Nutrition information, advantages, disadvantages, alternatives

Ketchup is a sweet and sour condiment.

It is made from mashed tomatoes and seasonings such as garlic, onion, and allspice.

Ketchup goes well as a topping for your comfort foods like burgers, hot dogs, and fries.

It is often associated with fast food, but it is made from a very nutritious food: tomatoes. You’re not alone if you’ve ever wondered if ketchup is good for you.

This article takes a look at the nutrition of ketchup, including its health benefits, potential downsides, and some suggestions for other condiments you can use in its place.

Ketchup recipes vary, but they’re made from a set of basic ingredients, including tomatoes, sugar, salt, and vinegar. This explains the sweet but tart flavor it contains.

Spices like allspice, cloves, cilantro, and even cinnamon or ginger can also be added.

Since it is a basic tomato-based condiment, ketchup has a simple nutritional profile. Also, since you often only use a small amount of ketchup with your meal, you won’t be getting your essential nutrition from ketchup.

1 tablespoon (17 grams) of ketchup contains (1):

  • calories: 17
  • Crabs: 4.5 grams
  • Protein: less than 1 gram
  • Fiber: less than 1 gram
  • Fat: less than 1 gram
  • Sugar: 7% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Sodium: 7% of DV

Compared to other condiments, 1 tablespoon of ketchup has nearly twice the calories of mustard, but less than a quarter of the amount of calories of mayonnaise (2, 3).

When it comes to sugar, ketchup tends to contain more than mayonnaise or mustard which each contain less than 1% of the DV for sugar per 1 tablespoon (17 gram) serving compared to the 7% found in the same amount of ketchup (1, 2, 3).


Ketchup is found to be low in calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat. Still, the condiment contains moderate amounts of sugar and salt as these are two of its main ingredients.

Some people consider ketchup “empty calories” because it contains salt and sugar, but lacks many vitamins or minerals.

At the same time, the main ingredients of ketchup are tomatoes, which are full of healthy plant compounds.

Research suggests that all of the health benefits of ketchup likely come from the carotenoid lycopene in tomatoes.

Lycopene itself is thought to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties, but little research suggests that eating ketchup itself will have the same effects (1, 4).

However, a recent study linked the consumption of a variety of lycopene-rich tomato foods, including ketchup, to a lower risk of gastric cancer (5).

In fact, ketchup remains one of the most concentrated sources of lycopene. When making ketchup, the heat used to process tomatoes makes it easier for your body to absorb lycopene (6).

When you eat ketchup, you can reap some of the health benefits of lycopene. Lycopene can (7):

  • Acts as an antioxidant. The powerful antioxidant activity of lycopene can protect your DNA and cellular proteins from inflammation (4).
  • Protects against cancer. Test-tube studies show that lycopene can prevent prostate cancer. Human studies link a higher dietary intake of lycopene from tomatoes and ketchup to a lower risk of stomach cancer (5, 6, 8).
  • Support your brain. Studies indicate that lycopene can help treat conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Some early animal research suggests it may protect against brain disorders due to chronic disease (9, ten, 11, 12).
  • Promote heart health. The antioxidants in lycopene may help fight heart disease. Human studies link a diet higher in lycopene to a lower risk of heart disease. Animal studies suggest that lycopene lowers blood fat and cholesterol levels (13, 14, 15).
  • Combat reproductive disorders. A human study observed lower lycopene blood levels in infertile men, while an animal study found that oral lycopene supplements were effective in treating testicular hypofunction, a condition that sometimes causes infertility (16, 17).

However, since ketchup is typically consumed in small amounts, fresh or canned whole tomatoes can provide you with more lycopene and fewer calories, less sugar, and more nutrients overall.

Finally, health issues like fertility and heart health can be best addressed by focusing on the quality of your overall diet. Ketchup and its lycopene content will not turn an unhealthy diet into a nutritious diet (7, 18).


Although ketchup doesn’t contain many vitamins or minerals, it is high in lycopene, a powerful plant chemical. Lycopene is a carotenoid with antioxidant properties that may fight cancer, protect your heart and brain, and provide support for male fertility.

For most people, ketchup is perfectly safe when consumed in moderation. The condiment can easily be included in your well-balanced diet.

Still, eating too much ketchup can cause you mild side effects.

The potential drawbacks of ketchup are:

  • It is quite high in sugar. 1 tablespoon of ketchup can contain 7% or more of your DV of sugar. If you like ketchup and have 4-5 tablespoons with a single meal, you can consume 35% or more of the DV for sugar in ketchup alone (1).
  • It is quite high in salt. Most packaged ketchup products are also high in salt. If you’re salt-sensitive, eating too much salt can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health problems (1, 19, 20, 21).
  • It is an acidic food. Tomatoes are a very acidic food, so concentrated tomato products like ketchup are no different. If you suffer from heartburn or reflux, eating too much ketchup could make these conditions worse (22, 23, 24).
  • Some people may be allergic. Although rare, it is possible to have an allergy or sensitivity to ketchup. A ketchup allergy can be caused by tomatoes or other condiment ingredients like vinegar that contain sulphites, salicylates and gluten (24, 25).


Eating ketchup in moderation — like a few tablespoons at a time — doesn’t carry a lot of risk. Still, if you’re worried about your sugar or salt intake, or if you suffer from acid reflux, heartburn, or food allergies, you may want to limit your intake.

Although ketchup can be part of a balanced diet when used in moderation, there may be times when you want to use a healthier alternative instead.

There are many brands and varieties of ketchup available, so if you’re looking for a variety that meets your specific needs, chances are you’ll find a product that works for you.

For example, there are many ketchup brands that make versions of the condiment that are:

If you’re looking for a strain like these, most labels make those distinctions clear.

Maybe you like the tomato taste of ketchup but want to find a less processed version. In this case, you can try to make it yourself at home.

Making homemade ketchup can also be a great way to moderate the amount of sugar and salt in your condiment.

If you’re looking for low-sugar options, you can also explore other condiments like:

  • salsa
  • tomato chutney or jam
  • hot sauce
  • Harissa


Healthier versions of ketchup are low in sugar and salt, organic and/or without high fructose corn syrup. You can also try making your own ketchup at home or replacing it with another condiment like salsa.

Ketchup is a classic condiment that you might like with your sandwiches, burgers, fries, etc.

If you like ketchup, you might be happy to know that because it’s made with tomatoes, it’s a good source of lycopene.

Adding more lycopene to your diet can help protect you against cancer, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.

However, some varieties of ketchup are found to be high in sugar and salt. Additionally, some ingredients in ketchup could aggravate your stomach if you suffer from acid reflux, gluten-related disorders, or tomato allergies.

To get the most health benefits from ketchup, try to limit your intake to a few tablespoons at a time. Pair ketchup with other nutritious foods and choose varieties of ketchup that are lower in sugar and salt.

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