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Does Tomato Sauce or Ketchup Contain Sugar?

When it comes to pasta sauce and condiments, tomato-based sauces and ketchup are two popular choices in Australian households. Both are incredibly versatile and can add a burst of flavour to your favourite dishes (plus, kids tend to love it on everything). 

If you're watching your own or your family's sugar intake, you might be wondering if these tomato-based products contain added sugars. With that in mind, let’s explore whether tomato (pasta) sauce or ketchup contains sugar and shed some light on what to look for when you're reading food labels.

The basics of tomato sauce

Tomato sauce for pasta is also the base for many Italian and Mediterranean dishes. It is typically made from tomatoes, water and various seasonings. The natural sugars in tomatoes themselves, such as fructose and glucose, contribute to the sauce's overall sweetness. Even in traditional home-made tomato sauce made from scratch, a little sugar is often added to balance the flavours.

You can check the ingredient list on the label of commercial tomato (pasta) sauce to see if it contains added sugar. 

Ketchup and sugar

Despite what many people think, tomato sauce and ketchup are not the same thing. Ketchup (sometimes called catsup) is known for its sweet and tangy flavour, but just to confuse things can also be sold as tomato sauce. While tomatoes are the primary ingredient, many commercial ketchup brands also include added sugar. 

Food producers can use a variety of sugars as ingredients to achieve that signature sweet taste in ketchup. The amount of added sugar can vary between brands and types of ketchup, with some having more sugar than others. 

There are now brands and types are formulated with reduced or no added sugars.

It’s important to read food labels

To determine whether a tomato sauce or ketchup product contains added sugars, it's essential to read the food labels thoroughly. Ingredients are typically listed in descending order by weight, with the most abundant ingredient listed first. 

If sugar is added, it will usually appear in the ingredient list, typically as "sugar”, "high-fructose corn syrup" or a similar term. If you're looking to minimise your sugar intake, opt for products with no added sugars, or choose reduced-sugar options.

Try home-made. 

For those who want full control over the sugar content in their tomato-based condiments and sauces, consider making homemade tomato sauce or ketchup. Homemade versions allow you to adjust the sweetness to your preference, using natural sweeteners or alternatives.

Whether you choose tomato sauce or ketchup, the sugar in these condiments depends on the brand and variety you purchase. Ketchup often contains added sugars, although reduced-sugar and no-sugar-added options are available. 

To make informed choices, check the ingredient list and nutrition labels when shopping for these condiments. 

Whether you prefer the classic sweetness and tang of ketchup or the natural flavours tomato sauce offers, there are options to suit your dietary preferences available in most Australian supermarkets. 


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