Did you see box office smash Paddington Bear II at the cinema recently, either on your own or with your children?
If you did, chances are that you were also reminded of Paddington’s predilection for – yes, marmalade, in sandwiches, no less. While Paddington may eat marmalade at every opportunity, most of us have it for breakfast, usually on toast. So, is marmalade good for you and what exactly are its health benefits?
Ah, yes, Marmalade! Bring it on!
The history of marmalade making
Marmalade is centuries old, but did you know that it was originally made with the bitter fruit of the quince? – usually grown in grand country houses. Oranges first began to be cultivated in orangeries, strangely enough, and greenhouses from the 18th century onwards.
Food historians are not certain when oranges were first used, but the historical collection at Dalemain House, in the Lake District, includes a manuscript book from the 1680s that includes a recipe for “a Marmalade of Oranges”.
Cut to the present day and orange marmalade, in particular, has a special place at the breakfast table, next to other morning staples of milk, bread and cereals. It’s been a popular spread on bread of all kinds for generations. Some like it best when it’s thinly cut, others enjoy savouring the tangy chewiness of thick cut marmalade.
Marmalade it is a citrus fruit preserve (unlike jams which can be made from almost any fruit or vegetable) made from the Seville orange. Most UK marmalades are prepared from the Seville or bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), which is normally only available to fruit producers in January and February.
Marmalade typically consists of the fruit peel, sugar and water. Marmalade’s characteristic bitter flavour comes from the bitterness of the peel. Orange marmalade uses the flesh and peels from oranges and lemons to make a citrus fruit preserve.
It provides a range of nutritional benefits, such as supplementing your diet with vitamins and helping to keep your fat, calorie and sodium intake low. It can, however, be high in sugar – more of that later.
Is marmalade good for you? Let’s get the low down on its content and then take a look at the breakdown of its health benefits.
One tablespoon of orange marmalade contains 49 calories, negligible amounts of fat or protein, 0.1 grams of fibre, 12 grams of sugar and 13.3 grams of carbohydrates.
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How many calories does marmalade have?
A 1 tbsp serving orange marmalade contain around 50 calories. An average serving spread on a slice of toast would add around 70 calories to your morning intake which typically should be in the region of 300 – 350 calories for breakfast to get us up and going in the morning.
So eating orange marmalade doesn’t add many calories to our morning consumption of toast or cereals. Some health studies suggest eating marmalade as a snack between meals – although not on same the scale of consumption of the brown bear from deepest Peru.
I was really pleased to find out that marmalade is low in calories. Marmalade on a small brown toast is perfect breakfast or afternoon snack if you want to loose a bit of weight in a healthy way.
How much sodium does marmalade have?
Again, marmalade is low in sodium, with one serving typically containing just 11mg of sodium. Our bodies need sodium – up to 500 mg – in order to function properly. Too much sodium, on the other hand, can be dangerous to health, as it harms the workings of the bodies essential organs .
The daily limits of recommended sodium intake tend to be around 1,500 mg at the lower end. So, marmalade’s low sodium levels make it a good food with which to start the day.
What about fat content in marmalade?
On its own orange marmalade can help if you’re looking for a reduced fat diet as it contains negligible grams of fat. However, this won’t be the case if you’re using marmalade in baked or cooked foods.
Should I worry about the pectin in marmalade?
If you ever have time to glance at the ingredients of a jar of marmalade at the breakfast table, then you’ll almost certainly come across Pectin. It’s a natural gelling agent which is used to make marmalade and jams set wherever they are sold – from high street supermarkets to country village halls.
Marmalade is full of rich antioxidants
Food researchers indicate that there could be up to 20 times more antioxidants in 1g of marmalade than in a standard glass of orange juice. So where should you get your orange from in the mornings? Antioxidants found in the citrus peel may also help to lower certain types of cholesterol.
What else is marmalade good for? Are there any other health benefits from eating marmalade?
Well, marmalade provides a source of dietary fibre, which helps with digestion and relieves constipation. It’s also a source of vitamin A, which promotes the growth and repair of the bodies’ cells and tissues, as well as helping to fight and heal infections. Need more Vitamin C to help with maintaining healthy skin and gums? Orange marmalade also contains small levels of Vitamin C , around 2% of recommended daily intake, so consider it as a morning supplementary spread on your bread.
What’s the bitter orange peel also good for? Well, it also has nutrients which help with calcium to protect your teeth and bones, as well as iron, which is found in red blood cells and needed for carrying oxygen throughout the body.
How about the marmalade sugar content?
So far so good. But we’re all used to reading rave reviews about the supposed health benefits of the latest superfood. And most of them later come with a health warning. Is marmalade any different?
So what about the levels of sugar in marmalade? Isn’t that likely to leave a somewhat bitter sweet taste in the mouth and the gut? Is marmalade good for you. Well, some food scientists believe that marmalade also contains natural sugars, which are more beneficial than those found in most other preserves and jams.
However natural the sugar, many brands contain more than 50 per cent sugar, so check out low-sugar options if you want to reduce overall sugar levels.
What else is in bitter orange marmalade?
Like grapefruit, bitter orange contains p-synephrine and similar compounds that can adversely interact with a range of drugs such as statins, budesonide, calcium-channel blockers, cytotoxics and immunosuppressants. This is because citrus fruits raise the level of the drug in the blood, so increasing the risk of side effects or even altering the drug’s intended effect.
But the amounts are tiny and less than those in a glass of grapefruit so only perhaps Paddington Bear should have a health check on this account alone.
Marmalade is not just for Paddington Bear
So, whether we prefer it thick or thinly cut, at breakfast or any other time of the day or spread on white or brown, why not join Paddington Bear in toasting the merits of marmalade. Better still, keep the tradition of countless village hall markets alive and try to make a batch of marmalade for yourself. That way you can decide on how much sugar you put in and how thickly or otherwise you cut the peels!
Until next time
Happy Marmalade making!
This recipe was originally written on 22 January 2018 and last tested and updated on 22 June 2020