Jams, spreads, conserves, preserves… so many options and they all seem to be the same. But are they? Dietitian Kate di Prima suggests keeping an eye on the fruit and sugar content.
Whether you slather, dollop or favour just a hint of it, selecting the right jam is a little more tricky than you’d think. There are a number of variations that tend to get lumped under the umbrella of ‘jam’. But the fruit and sugar content, and the amount of kilojoules, can vary greatly, making some of these sweet spreads less healthy than others.
What are my choices?
Jam is made from crushed or chopped fruit, usually containing added sugars. To be called a jam, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) requires the product to contain at least 40 per cent fruit.
Conserve is a jam made from a mixture of fruit, usually including citrus fruit or raisins.
Marmalade is the English term for jams containing mainly citrus fruit and peel. The oils from the peel can add a more bitter taste, compared to standard jam.
Preserves are usually small whole fruits that have been marinated or preserved in thick, clear syrup. Berry or strawberry preserves are the most common varieties.
Lite jam usually indicates the use of artificial sweeteners, with little or no added sugar. It could also mean the product is light in kilojoules compared to the standard jams. Be sure to check the label on all lite jams.
Fruit spread: While this category may sound healthier, it’s unregulated and products can have as little as 30 per cent fruit. Some spreads are regular jam, while others contain mixtures of fruit and concentrated fruit juices to add flavour
Check the label
Energy: This includes all the energy coming from both fruit and additives, such as sugar. Most jams and spreads can be fairly high in kilojoules and generally clock in at around 1000kJ per 100g, although Weight Watchers registers about half this amount – a good option if you are closely monitoring your kilojoule intake.
Carbohydrates: This is the total amount of carbohydrates from fruit, sugar (including fructose, sucrose and glucose syrup), juice concentrate and pectin, a naturally occurring substance that can be found in fruit or commercially produced, which gives jams and spreads a thicker consistency. Because jams and spreads are made of fruit and sugars, the amount of carbohydrates in jam can appear high, however this may come from either fruit or sugar, so check the fruit percentage.
% Fruit: This refers to the amount of fruit contained in the jam or spread. Many spreads with a higher fruit content have a nice ‘chunky’ consistency, with small pieces of fruit still intact. Take a good look at the jar and pick one where you can see pieces of fruit
Fruit vs fruit jam
A standard piece of fruit provides about 15g carbs and 15g fruit sugar, while two tablespoons of jam on your toast provides around 20g carbs and sugar – more than a piece of fruit but without the benefits of fibre, antioxidants and vitamin C. If given the option, fruit is always a better choice.
Tip: An average serve of jam is about 1 tablespoon.