Is Tomato Sauce Good For You?
Posted by Registered Nutritionist Luke Daley, Founder of Daley Nutrition
A Quick Tomato Sauce History
Is tomato sauce good for you? This blog will be focusing on the bottled, table tomato sauce such as Heinz’s brand, not the traditional sauce that is used in Italian pasta dishes. Let’s start by looking at the history of tomato sauce. The first recipe produced for a Tomato sauce was in 1732 according to National Geographic. It is traditionally made up of tomato, sweeteners, vinegar, salts, spices, onion/garlic and some natural flavorings. Its success was due to its long shelf-life, this was initially due to some harmful preservatives such as tar. Henry Heinz initiated his bottle of tomato sauce in 1876, he later went on to launch a preservative-free version in 1905, from there he dominated the market.
Nowadays in the US 3 bottles per person are bought every year (10 billion ounces). There are 2 main types of tomato sauce on the market, the ‘organic bottle’ and the ‘original type’. Heinz lead the market of tomato Ketchup until the rise of the supermarkets in the 1980’s which competed for the market. In 1993 Heinz owned 43% of the market and was mainly sold from supermarkets. The 3 main meals we use tomato sauce with is hot dogs, burgers and french fries.
Tomato sauce and Sodium (Salt)
Tomato sauce has always been associated with salt to extend its self-life. Since the 80’s research has strongly linked a high-salt diet to an increased risk of high blood pressure, which can cause strokes. Tomato sauce companies have capitalized on this research and have produced ‘low salt’ versions to keep up with consumer demand for a healthier product. Per tablespoon, on average tomato sauce has 150mg of sodium, which doesn’t seem too much as we are advised not to go above 2300mg a day, but when combined with the knowledge that 75% of the foods we eat have salt in them, it can all add up throughout the day. Luckily there are “no sodium” versions available with 5mg (tiny tiny amount), which are a little more expensive to buy but might save you in medical bills in the future!
Tomato sauce and Sugar
With increased competition between companies to sell their sauce we have seen an increase in sugar introduced to our tomato sauce bottles, which is sneaky practice and adding to our societies already growing sweet tooth.
A tablespoon (17g) of sauce can have up to 5g of sugar in it which is 1 teaspoons of sugar if you work in the metric system and is a moderately high amount. According to the World Health Organisation we should ideally stay under 25g of sugar a day for good health. Nearly 33% of a bottle can be made with sugar (BBQ sauce can be made up of 50% sugar)
Tomato Sauce’s Nutrition (important stuff)
Q: Is tomato sauce good for you? Aside from the salt and sugar, tomato sauce can pack a high amount of lycopene’s (antioxidant) that can help to reduce inflammation in the body by fighting off free radicals. They have the following macro-nutrients (big nutrients) and micro-nutrients (little but powerful nutrients). The below info is according to NUTTAB 2010:
1) Lycopenes – help to reduce the risk of developing certain cancer cells.
– A study from the National Cancer Institute showed positive benefits to consuming tomato sauce as it boosted lycopene levels and helped to reduce prostate cancer risk factors. Also another study from Elsevier Science showed a positive increase in blood lycopene levels with a trial of tomato sauce and tomato capsules.
2) Low fat (good if you are on a weight loss plan)
– Tomato sauce is a tasty condiment to dishes and is a lot lower in fat compared to mayonnaise or salad dressings. Some small scale research from The University of Oulo in Finland showed a reduction in LDL and cholesterol levels in a small case study which could be beneficial to someone who is overweight and has elevated cholesterol levels.
3) Moderate levels of pro-vitamin A carotene’s – good for immunity
– There are many studies referring to the carotene content of tomato’s and tomato based products. We know that beta-carotene converts to vitamin A in the liver and has a variety of health benefits such as improving the immune system especially in the respiratory track to fight virus and bacteria. But it also supports the reproductive organs to function properly.
4) Moderate levels of vitamins B-6,
– Vitamin B6 helps with protein metabolism and is part of the methylation cycle to reduce homocysteine levels.
Final Thought – is tomato sauce good for you?
Yes there are some nutritional benefits to tomato sauce, but we would only advise buying the low salt and sugar versions that are not going to be detrimental to your health. Australia have just introduced a tomato ketchup which is sweetened by stevia (natural sweetener). Enjoy with sweet potato wedges (instead of chips), with lean burgers (Australia..kangaroo burgers!), perhaps leave the hot dogs for an occasional food item.