Catching on to the Benefits of Ketchup

Ketchup (also catsup) is a sweet and tangy sauce, typically made from tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and seasonings such as onions, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, and celery. Ketchup is often used as a condiment with various dishes that are usually served hot, including fried potatoes and sandwiches. Ketchup is sometimes used as a basis or ingredient for other sauces and dressings.

As far back as 300 B.C., Chinese texts began documenting the use of fermented pastes made from fish and sometimes soybeans. The fish sauce, called “ge-thcup” or “koe-cheup” by speakers of the Southern Min dialect, was easy to store. Local recipes for ke-tchup varied, but the first recipe on record dates back to 544 AD: “take the intestine, stomach, and bladder of the yellow fish, shark, and mullet, and wash them well. Mix them with a moderate amount of salt and place them in a jar. Seal tightly and incubate in the sun. It will be ready in twenty days in summer, fifty days in spring or fall and a hundred days in winter.”

In the early 16th century, British settlers in Fuji were introduced to the sauce the Chinese sailors called ke-tchup, which by that time had been simplified into a pungent, amber-colored liquid made out of salted and fermented anchovies. It spread along trade routes to Indonesia and the Philippines, where British traders developed a taste for it. When British traders headed back to England, they attempted to re-create the with the addition of beer. Ketchup was first mentioned in print around 1690.

Eventually, anchovies were taken out of the sauce entirely and replaced with walnut ketchup (Jane Austen’s favorite kind) and mushroom ketchup (which tastes similar to Worcestershire sauce). Finally, in 1812, James Mease, a Philadelphia scientist, wrote that the choicest ketchup came from “love apples,” as tomatoes were then called, and tomato ketchup made its debut.

Mushrooms, nuts, anchovies, and tomatoes all share umami, the savory fifth taste. The “meatiness” you perceive when eating a perfectly ripe tomato occurs naturally in mushrooms, nuts, and fermented or aged products like soy sauce and miso. Umami also boosts the flavor of food in the same way that MSG does.

Henry J. Heinz released his first bottle of ketchup in 1876. At that time, Heinz used many of the same preservatives and additives as his competitors, even coal tar to dye his ketchup red.

In 1904, Heinz’s chief food scientist, G.F. Mason, found a good preservative-free recipe for ketchup.  By 1906, Heinz was producing five million bottles of preservative-free ketchup every year.

Naturally, ketchup is rather thin and watery, because the tomato pulp that gives it consistency is sieved out. As a result, commercial ketchup makers add a small amount of xanthan gum to their ketchup recipes to thicken it. Allowed to flow naturally, ketchup only travels at a speed of 147 feet per hour. The only way to speed it up is to apply force, which decreases the ketchup’s viscosity, and thus increases its flow rate. This is why you thump a bottle of ketchup to get it flowing from the bottle. The concussive force makes it flow faster.

But the bottom of a bottle of ketchup isn’t actually the best place to thump it. If you apply force to the bottom of a bottle, the ketchup closest to where you smacked will absorb most of the force of impact. It will flow freely, but the ketchup that is clogging the neck and mouth of the bottle won’t. The solution is to tap at the top of the bottle, not the bottom. That unclogs the mouth and lets the ketchup below to freely flow.

Ketchup can:

  1. Fight free radicals. The vitamin C in ketchup functions as an antioxidant and prevents oxygen-based damage to your cells. Copper in ketchup helps form superoxide dismutase (SOD), an antioxidant enzyme, and is important in a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzymes.
  2. Help prevent cancer. The vitamin C in ketchup helps prevent cancer by neutralizing volatile oxygen free radical molecules and preventing damage to your DNA that can lead to cancer and by destabilizing a tumor’s ability to grow under oxygen-starved conditions. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene. These carotenoids may help prevent various types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer. Most commercial ketchup purchased in the United States has been cooked, and cooked, processed tomatoes are the best source of lycopene, because the heat makes the carotenoids more available for absorption.
  3. Help prevent heart disease. Potassium in ketchup regulates muscle contraction, including heart rythym, and lowers blood pressure by counteracting the detrimental effects of sodium and regulating fluid balance.  Heart-healthy lycopene may also help prevent heart disease.
  4. Promote strong bodies. The vitamin C in ketchup helps produce collagen, which supports strong bones, muscles, blood vessels, gums, mucous membranes, corneas, joints, and other supporting cells and tissues. The vitamin A in ketchup (made from many carotenoids) is needed for vision, healthy skin and mucous membranes, bone and tooth growth, and immune system health. Potassium in ketchup promotes regular muscle growth and maintains the density and strength of bones by decreasing urinary calcium loss. Copper in ketchup works together with iron in the formation of hemoglobin and red blood cells, and helps synthesize collagen and elastin, the substances that provide structure, strength, and elasticity in blood vessels, bones, and joints.
  5. Build your immune system. The vitamin C in ketchup supports your immune system, processes toxins for elimination, and acts as an antihistamine. The vitamin A in ketchup also promotes immune system health.

Nutrients in 1 Ounce of Low-Sodium Ketchup




vitamin C

4.2 mg


vitamin A

261 IU



107 mg



0.1 mg



7 g



0.4 mg


vitamin E

0.4 mg



0.046 mg


vitamin B6

0.044 mg



9.2 mg



5.3 mg



5 mg



2.8 mcg


vitamin K

0.8 mg



0.5 g



0.1 mg






3.5 mg



0.1 mg



0.1 g



5.6 mg



0.003 mg



0.1 mcg



4679 mcg

beta carotene

157 mcg

Buy organic ketchup without high-fructose corn syrup. Not only are you likely to avoid unwanted pesticide residues and other contaminants if you purchase organic, organic ketchup has a higher lycopene content versus non-organic ketchup.

Store unopened bottles of ketchup up to one year in a cool, dry place. After you open it, store ketchup in a cool environment, away from sun or heat, for about 1 month. For longer shelf life after opening, store ketchup in the refrigerator. Storing opened ketchup in a heated environment such as in direct sunlight or in a kitchen that is constantly hot can invite fermentation, which makes the ketchup squirt out when opened. Discard any ketchup that shows signs of fermentation. Exposure to direct sunlight will also darken ketchup.

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this blog to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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