Pectin is a primary ingredient in almost all the jellies and jams nowadays, and you’ll also observe the same in processed foods, especially snacks with a flavour of fruits. It’s quite common in food products, so vegans get to see it regularly and want to find out if it’s apt for 100% plant-based eaters.
Is it vegan or vegetarian? Yes, pectin is 100% vegan. It’s a fibre obtained from fruits and used in many processed food products. It’s one of many pectic ingredients found inside the cell walls of vegetables and many fruits.
Since animal cells don’t have cell walls, hence pectin is never derived from the animals.
We will check the different reasons why pectin is mostly thought of as a 100% vegan-friendly product.
Table of Contents
The Vegan Status of Pectin
Pectin Is Found in Fruits and Vegetables
Pectin is a pectic element along with protopectin and pectic acid.1 These elements are available within or between the cell walls of fruits and vegetables.
Pectin’s fundamental part is a compound called galacturonic acid, which is a sugar-based acid obtained from galactose.
Galactose has a bad reputation as the substance is part of lactose, which is the pure sugar obtained from milk, i.e. lactose, a disaccharide, is an element made of one galactose tied to one glucose or two monosaccharides.
Galactose is hardly available free in natural habitat. It’s mostly tied to in milk-based glucose or available as a part of pectin in some fruits and vegetables.
Therefore, if you understood that pectin has galactose, don’t be scared.
Pectin Is a Plant-Based Gelling Agent
That’s correct. Pectin is all vegan, and it’s commonly added as a plant-based option to not so popular gelatin, which is a protein derived from tissues of various animals such as the skin tissues or the epidermis.
Gelatin and pectin in a dry form mix up when added to water, so they’re both added in confectionaries and other processed food products to give a nice gel-based texture.
If any food item has a gel-type texture, you can surely give it a red flag, until you find out why this food has a jelly type consistency.
It is understandable that when many people hear about the word gelatinous, they come to think of gelatin. It happens so because the two words sound similar, but also because gelatin has a puzzling definition.
As per many dictionaries, definition number one is a semi-transparent, slightly yellow, without odour, and a glutinous substance without any taste, made by boiling animal tissues like skin, bones, or ligaments in water.
However, other secondary definitions mostly mention something like, “a product preparation in which vegetable and animal substances are the main part.”
Merrian Webster dictionary defines this, secondarily, as any of many elements resembling gelatin including plant-based substances like agar.
So, gelatin doesn’t generally mean gelatinous substances. Many soluble and semi-fermentable vegetable gums mix up when added to water, which is why they’re often added instead of gelatin.
Gelatinization is stringently referred to a method that involves heating plant matter with water.
The heating process on the liquid makes the hydrogen bonds weak that keeps the starch together, which helps water to break through the starch elements.
This process makes the starch molecules to increase in size until their top viscosity is obtained.
The puffiness makes the starches to have a gelatinous texture like spaghetti noodles. When the starch size grows up, they swell many times over.
The swelling drastically alters the food texture, giving them a gummy type of consistency. E.g. pasta, oats, rice, scalloped potatoes, and most soups, sauces, and puddings have quite changed texture after cooking.
A Note on Amylopectin
Yes, pectin is contained in its name. But, are both the same? And if not, is amylopectin vegan?
You could have heard of amylopectin, which is a kind of starch. Earlier, it was indicated that pectin is one of many pectic substances, and you may be thinking whether amylopectin is also a pectic substance.
It’s a usual item in processed foods, so many people see it on food panels and would like to find out if it’s vegan. Amylopectin is vegan, but it’s not derived from pectin, despite having pectin in its name. It’s a complex starch molecule, consisting of glucose units, whereas pectin contains galactose.
Pectin is mostly undigestible, as it’s a kind of fibre. Whereas, amylopectin is a highly branched yet digestible type of starch.
Plants do photosynthesis process to make glucose that’s then get established in the shape of starch.
When a plant grows, the starch gives energy for its instant use but also keeps additional energy for future needs as starch granules.
Tiny microscopic starch granules are available in foods like tapioca, rice, potato, and wheat. Even a tiny cubic inch of starchy food can have up to one million starch molecules.
Amylopectin and amylose are the two primary arrangements of starch in these granules. Both of them consist of glucose units tied together by digestible glycosidic bonds, but they’re simply arranged differently.
The essential difference between amylopectin and pectin is that our body can digest the first one. Our digestive system has the enzymes required to break amylose and amylopectin into individual glucose units for absorption in the small intestine.
Whereas, only our gut bacteria have the necessary enzymes to break down fermentable and semi-fermentable plant fibres like pectin.
So, amylopectin is considered vegan. The form of carbohydrates storage in animals is glycogen, not starch. Thus, amylopectin is always felt 100% derived from the plants.
That was the fact file for the vegan status of pectin.
Thanks for reading.
You may also want to check out the following related articles:
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 43). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011. ISBN-10: 0-538-73498-1 https://books.google.com/books?id=ppMzyDFyHUwC&q=pectic+substances#v=snippet&q=pectic%20substances&f=false
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 40). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011. ISBN-10: 0-538-73498-1
- Gelatin. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/gelatin
- Gelatin. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gelatin
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 545). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011. ISBN-10: 0-538-73498-1
- Aguilera JM and E Rojas. Rheological, thermal and microstructural properties in whey protein cassava starch gels. Journal of Food Science 61(5):963–966, 1996.
- Hoover R, and T Vasanthan. Effect of heat-moisture treatment on the structure and physicochemical properties of cereal, legume and tuber starches. Carbohydrate Research 252:133–153, 1994.
- Galvez FCF, AVA Resurreccion, and GO Ware. Process variables, gelatinized starch and moisture effects on physical properties of mungbean noodles. Journal of Food Science 59(2):378–381, 1994.
- Amylopectin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amylopectin
- Whitney EN, CB Cataldo, and SR Rolfes. Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition. Wadsworth/ West Publishing, 2009.
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 41). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011. ISBN-10: 0-538-73498-1
- Wheeler ML, and X Pi-Sunyer. Carbohydrate issues: Type and amount. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 108:S34–S39, 2008.
- How Bacteria Turn Fiber into Food. Mason Inman. PLoS Biol. 2011 Dec; 9(12): e1001227. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3243711/