America's Favorite Condiment: It is Good or Bad for You?
Publish Date: 8/8/2009 originally at Yahoo! Contributor Network/Associated Content
I always laugh when I tell my boyfriend he needs to eat more vegetables and he responds with, "But I ate some ketchup on that sandwich!" or something of the like... Obviously a little ketchup doesn't count as a full serving of vegetables, but it does have some health benefits.
Ketchup is popular around the world, and people love it on burger and sandwiches, hot dogs, french fries, meatloaf, eggs, and mixed with other ingredients for recipes. It is basically composed of cooked and preserved tomatoes, vinegar, and spices. There are actually government standards as to how thick ketchup needs to be. There are several variations on the spelling of the word ketchup, including the most popular ketchup and catsup. One tablespoon typically contains no fat and very few calories (less than 20).
Although most ketchups are somewhat high in sodium, they all contain high doses of lycopene (and lycopene, belonging to the carotene family, is also what gives tomatoes their red color), which is one of the most powerful antioxidants we know of and is considered a phytonutrient. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals that can cause damage, including premature aging and many types of cancers. Tomatoes and lycopene help prevent cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, osteoporosis, and a slew of other diseases and conditions. The more lycopene and other antioxidants and phytonutrients you include in your diet, the healthier you will be.
Tomatoes are certainly healthy for you to eat, but studies have also shown that when tomatoes are processed either by pureeing into sauces, juices, and pastes, including ketchup, the lycopene is absorbed up to four times more efficiently as compared to eating raw tomatoes! I think it's time for some of us to re-think how we feel about ketchup! Who knew it contained so much of this good stuff?
Lycopene is present in fresh tomatoes, but more potent or easily absorbed in ketchup, as stated earlier. Lycopene is also present in watermelon, grapefruit, guava, papaya, apricots, rose hip, and other fruits, vegetables and algae.
I always thought ketchup had little to offer other than adding flavor, but who knew slathering a little kethcup on your foods would help your body fight cancer and disease? If you are a mom who has told your kids to lay off all that ketchup, or a worried wife (or girlfriend) who sees your man oozing too much ketchup on foods, be happy! I love tomatoes and tomato sauces, and I like ketchup. I also like many of the other fruits and foods that contain lycopene. It's good to know it adds a little antioxidant boost to my meal!