It can be spelled in two different ways, catsup or ketchup, and can refer to a sauce ranging from a tangy tomato creation to a spicy fish condiment. Does ketchup fit into the Paleo Diet?
Should I Eat Ketchup and Is it Paleo?
Originating from a Malaysian condiment closer to what most westerners would today classify as fish sauce, ketchup can refer to just about anything. When it comes to popular commercial brands, ketchup is primarily a mix of tomatoes, sugar (and/or High Fructose Corn Syrup and other refined sweeteners), salt, vinegar, onion powder and other seasonings and may contain GMO ingredients. Aside from a few specialty organic brands, almost no commercially-available ketchup is Paleo.
It should be noted that tomatoes are classified as a member of the nightshade family, a class of foods that can cause inflammation or other adverse reactions in some people. If you are following the autoimmune protocol (AIP), you should avoid tomato products including ketchup make with tomatoes.
Nutritional Value of Ketchup
The ingredients that you use to make your own ketchup will determine its nutritional value. A serving (1 tbsp or 17 grams) from a commercial brand of ketchup has:
- Zero fat
- Zero protein
- 4 grams of sugars
- 1 gram of carbohydrates
- 160 mg of sodium
Depending on how you make your own ketchup, the primary dietary considerations are the sodium (salt) and the sweetener that you add. Tomatoes, have a wide spectrum of healthy components.
Health Benefits of Ketchup
Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Tomatoes also contain ingredients that help your body manage cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as lower your chance of developing abnormal blood clots. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, vitamin K, potassium, copper and manganese.
If your ketchup contains onions, you’re doing yourself a nutritional favor. Onions are legendary foods eaten by humans for thousands of years. The outmost layers underneath the skin contain flavonoids, a special compound that is a known anti-oxidant. Onions also contain a lot of polyphenol, phytonutrients that are essential in combination with other substances for maintaining health. Onions are one of the healthiest foods on the planet and are an excellent source of biotin, manganese, copper, vitamin B6, vitamin C, fiber, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B1 and folate.
If you are monitoring your carbohydrate intake closely, or you are concerned about the possible health risks associated with refined sweeteners and GMOs, use commercial ketchup sparingly or not at all.
Where to Buy Ketchup
There are a number of organic ketchup brands for sale in grocery stores and popular retailers but most of them rely on cane sugar for the sweetener, an ingredient that is not Paleo. In general, you’ll probably have to make your own ketchup if you can’t live without this tangy, semi-sweet condiment.
How to Make Ketchup
The good news is that it is fairly easy to make ketchup. Once you get the hang of it, you can bring your artistic flair to this condiment, adding a wide variety of flavors and subtle notes to create a truly special sauce.
The following recipe uses tomato paste however, if you prefer to use fresh tomatoes, you can substitute with half a pound. Blanch the whole, raw tomatoes for 60 seconds in boiling water and then peel. Cook and strain the results until you’ve got a slightly thickened tomato sauce.
Basic recipe for Paleo ketchup:
- 6 ounces of tomato paste
- 1/3 cup of water
- pinch of salt
- pinch or two of dry mustard
- 1 small onion
Blend the ingredients and then alter the recipe to suit your taste. Many Paleo cooks use one or more of the following ingredients to add more depth of flavor:
- pinch of (ground) cloves
- pinch of allspice
- pinch of cayenne or other hot (ground) pepper
- pinch or two of cinnamon
- pinch of garlic powder or one clove of fresh garlic
If the results come out too savory, try adding a little sweetener of your choice. Some Paleo cooks add a teaspoon of coconut sugar while others prefer a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup.