jam recipes often call for equal parts sugar and the fruit being “preserved”. The reason that sugar is used is that it acts as a preservative by binding available water and therefore preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. To perform this role, sugar must be present in high concentrations. Sugar also serves as a gelling aid along with other ingredients.

While jam may give you something of an antioxidant start to your day, albeit reduced from that given by the fruit itself, it also gives you loads of empty kilojoules in the form of sugar. This energy burst will be short term at best and find you hungry again by mid-morning unless you have had other complex carbohydrates or protein. Too much sugar of course also predisposes you to a range of health problems, not the least of which is diabetes.

Alas, jam fiends, your jam might be giving you a little antioxidant hit but it will be wrapped up in a massive hit of sugar: the proverbial bandaid attached to the bullet. So make your jam on toast your occasional treat, and start your day with more sustained energy sources. After all, you’re sweet enough aren’t you?

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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