Jelly Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

A slice of bread with butter and red jam
Rosmarie Wirz / Getty Images

Jelly is a transparent fruit spread usually made from fruit juice, sugar, and pectin. Most commonly, jelly is served on toast or as a primary ingredient in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Jelly is sometimes confused with jam. While jam is also served on toast and with peanut butter, it is made using fruit pieces so it has a chunkier texture.

Jelly can be made from a variety of different fruit juices, but the most popular include strawberry jelly and grape jelly. You might also see raspberry, blackberry, apricot, or other flavors on store shelves. Some people even consume jelly made from vegetables, such as carrots.

Jelly is relatively high in sugar and carbohydrates but offers little in the way of vitamins and minerals. It is usually consumed in small amounts and is not likely to have a substantial impact on the daily diets of people who consume it.

Jelly Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one tablespoon (20 grams) of jelly in any flavor.

  • Calories: 53.2
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 6mg
  • Carbohydrates: 14g
  • Sugars: 10.2g
  • Fiber: 0.2g
  • Protein: 0.03g

Carbs

A one-tablespoon serving of jelly contains about 53.2 calories. Most of the calories come from carbohydrates. There are 14 grams of carbs in jelly, 10.2 grams of sugar, and almost no fiber (0.2g).

The glycemic index of jelly is estimated to be about 49. Foods with a glycemic index of less than 55 are considered low-glycemic foods.

Fats

There is no fat in jelly.

Protein

Jelly provides an insignificant amount of protein, about 0.03 grams per serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

While jelly is made from fruit juice and fruit juice may provide certain micronutrients, jelly does not provide any significant vitamins or minerals when a typical serving size is consumed.

Health Benefits

Jelly adds carbohydrates to your diet, and carbs are the body's preferred energy source. So consuming jelly will provide the body with energy. But since jelly is consumed in such small amounts (typically) and since it provides no substantial vitamins or minerals, this food is not likely to benefit your health in any significant way.

There are some people who believe that grape jelly may provide health benefits because it is made with Concord grapes. These dark purple grapes have skins and seeds that provide polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant-based chemicals that have been associated with a wide range of health benefits including a decreased risk for heart disease.

However, polyphenols in jelly have not specifically been studied. There is very limited evidence that grape jam (which includes part of the fruit) may provide some benefits, but most of the studies investigating Concord grapes use grape juice.

While grape juice is used to make grape jelly, you'd consume so little of it in a single serving that it is not likely to have a noticeable impact on your health. Authors of one study investigating the relationship between Concord grape juice and cardiovascular health found that the juice may provide some benefit but that the impact was dose-dependent.

Allergies

People with pollen food allergy syndrome (PFAS) also known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS) should avoid many types of jelly as fruit is a common trigger. Specifically, those with birch pollen allergies are often triggered by cherries, apples, kiwis, peaches, pears, and plums. Cross-reactivity between grapes, strawberries, and cherries are also known to exist as are cross-reactivities between grapes and a variety of other fruits.

Symptoms of OAS may include an itchy mouth, scratchy throat, swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat. Itchy ears and hives on the mouth are also possible. Anaphylaxis is also possible when experiencing an allergic reaction to fruits like grapes, cherries, or strawberries. It may also be possible for someone to have an immune response to fruit pectin if someone is allergic to citrus fruit.

Adverse Effects

There has been some limited concern that citric acid, used to make commercial brands of jelly and many other foods, may cause adverse effects in some people. Citric acid is found naturally in fruits and vegetables, but the kind used by food manufacturers as a preservative is different.

One set of four case reports published in 2018 suggested that its consumption may lead to a harmful inflammatory response in people with a certain genetic predisposition and susceptibility. There have been other studies exploring the potentially harmful effects of citric acid on liver and brain tissue but these studies have been performed on mice and are very limited. 

Despite the lack of evidence about possible harms caused by citric acid, there has been some concern in both the U.S. and Europe about its consumption. Most of it dates back to the early 2000s to 2010. To address these concerns, the non-profit organization NutritionFacts.org, a partner of the True Health Initiative released a video in 2009 assuring consumers that citric acid is safe.

Varieties

Jelly comes in many flavors. In the jelly section of the supermarket, you'll also find other fruit spreads like jam, preserves, marmalade, and others. Consumers are often confused about these products and the potential nutritional differences.

While there are very slight variations in the calorie count and carb count, the nutritional information is very similar. So if you are trying to choose between varieties, buy the product that you enjoy the most.

  • Jam is made from chopped or pureed fruit, so it is likely to have more texture than jelly.
  • Preserves contain the most chunks of fruit.
  • Marmalade is preserves made with citrus. Orange marmalade is the common variety.

You may also see a few other products in the jelly aisle, including chutney or compote. Chutney is jam that is made without pectin. It is often flavored with spices and may accompany savory foot. Compote is similar to jam, but it is usually consumed after it is made rather than being jarred for later use.

If you are shopping in the UK, jelly does not refer to a fruit spread. Instead, the word "jelly" refers to the gelatin dessert that is often called "jello" in the United States.

When It’s Best

Jelly is available year-round in the supermarket

Storage and Food Safety

According to the USDA, commercially-prepared jelly will stay fresh for 6–12 months if stored In the refrigerator after opening. According to some jelly manufacturers, a jar of unopened jelly is likely to stay fresh for about 24 months if stored in a cool dark area, but it might experience some slight color and flavor degradation. If an opened jar is not refrigerated, it should be consumed within 48 hours.

If you make jelly at home, it can be stored on the shelf for about a year. After opening, it should be stored in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or lower. The National Center for Home Cooked Food Preservation advises that cooked jams and jellies are best stored for one month in the refrigerator after opening. Freezing jelly is not recommended as the gelatin that gives jelly its texture is broken down when frozen.

How to Prepare

Jelly that you buy in the store may contain corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or both. Some people try to limit their consumption of these ingredients due to concerns about their effect on health. If you make your own jelly at home, you can control the ingredients and use your preferred sweetener (or none at all) instead.

The problem is that making jelly at home requires specific equipment (such as canning jars, large kettles, cheesecloth) and can take quite a bit of time and practice. Most cooks who make jelly at home make large batches at a time, choosing to store much of it or even give it away as gifts.

There are two different methods to make jelly: the standard method and the short-boil method. Both procedures involve boiling fruit (with or without pectin) with sugar to make a gel. The gel is strained and then tested for consistency before finally being poured into glass jars that have been sanitized in preparation for storage.

Whether you make your own jelly or buy it in the store, there are a few creative and nutritious ways to consume jelly that go beyond the common pairing with peanut butter. For example, if you are short on fruit, you can use jelly to make a fruit smoothie. Simply combine a tablespoon or two with milk or a milk alternative, Greek yogurt, and/or protein powder.

If you're looking for new ways to enjoy chicken breast or pork, consider glazing it with your favorite jelly and a few spices or even barbecue sauce. If you don't like plain yogurt or cottage cheese, sweeten it up with a small dollop of jelly. And if you love pancakes, trying swapping jelly for the standard maple syrup.

Recipes

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