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Sugar-Free and Low-Sugar Jams and Preserves

A Brief Guide

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Updated October 29, 2011

Sugar-Free and Low-Sugar Jams and Preserves

Ever want a little jam to spread on your low-carb muffin or pancake? One look at the label of most jams is enough to send you running the other way! There are alternatives, but the labeling can be confusing. Here’s a brief guide to sugar-free and reduced-sugar jams and preserves:

Regular Jam

Regular jam is loaded with sugar, which contributes to taste, mouthfeel, and shelf-life. Nowadays it is often sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. One tablespoon generally contains around 12-14 grams of sugar.

All Fruit Spread – 100% Fruit Spread

You’d think all fruit spreads would be lower in sugar than regular jam. Nope. Most of these are not a big sugar savings, as they usually use high sugar/low nutrient fruit concentrates, such as apple juice, as sweeteners. I’ve seen these spreads ranging from 10-14 grams of sugar per tablespoon. (It turns out that the three most common juices used as sweeteners are very low in nutrients: apple, white grape, and pear. They contribute sugar and not much else.)

Low-Sugar Jam or Preserves

Low-sugar preserves or jams have sugar, but less of it. Sometimes they make up the difference with artificial sweeteners. They are required to have at least 25% less sugar than the “reference product” (regular jam). The ones I’ve seen contain about half the sugar of their full-sugar counterparts.

Sugar-Free Jam or Preserves or Fruit Spreads

These jams usually contain other sweeteners such as artificial sweeteners, polydextrose, and other sugar substitutes. There are some natural sugars from the fruit; "sugar-free" means that no other sugar can be added, including extra fruit concentrates. The ones I’ve seen have 2-5 grams of sugar per tablespoon. Those catering to the low-carb crowd are more likely to have two grams. Three brands which have 2 grams of sugar per tablespoon are Hero (pictured), Jok 'n'Al (which is my favorite), and Steel's.

There is at least one brand of fruit spread I am aware of which has no fruit in it at all - the fruit flavoring is entirely artificial (and, in my opinion, tastes like it). That brand is Walden Farms. It is labeled as having no calories or carbohydrates.

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