Why you should think twice before eating tomato sauce
It’s a favourite staple for so many us, but it may be doing you significant harm. We’re so used to going to the pantry and grabbing some tomato sauce as a tasty addition to our food, that instinct belies what we’re actually consuming.
For some, it may not be surprising to know that tomato sauce is high in sugar and salt, but just how high might shock you. And it may make you think twice about eating it.
According to nutritionist Kristen Beck, the condiment has “next to no nutritional value,” with a squirt of the sauce (a tablespoon) having more sugar in it than chocolate or a biscuit, reports news.com.au.
“A single serve of tomato sauce is around 15ml (roughly three teaspoons of tomato sauce) and generally equates to 1 teaspoon of sugar (glucose and fructose),” Beck tells the website.
Perhaps unknown to many is that several manufacturers of tomato sauce use high-fructose corn syrup, which adds a subtle sweetness, and is an attractive option for these brands because it’s cheaper than using sugar. Fructose corn syrup can cause weight gain and increase insulin in the body.
In more bad news, Beck says that the exact amount of cane sugar added to tomato sauce is hard to decipher.
“In addition to the natural sugars coming from tomatoes, manufacturers also add around 20% cane sugar to tomato sauce, but the exact amount added is impossible to decipher because Australian labelling laws don’t require the exact amount of sugar added to be listed on the label.”
The nutritionist advises consumers to not be fooled by the ingredients listed on tomato sauce labels, despite it having a low calorie count per serving.
“When you look at the ingredients list for tomato sauce, on first glance it looks pretty good,” she said.
“The first ingredient is tomatoes or tomato puree (approximately 75%) which may sound healthy, but you need to remember that fresh tomatoes are almost 95% water weight. When pureed, the natural sugar content in tomatoes becomes much more concentrated.”
There’s a common perception that natural sugars in fruit and vegetables are somehow better for us, but Beck says that’s not the case.
“Even if sugars contained naturally in tomatoes may sound healthier than sugar, the World Health Organisation classifies sugars from fruit and vegetable concentrates as the same as all other added sugars.
“Concentrated fructose, such as that contained in tomato sauce and fruit juice extracts, has been shown to be associated with the body’s inflammatory response and fat accumulation around your midsection (but fructose in whole fresh fruit is still very healthy for you).”
The amount of salt in tomato sauce is also concerning, with one serving having 160mg of sodium, which takes a big bite out of the recommended daily sodium intake of 920mg.
But there is some good news for sauce lovers – the tomato puree contained in tomato sauce is rich in the antioxidant lycopene, about 10 times greater than in fresh tomatoes, according to Beck.
“Lycopene is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer risk,” she says.
Will you be thinking twice about your tomato sauce intake? Let us know in the comments section below.