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Is Jelly good for you?

Jelly is a sweet treat made from fruit juice, sugar, and sometimes pectin or gelatin to help it set. It’s popular spread on toast, in sandwiches, or as an accompaniment to meat and cheese. But is this wobbly, colorful concoction actually good for you?

What is jelly made of?

The main ingredients in jelly are:

  • Fruit juice – Provides flavor and nutrients
  • Sugar – Sweetens the jelly
  • Pectin or gelatin – Helps jelly set
  • Food coloring – Provides color (in some jellies)
  • Acid – Helps pectin set

The specific fruits used can vary, with popular types being grape, apple, blackberry, strawberry, peach, apricot, plum, cherry, currant, and orange. The fruit juice provides most of the flavor, sugar is added to sweeten it, and pectin or gelatin from animal products is used as a gelling agent. Acid like lemon juice helps the pectin set and thicken the jelly. Food coloring may be added for an intense, uniform color.

Nutritional value of jelly

The nutritional value of jelly can vary depending on the ingredients, but roughly a 2 tablespoon (30 gram) serving contains:

Calories 70-100
Total fat 0g
Sodium 10-70mg
Total carbs 17-25g
Sugars 15-23g
Protein 0-1g

As you can see, the main nutrients in jelly are carbohydrates and sugar, with very little protein, fat, or micronutrients. The sugar content is quite high at 15-23 grams per serving, accounting for most of the calories.

Jelly made with 100% fruit juice will provide more nutrients than those made with added sugars. Certain fruits also boost the nutritional value – blackberry, grape, and strawberry jellies contain antioxidants like anthocyanins, while citrus jellies provide vitamin C.

Benefits of jelly

Despite its high sugar content, jelly can offer some benefits when consumed in moderation. Potential benefits include:

1. Source of antioxidants

Jellies made from fruits like grapes, berries, and cherries contain beneficial plant compounds like anthocyanins and ellagic acid. These antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and oxidative damage in the body.

2. Provides energy

The carbohydrates and sugars in jelly can provide a quick boost of energy. Just 2 tablespoons offer 70-100 calories. This can help fuel the body and brain.

3. Tastes good

One of the main appeals of jelly is its sweet, fruity taste. It provides a delicious, flavorful way to satisfy a sweet tooth or dress up a plain piece of toast.

4. Fun texture

The jiggly, wobbly texture of jelly makes it fun to eat, especially for kids. It can add novelty and interest to simple foods like peanut butter sandwiches.

5. Potential prebiotic

The pectin fiber found in some jellies may act as a prebiotic by feeding beneficial gut bacteria. More research is needed to confirm jelly’s prebiotic effects.

Downsides and health risks

However, there are also some potential downsides of regularly eating jelly:

1. High in sugar

The main concern with jelly is its high sugar content. The 15-23 grams of sugar per serving account for up to 100% of the recommended daily intake. Consuming excess added sugars can increase the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems.

2. Lacks nutrients

Aside from some antioxidants and carbohydrates, jelly is not a great source of essential nutrients like protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Relying on it too much could displace more nutritious foods from the diet.

3. May contain preservatives

Some mass-produced jellies contain preservatives like potassium sorbate to extend shelf life. There are concerns these chemical preservatives could cause allergic reactions or other adverse effects with regular intake.

4. Gelatin concerns

Jelly made with animal-derived gelatin will not be suitable for vegetarians and vegans. There may also be religious concerns about pork-derived gelatin. Pectin jellies are a gelatin-free alternative.

Is jelly good for weight loss?

Jelly is generally not considered a good food for weight loss due to its high calorie and sugar content:

– A 2 tablespoon serving provides 70-100 calories, mostly from sugar. This is a significant amount for such a small portion.

– The sugars in jelly can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes. This may increase hunger and cravings.

– Fructose from fruit juices gets converted to fat more readily than other sugars.

– The lack of protein, fat and fiber means jelly isn’t very filling. You’re likely to eat more than you should.

– Some studies link excess sugar intake to increased abdominal fat.

For weight loss, it’s best to minimize intake of jelly and other sugary foods. Focus on whole fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and high-fiber foods instead.

However, the occasional small serving of jelly can fit into a balanced diet. Just account for the calories and enjoy it in moderation.

Is jelly good for kids?

In moderation, jelly can be a kid-friendly treat. Potential benefits include:

– Provides quick energy for growing, active children

– More appealing texture than whole fruit

– Fun colors and shapes can interest picky eaters

– Folate, vitamin C and antioxidants from fruit juices

However, it’s best to think of jelly as an occasional treat. Limit portions to 2-3 tablespoons and offer it alongside more nutritious foods. Focus on providing kids with plenty of whole fruits and veggies, lean proteins, dairy and whole grains.

Look for jellies with less added sugar, or try making your own with natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. You can also add chia seeds to homemade jelly to boost the fiber and nutrient content.

Is jelly good when sick?

Jelly can be an option for providing calories and energy when you’re sick and have a diminished appetite.

Potential benefits of jelly when sick include:

– Provides easily absorbed carbohydrates when energy is needed

– Adds calories for preventing weight and muscle loss

– More appealing when you have nausea or sore throat

– Pureed fruit jellies provide some nutrients

However, the high sugar means jelly should be a small part of your sick day diet. Focus on getting nutrients from soups, smoothies, nutritious shakes and gentle whole foods as you can tolerate them.

Healthier jelly alternatives

If you enjoy jelly but want to limit the sugar and add more nutrition, consider these healthier alternatives:

1. 100% fruit spreads

Look for all-fruit jellies and preserves with no added sugars. They’ll have more fiber and nutrients than traditional jellies.

2. Lower-sugar jellies

Some brands offer jellies with reduced sugar, around half that of regular jelly. Or make your own with less added sweetener.

3. Greek yogurt

Top toast with protein-rich Greek yogurt instead of jelly. Add your own fresh fruit for fiber and nutrients.

4. Mashed avocado

For a creamy, savory twist, use mashed avocado in place of jelly on sandwiches. Provides healthy fats and fiber.

5. Nut and seed butters

Peanut, almond and sunflower seed butters make delicious, filling jelly alternatives. Look for all-natural options without added sugars.

6. Hummus

For an extra dose of plant protein and fiber, sub hummus for your usual jelly or jam.

Is it safe to eat jelly after the expiration date?

Unopened jelly can typically last 1-2 years past its printed expiration date, thanks to its high sugar content and acidic pH which prevent microbial growth.

However, once opened it’s best to consume jelly within 3-4 months. Look for signs of spoilage like mold, off smells, weeping liquid, or fizzing which indicate it has gone bad.

If the jelly still looks fine, retains its texture, and smells/tastes normal, it’s likely safe to eat. But be cautious with any jellies that seem “off” at all. When in doubt, throw it out.

To maximize freshness, store unopened jelly in a cool, dry pantry and refrigerate after opening. And be diligent about checking expiration dates before buying and consuming.


Jelly can be a tasty treat, but it’s best enjoyed in moderation. While it provides antioxidants and quick energy, its high added sugar content can negatively impact health if consumed in excess. Enjoy small portions alongside balanced meals, and opt for lower-sugar varieties or nutritious alternatives like yogurt or nut butters when possible. Be mindful of expiration dates for safety. Ultimately, jelly is fine as an occasional component of an overall healthy diet.