Pectin helps form the cell walls of plants, so this fiber is found in all green land plants in at least small amounts. Pectin is a soluble fiber, which means it dissolves and forms a gel when mixed with water and is almost totally broken down by the bacteria in your digestive tract. Because of this, it helps slow the emptying of the stomach, which may lead to less of an increase in blood sugar after eating.
A review article in the Journal of Food Science and Technology also notes that pectin-rich foods may help lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Fruits tend to contain more pectin than vegetables, and pectin is also found in a number of processed foods.
Fruits Highest in Pectin
Oranges are among the fruits highest in pectin, but grapefruits, lemons, peaches, apricots, bananas, blackberries, raspberries, passion fruit and apples are also high in this fiber. Other fruits, including dewberries, loganberries, grapes, cherries and strawberries, also provide small amounts of pectin. Melons are one of the fruits with lower amounts of pectin.
Other Natural Sources of Pectin
Carrots are one of the vegetables highest in pectin. Sweet potatoes, squash, peas, green beans and tomatoes are also among the better vegetable sources of pectin. Legumes, including chickpeas, cow peas, field beans, lentils and pigeon peas, contain pectin as well, although they are better sources of other types of fiber.
Use in Processed Foods
If you've ever made your own jelly or jam, you know that these foods often contain pectin. This is because pectin helps foods gel. Pectin may also be added to processed foods to help thicken or stabilize them or mix oil-and-water-based ingredients. Reduced-fat cheeses sometimes contain pectins to help maintain the cheese's flavor and texture, as do some beverages, milk products and reduced-fat meat products.
Processed Foods With Pectin
Check the ingredients lists of processed foods to see if pectin is included. A surprising number of processed foods could contain this soluble fiber. These include dried and fresh pastas, fish products other than fresh fish, frozen or liquid egg products, breakfast cereals, rice or tapioca puddings, rice products, batters, processed meats, condiments, soups, sauces, yeast, bakery products, candies and prepared foods. Fruit and vegetable products, alcoholic beverages, flavored waters, sorbet, sherbet, cheese, cream, dairy-based drinks, coffee, tea, salt substitutes and maple syrup could also contain pectin.