Is Ketchup Paleo? (4 Reasons It Is Not!)

Going paleo typically involves letting go of some of the food items you enjoy and are used to. But then, many food items like ketchup fall in a grey area, so you cannot immediately tell if they are paleo or not. This will leave you wondering, is ketchup paleo or not?

Is ketchup paleo?

Generally, ketchup is not paleo. In almost all commercial ketchup brands, you will find ingredients such as vinegar, refined sweeteners, and GMO ingredients. These ingredients make ketchup non-paleo, so if you have a commercial ketchup brand with you, it is most likely not paleo.

Below, we further discuss the reasons why ketchup is not paleo. We also talk about the health benefits of ketchup, amongst other things.

tomato ketchup sauce on white wooden table

Is Ketchup Paleo? (4 Reasons It Is Not!)

As we have already mentioned, ketchup is not paleo. So, if you are on a paleo diet, you should avoid ketchup.

The following are some reasons why ketchup is not paleo:

Ketchup Contains Vinegar

One of the primary ingredients used in making ketchup is vinegar. However, vinegar is technically not paleo since it was not something humans consumed in the paleolithic era.

You might argue that if the vinegar comes from a paleo ingredient like apple (apple cider vinegar), it is paleo. But counter opinions say apple cider vinegar comes from processing apples. So, it is not ideal for paleo.

The bottom line is vinegar is generally not paleo. So, its presence in ketchup makes ketchup non-paleo.

Ketchup Contains Refined Sugar

Besides vinegar, another non-paleo ingredient you will find in ketchup is refined sugars. Ketchup typically contains sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Of course, if the ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, it most definitely is not paleo.

High fructose corn syrup falls into two classes of non-paleo ingredients: refined sugar and processed grain. So, for sure, it can never be paleo. And ketchup that contains high fructose corn syrup or any refined sugar can never be paleo.

Ketchup Contains GMO Ingredients

We have not been able to verify if GMO ingredients are paleo or not. However, we know that some projects dedicated to the paleo lifestyle actively avoid GMO ingredients.

So, you could assume there are some reservations about GMO ingredients in the paleo world. Therefore, you should avoid such ingredients in your paleo diet.

Interestingly, high fructose corn syrup typically comes from genetically modified corn. This makes the subtle aversion to GMO ingredients in paleo not too surprising.

Ketchup Contains Preservatives

Besides the main ingredient used in making it, ketchup may also contain preservatives. Preservatives are most likely not paleo.

One of the preservatives used in ketchup is sodium benzoate. Ordinarily, sodium benzoate is safe. But when it combines with vitamin C, there is a chance it will form benzene. Benzene is a potential carcinogen, so it is unsafe.

Cornstarch is sometimes used as a stabilizer in ketchup. However, cornstarch is non-paleo because it contains almost nothing else besides starch. Apart from that, cornstarch is highly processed.

Xanthan gum may also be used as a stabilizer in ketchup. And since xanthan gum comes from sugar, it is not paleo.

home made ketchup

Health Benefits of Ketchup

Ketchup is more than just refined sugars and preservatives. It also contains tomatoes, seasonings, and spices – all of which are beneficial to the health in different ways. So, while ketchup is not paleo, it can be helpful to your health in the following ways:

Ketchup Can Help With Oxidative Stress

The main ingredient in ketchup is tomato. Tomato is an abundant source of lycopene, which is a potent antioxidant.

Since it is an antioxidant, lycopene will neutralize free radicals in the body. As a result, it will reduce oxidative stress.

Besides lycopene from tomatoes, onions are also chock-full of antioxidants. So, if you have onions in your ketchup, it makes it all even better.

You can also expect some antioxidants from the other spices present in ketchup. So, ketchup may contribute to helping you fight oxidative stress.

Ketchup Can Help Heart Health

According to some studies, tomato – the primary ingredient in ketchup – may help improve heart health by reducing the risk of strokes and heart attack.

Also, lycopene – the main antioxidant in tomatoes – may also help reduce bad cholesterol in the body. With bad cholesterol reduced, the chances of heart diseases become even lower.

Like tomatoes, onions can help heart health by reducing the level of bad cholesterol in the body. Some studies even show that onions may help lower blood pressure.

Besides tomatoes and onions, some studies show that certain herbs and spices (like sage, oregano, and rosemary) reduce the risk of heart diseases.

ketchup on a plate with tomatoes and onions on the table

Ketchup Can Help Digestive Health

Tomatoes, onions, and spices generally are good sources of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber, in turn, promotes the activity of good gut bacteria. It also promotes gut movement.

While ketchup can offer the benefits above because it contains tomatoes and spices, remember those are not the only ingredients. Some ingredients like high fructose corn syrup are not so healthy. So, you should only consume ketchup moderately, or you are taking in a lot of unhealthy ingredients alongside the healthy ones.

Final Thoughts

Ketchup is not paleo. While it is a mixture of paleo-friendly and non-paleo ingredients, the non-paleo ingredients nullify its paleo-friendliness. So, ketchup cannot be a part of your strict paleo diet.


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