Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Strawberry Jam Bad For You?



Short answer

While strawberry jam can add delightful sweetness to foods, it's not ideal for health due to high sugar content, which can lead to weight gain, blood sugar spikes, and heart disease. Store-bought jams may have preservatives and artificial sweeteners, posing additional health concerns. Homemade jams can be healthier if sugar is reduced. For a balanced diet, enjoy jam in moderation, limit portion sizes, and consider alternatives like fresh strawberries, chia seed jams, or fruit-only spreads.



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Long answer

Sugar Content in Strawberry Jam and Health Implications

When delving into the world of preservatives like strawberry jam, the sugar content is often one of the primary nutritional components scrutinized for its health impact. Strawberry jam, while packed with the natural sweetness of strawberries, typically also contains added sugars, which can have various implications for health.

The average sugar content in strawberry jam can vary depending on the brand and recipe used. Commercially available jams can often contain up to 50% sugar or more. For context, a single tablespoon of strawberry jam can have around 9 to 13 grams of sugar. To put this in perspective, the American Heart Association recommends that men limit their intake of added sugars to no more than 36 grams per day and women to no more than 25 grams.

  • Risk of Overconsumption: Since jams are often not consumed in isolation but rather as part of meals or snacks, it's easy to overlook their sugar content and inadvertently consume high amounts.
  • Blood Sugar Spikes: High sugar content can lead to rapid rises in blood glucose levels, which is particularly concerning for individuals with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or diabetes.
  • Weight Gain: Consistent overconsumption of high-sugar products like jam can contribute to increased energy intake and, potentially, weight gain.
  • Dental Health: Sugary spreads can also be detrimental to dental health, increasing the risk of dental caries.
  • Heart Disease: There is evidence linking high sugar intake with an increased risk of heart disease. According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, those with a higher percentage of calories from added sugar have a notably higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

In response to these concerns, many people turn to reduced-sugar or sugar-free jams. These alternatives can be sweetened with fruit juice concentrates or artificial sweeteners, which may lower the total sugar content but can still impact blood sugar levels or have other health considerations.

It is important for consumers to peruse labels carefully, as terms like "natural" or "organic" can be misleading. Even jams labeled in such a manner can still be high in sugars, including fructose from fruit concentrates, which have similar effects on the body as table sugar.

For those making homemade jam, there is the option to adjust the sugar content to personal preference, which can substantially reduce the health risks associated with excessive sugar intake. Pectin, a natural thickening agent, can be used to achieve the desired texture without relying solely on sugar for the jam’s consistency.

Overall, while strawberry jam can be a delightful addition to many foods, it is essential to moderate intake and be mindful of its sugar content. Balancing enjoyment with health considerations by opting for lower-sugar versions or enjoying it in smaller amounts can help mitigate negative health implications.

Presence of Preservatives and Artificial Sweeteners in Store-bought Jams

When exploring the safety and healthfulness of store-bought strawberry jams, it's imperative to consider two common additives: preservatives and artificial sweeteners. Both are frequently included to enhance flavor, extend shelf life, and reduce caloric content—but they also come with potential health considerations.

Preservatives: Preservatives such as citric acid, sodium benzoate, or pectin are commonly found in jam recipes. The primary function of these additives is to inhibit mold growth and fermentation, ensuring the product remains safe to consume for longer periods. While most food preservatives are tested and approved by governing bodies like the FDA, there has been some debate among health professionals regarding their long-term health effects.

  • Citric Acid: Generally recognized as safe, citric acid can occasionally cause allergenic or digestive issues in sensitive individuals.
  • Sodium Benzoate: This preservative may react with vitamin C to form benzene, a known carcinogen. However, the levels in food products are typically well below the threshold considered harmful.
  • Pectin: A natural preservative derived from fruits, pectin is also a form of soluble fiber. It is widely regarded as safe and can support digestive health.

Artificial Sweeteners: To reduce sugar content and calories, some "light" or "diet" jams include artificial sweeteners. While these can be useful for those managing calorie intake or diabetes, long-term effects of artificial sweeteners are still being debated by the scientific community. Some studies suggest that they might disrupt the gut microbiome and impact metabolism.

  • Aspartame: Some people report headaches or other symptoms after consuming aspartame, though studies have shown it to be safe at approved levels.
  • Sucralose: Non-caloric and widely used, sucralose may be heat-stable but can reduce beneficial gut bacteria when consumed in large quantities.
  • Stevia: A natural sweetener regarded as safe, stevia does not increase blood sugar levels, making it a safer alternative for diabetics. However, gastrointestinal side effects have been reported by some individuals.

It's essential to check labels for preservative and sweetener content if you are sensitive to these additives or are managing specific dietary concerns. Opting for jams with natural preservatives and fruit-derived pectin or no-added-sugar varieties sweetened with fruit juice concentrates can be a healthier choice for those looking to limit exposure to these substances.

Ultimately, the key is moderation. Consuming store-bought strawberry jam in small amounts is unlikely to pose significant health risks to the average person. However, those with allergies, sensitivities, or specific health goals should be mindful of the potential presence of these additives in conventional jams.

Homemade vs. Commercial Strawberry Jam: A Nutritional Comparison

When debating the potential health implications of consuming strawberry jam, it's crucial to distinguish between homemade and commercial varieties. Each type comes with its unique set of ingredients and nutritional values, often leading to a significant disparity in their health effects. Let's break down the nutritional components of both homemade and commercial strawberry jam to help you make an informed decision.

Ingredients and Additives:

  • Homemade: Typically includes fresh strawberries, sugar, and sometimes pectin, lemon juice, or water. Homemade recipes provide the flexibility to adjust the sugar content to suit personal preferences and dietary needs.
  • Commercial: Often contains additional ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives like citric acid, and various stabilizers and flavor enhancers. Some brands may include artificial colors or sweeteners.

Sugar Content:

  • Homemade: The sugar content can be modified, but traditional recipes may still contain a substantial amount of sugar to ensure proper preservation and taste.
  • Commercial: Often higher in sugar content compared to homemade varieties, sometimes using more affordable sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup, which has been linked to health issues when consumed in excess.

Fruit Concentration:

  • Homemade: Generally contains a higher concentration of actual strawberries, providing more natural flavors and nutrients like Vitamin C and antioxidants.
  • Commercial: The amount of real fruit can vary, with some brands offering 'fruit spreads' that use less fruit and more sugar and thickeners.

Nutritional Values:

Nutrient Homemade (approx. per tablespoon) Commercial (approx. per tablespoon)
Calories 40-50 50-60
Sugars 10g 12g-14g
Fiber 0.5g <0.5g
Vitamin C Depends on fruit content Usually lower due to processing
Preservatives None or natural Varies, often contains more

Preservation Methods:

  • Homemade: Canning is a common preservation method for homemade jams, which can have an impact on the nutritional content due to the heating process.
  • Commercial: Often uses preservatives to extend shelf life, which may have deleterious health effects or contribute to dietary sensitivities in some individuals.

While homemade jams can be tailored to be healthier by reducing sugar and avoiding preservatives and additives, the homemade process may also result in less consistent preservation, which can affect storage life and safety. Commercial jams provide convenience and a longer shelf life but can contain ingredients that might be detrimental to health in large quantities. Each variety's impact on health largely hinges on the specific ingredients used and the quantity consumed.

Choosing between homemade and commercial strawberry jam depends on individual health goals, dietary restrictions, and preferences. However, understanding the nutritional variance between them is essential for making choices that align with your health and wellness objectives. For those seeking to limit sugar intake or avoid artificial additives, homemade strawberry jam with controlled amounts of natural sweeteners may be the preferable option.

If opting for commercial jams, it's advisable to examine labels carefully, opting for those with fewer additives and a higher fruit content. Additionally, incorporating reputable scientific findings and expert dietary advice can support more nuanced decision-making that reflects the latest in nutritional knowledge.

Strawberry Jam as a Source of Antioxidants and Micronutrients

When it comes to assessing the nutritional value of strawberry jam, it is imperative to delve into its content of antioxidants and micronutrients. Despite its sugar content, strawberry jam does contain beneficial compounds derived from strawberries themselves. Antioxidants are pivotal in fighting oxidative stress, which has been associated with various chronic diseases.

Strawberries are rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant known for its role in skin health, immune function, and iron absorption. Vitamin C is sensitive to heat and light, and it's worth noting that the processing of jam may reduce its content. However, even processed strawberry jam retains a portion of the original vitamin C found in fresh strawberries.

  • Vitamin C: Facilitates growth, development, and repair of all body tissues.
  • Manganese: An essential nutrient that contributes to several biochemical processes.
  • Fiber: While jam is not a significant source of dietary fiber due to the straining of fruit pulp, some fibers remain post-processing.
  • Potassium: This mineral helps in regulating fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals.
  • Folate (Vitamin B9): Important for tissue growth and cell function and particularly significant for pregnant women.

Strawberries are also packed with polyphenols, particularly anthocyanins, which impart the rich red hue to the fruit. These are preserved to varying extents in jam, depending on the manufacturing process. Anthocyanins have been studied for their role in heart health and potential to lower blood pressure (Giampieri, F., et al., 2015).

However, it's crucial to consider that the concentration of these antioxidants and micronutrients in jam can be significantly lower than in fresh strawberries due to dilution and degradation during the cooking and preservation process. Additionally, many commercial jams contain added preservatives and artificial color or flavor enhancers that may impact health differently than naturally occurring micronutrients.

For an accurate estimation of antioxidant content in strawberry jam, reading nutrition labels is key. Look for jams that have a high fruit content and are labeled as having "no added sugars" or "no artificial preservatives" to maximize the micronutrient and antioxidant benefits.

Nutrient Benefit % Daily Value in 1 tbsp of Strawberry Jam (approximate)
Vitamin C Antioxidant, Immune Support 2-4%
Manganese Metabolic Regulation 1-2%
Potassium Fluid Balance, Nerve Function 1%
Folate Cellular Function, Growth <1%

Overall, while strawberry jam does offer some beneficial antioxidants and micronutrients, its advantages must be weighed against the downsides of added sugars and potential loss of nutrients during processing. For those prioritizing nutrient intake, consuming fresh strawberries is a more efficacious option. Nevertheless, enjoying jam in moderation can contribute a modest amount of these antioxidants and micronutrients to one's diet.

Portion Control and Its Role in a Balanced Diet

When considering whether strawberry jam can fit into a balanced diet, portion control emerges as a critical factor. This sweet spread can vary greatly in nutritional value depending on the ingredients used, but most varieties are high in sugars. Understanding the role of portion control can help to manage the potentially negative health impacts of consuming foods high in added sugars like strawberry jam.

Recommended Serving Size: The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest limiting added sugars to less than 10% of daily calories. Given that a tablespoon of typical strawberry jam contains about 10 grams of sugar, this translates to keeping your jam consumption to less than a tablespoon or two within the context of a 2,000-calorie daily diet.

Caloric Density: Strawberry jam is caloric dense, meaning it has a high amount of calories in a small volume. A single tablespoon typically contains between 50-60 calories, almost entirely from sugars. By sticking to proper portion sizes, one can enjoy the taste of strawberry jam without consuming excessive calories that could contribute to weight gain.

Sugar Content and Health: Excessive intake of added sugars is linked to an increased risk of a range of health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cavities. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that individuals with a high percentage of calories from added sugars have a significantly increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. Controlling the portion of strawberry jam is an effective way to keep sugar intake in check.

The Role in a Balanced Diet: Portion control allows for the inclusion of strawberry jam in a well-rounded diet without overindulging. By practicing moderation, individuals can enjoy the pleasant sweetness of strawberry jam while retaining the nutritional integrity of their meals. It's not only about how much you eat but also about balancing it with foods high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

Alternating with Healthier Options: To maintain a balanced diet, consider alternating strawberry jam with less sugary alternatives. Fresh strawberries, for example, offer similar flavors but with less sugar, more fiber, and a range of vitamins. Other spreads, such as mashed avocado or almond butter, can provide beneficial nutrients while also enhancing the taste of your meals.

When integrating strawberry jam into your diet, think beyond just the spoonful on your toast. Consider how it fits overall daily sugar and caloric recommendations. Just a dollop of jam in plain yogurt or as a topping for oatmeal can add flavor without inducing excessive sugar and caloric intake.

In conclusion, mindful consumption of strawberry jam through careful portion control can allow for enjoyment of this favorite condiment without compromising nutritional goals. Keeping tabs on portion size is an effective strategy to prevent the potential health risks associated with overconsumption of added sugars.

Alternative Healthier Options to Traditional Strawberry Jam

For those seeking healthier alternatives to traditional strawberry jam, which often contains high amounts of added sugars and preservatives, there is a bounty of nutritious options to spread on your morning toast or include in your recipes. These substitutes not only retain the delightful flavor of strawberries but also provide additional health benefits. Let's explore some popular choices:

  • Homemade Strawberry Chia Seed Jam: This is a fabulous no-cook jam using fresh or frozen strawberries, chia seeds, and a sweetener of your choice, such as honey or maple syrup. Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein, which can contribute to a feeling of fullness and stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • Reduced-Sugar or Sugar-Free Store-Bought Options: Many brands are now offering reduced-sugar strawberry jam options. These products typically use alternative sweeteners or fruit-juice concentrates to maintain flavor while reducing sugar content. It's important to check the label for the type of sweeteners used and opt for those with minimal additives.
  • Fruit-Only Spreads: Some spreads are made entirely from fruit, heavily relying on the natural sweetness and pectin of strawberries to create a spreadable texture. These varieties often have no added sugars or sweeteners and offer a more natural strawberry flavor and nutrition.
  • All-Natural Strawberry Compote: A compote is like a chunkier, less processed jam made by cooking down strawberries with a bit of water and optional natural sweeteners. This cooking method allows the natural sugars in the fruit to caramelize and thicken the blend, reducing the need for added sugars or thickeners.
  • Stevia-Sweetened Strawberry Jam: For those avoiding sugar entirely, stevia-sweetened options provide a zero-calorie sweetening solution. Stevia is a natural, plant-based sweetener that has no impact on blood glucose levels, which makes it suitable for diabetics and those watching their sugar intake.

When choosing an alternative to traditional strawberry jam, consider these key nutritional aspects:

Nutrient Benefit Found in
Fiber Supports digestion, provides satiety Chia Seed Jam, Fruit-Only Spreads
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Promotes heart health Chia Seed Jam
Absence of Added Sugars Reduces risk of sugar-related health issues Stevia-Sweetened Jam, Fruit-Only Spreads

To blend the best of nutrition and taste from strawberries, these healthier spreads aim to minimize unnecessary ingredients while maximizing the inherent goodness of the fruit. Always be sure to review the nutritional labels and ingredient lists of any store-bought jams or spreads to ensure they align with your dietary goals and needs.

Remember, moderation is key even with healthier options. Excess consumption of any type of jam could contribute to an imbalance in your diet. Enjoy these alternatives as part of a balanced and varied diet for optimal health benefits.

Frequently asked questions

Pectin, a natural thickening agent derived from fruit, is beneficial in homemade strawberry jam as it helps achieve the desired consistency without necessarily adding excess sugar for thickening. Additionally, pectin is a soluble fiber which can support digestive health and maybe a healthier option than other commercial thickeners.

While it's possible for commercial strawberry jam to be included in a diabetes meal plan, it's crucial to choose reduced-sugar or sugar-free varieties to avoid blood sugar spikes. Individuals should also pay close attention to portion sizes and the total amount of carbohydrates consumed in a meal to ensure they stay within their targeted blood sugar levels.

Yes, there can be a difference in antioxidant content between homemade and commercial strawberry jam. Homemade jams usually contain a higher concentration of actual strawberries and may retain more antioxidants if less heat processing is involved. In contrast, commercial jams may have lower antioxidant content due to the addition of preservatives and the heat processing which can degrade some nutrients.

Consumers with fructose intolerance should look for strawberry jam varieties without high-fructose corn syrup or concentrated fruit juices, as these can exacerbate symptoms. Opting for jams with a high fruit content and natural sweeteners, or sugar-free versions sweetened with non-fructose sweeteners like stevia, can be a safer choice.

Ask a question about Strawberry Jam and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • blood sugar spikes
  • weight gain
  • dental health issues

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased risk of heart disease
  • potential allergenic reactions
  • potential digestive issues
  • possible disruption of gut microbiome
  • risk of overconsumption and associated health issues

Ingredients to be aware of


  • source of vitamin c
  • contains manganese, fiber, potassium, folate
  • polyphenols and anthocyanins present
  • soluble fiber from pectin

Healthier alternatives

  • homemade jams with less sugar
  • reduced-sugar or sugar-free store-bought jams
  • fruit-only spreads
  • natural strawberry compote
  • stevia-sweetened jams

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Crofters Organic Spread

  • Organic strawberries
  • Premium quality
  • Non-GMO
  • Rich in flavor
  • Versatile use
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-28-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-28-2024

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