Pectin is a component of our diet that isn’t talked about much. Just as Spider-Man abhorrently struggles to receive any credit from the media for saving New York’s innocent citizens from evil on a daily basis, pectin is also a behind the scenes nutritional superhero that receives far too little credit for all the good that it does.
By the way, the Spider-Man movies with Tobey Maguire were terrible. Okay, I admit it. I did watch all of them… More than once.
But the latest Amazing Spider-Man movie with Andrew Garfield playing Peter Parker is eons better than any of the films in Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man trilogy. Who’s with me?
Pectin’s presence in the diet has been known for a long time now. It was first isolated as a nutritional component way back in 1825 by French chemist, Henry Braconnot.
Considering the level of technology Henry had at his disposal, the knowledge he obtained pertaining to pectin (and otherwise) is nothing short of amazing.
What Henry didn’t know, however, are all the intricate details we’ve since discovered surrounding how pectin affects the body, specifically as it relates to aiding fat loss.
Although, plump female bodies were viewed as “hot as the dickens” back in Henry’s day, so I highly doubt it would have mattered much to him anyway.
In our current day of ever-increasing scientific enlightenment, we now understand the negative physiological, psychological and sociological implications of carrying around excessive levels of body fat, thus making it a much less attractive (or desirable) attribute.
It damages our self esteem, it can have disastrous effects on our brain function and will obviously be detrimental to our ability to attract a potential marriage partner – and keep the bedroom sparks flying long after the nuptial ceremonies have ended.
These are all obviously topics for another day. My reasoning for pointing these things out here is to preface why you should concern yourself with nutritional minutiae such as pectin, which, truth be told, represents an extremely small portion of our daily dietary intake.
To play the devil’s advocate, though, the truth is that you don’t need to worry about pectin all that much, assuming you’re following everything you learned while attending my Clean Eating University. More on this in just a moment.
First, let’s quickly delve into what pectin is and look at exactly how it will influence our ability to shed unwanted body fat.
What is Pectin?
Pectin is a fiber unique to the plant kingdom that’s predominantly found in fruits and vegetables.
Biologically speaking, pectin is a cell wall polysaccharide that allows for the extension of the cell walls of the plant or fruit, accommodating for its growth and development.1
“That’s really great, Craig. But why does it matter to me?”
Great question. I was just getting to that…
Pectin is a carbohydrate classified as a soluble dietary fiber, meaning it’s a fiber found in our food that dissolves in water.
It’s important to note that because pectin is a fiber it doesn’t get absorbed into the blood stream like other nutrients. It passes through the body until it is eventually excreted out.
More importantly, like all other fibers, pectin slows the body’s digestive processes. This property is beneficial because the spike in blood sugar that would otherwise occur from the consumption of pectin-free carbohydrates is mitigated by a substantial degree when pectin is present.
In general, the more pectin that is present in a food, the less your blood sugar will spike as it is digested, the less insulin your pancreas will inject into the blood stream as a result and the less your risk of storing body fat will be.
Pectin’s Influence Over Glycemic Index
Cherries and apples are two of the most pectin-dense food sources. Not surprisingly, they are also the 2 fruits with the lowest glycemic index.
A food’s glycemic index (GI) is simply a ranking that is applied to it to comparatively rate the extent to which it will increase one’s blood sugar after being consumed. The baseline reference that is used for comparative purposes is that of pure glucose.
Pure glucose has a GI of 1.00 and every other food’s GI rating is given in relation to that baseline value.
For instance, apples have a GI value of 0.38, meaning apples will increase your blood sugar to a level that is 38% of what would be experienced when consuming the same amount of pure glucose.
Apples, along with most other fruits and vegetables, have pectin to thank for their relatively low GI ratings.
To give you an idea of what the glycemic indices are of some common foods, here’s a chart for your convenience:
As you can see, because pectin slows a food’s digestion, it wields a large amount influence over the blood sugar spike that is experienced after pectin-containing foods are consumed.
I mentioned earlier that as long as you’re following what you learned in my Clean Eating University you won’t have to think too much about pectin in your diet.
This is because plant-based foods are a staple in any Craig Leonard Fitness approved clean eating plan and should provide a high percentage of the daily carbohydrates you’ll be ingesting when applying what you learned while earning your clean eating degree.
To put it simply: Fruits and other plant-based carbohydrates are infinitely more effective at enabling you to get and stay lean than heavily processed carbs containing artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and myriad other dangerous ingredients – thanks, at least in part, to pectin.
If your daily carbs predominantly come from whole foods like fresh fruits, cruciferous vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes and white or brown rice, you don’t really have to give pectin a second thought.
I get about 75% of my carbs from plant-based sources. This is a perfect plan for anyone concerned with getting or maintaining a lean physique.
A large reason why this strategy is so effective is because of…
You guessed it: Pectin!
Pectin mitigates blood sugar spikes, keeping fat storage to a minimum. This is exactly why pectin-packed foods are ideal sources of carbohydrates for fat loss.
Of course, you still have to be cognizant of the amount of calories you’re consuming from carbs. Just because you’re eating mostly whole foods and fruits loaded with pectin doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want and still be able to lose fat.
Calories still matter and you’re going to have to maintain a caloric deficit if you want to lose body fat.
Still, pectin will mitigate your blood sugar spikes, help you lose fat faster and give you the ability to levitate while setting things on fire with your thoughts (this happens all the time).
To sum up, pectin is kind of a big deal and I felt it was high time it was given its due.
Henry Braconnot, eat your heart out.