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Can Diabetics Eat Tomato Sauce?

Diabetics are encouraged to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, but it’s not always easy to tell which ones are the best. Since fruits have sugar in them, are they safe for diabetics to eat? Are there any ways to eat vegetables in a recipe that doesn’t take away their healthy aspects? Tomato sauce is a very popular way to eat tomatoes. Is that safe? Here’s how tomatoes and tomato sauce break down for diabetics.

Note: “tomato sauce” in this article refers to the sauce typically put over pasta and not the popular condiment ketchup that is sometimes referred to as tomato sauce.

Nutrition Fact of Tomato Sauce

Tomatoes (which are both fruits and vegetables) [1] are one of the most commonly consumed plants. They are naturally low in sugar, containing only two grams of sugar and four grams of carbohydrates in a serving. They contain many vitamins, including vitamins A, C, E, K, and folate. [2]

But that’s just tomatoes, not tomatoes in a sauce. The good thing is that tomato sauce doesn’t take away any of the vitamins in tomatoes. The bad thing is that other things can be added to tomato sauce that is not nearly as good for diabetics to eat.

Tomato sauce is a thick sauce made from cooked and pureed tomatoes. Most tomato sauces have herbs like basil and oregano added to them. Sometimes other vegetables are added, like onions or garlic. [3] Those ingredients are usually all that’s in most homemade tomato sauces, and none of those things is bad for diabetics.

When most people have tomato sauce, though, they’re not making it at home. It’s usually coming from a can or a glass jar they bought at the grocery store. And that’s where the overall nutrition of tomato sauce gets blurry. Pre-made tomato sauces, like a lot of other pre-made foods, can be high in salt and sugar.

Sugar is actually the less of the two problems in commercial tomato sauces. “No Sugar Added” is commonly seen on labels, [4][5][6] and even brands that do add sugar add small amounts, 2g to 4g per serving. [7][8] Most of the sugar in tomato sauce is from the tomatoes themselves, and most brands have very low carbohydrate levels.

Salt is where tomato sauce starts to become a problem. Salt doesn’t affect blood sugar levels, but eating a lot of salt increases the rate of high blood pressure. Diabetics, in general, are more at risk of high blood pressure in the first place. Since high blood pressure can lead to stroke and heart disease (both of which diabetics are also at increased risk of), diabetics should try to avoid eating salt if at all possible. 6g (about a teaspoon) is enough for one day. [9]

Even the sauces with no sugar added often can’t say the same about salt. The sauce listed above with the lowest sodium still has 280 mg a serving [10], while the highest has a whopping 490 mg. [11][12] Many of those brands offer a No Salt Added version, which brings salt levels down to much more manageable levels, as low as 15 mg [13] a serving.

Benefits of Having Tomato Sauce

As mentioned above, tomatoes are rich in vitamins and low in overall calories. A study of type 2 diabetics found that when they ate at least 200g of raw tomato a day, their blood pressure went down, and they had healthier levels of certain blood proteins. [14] These benefits will be the same if the tomatoes eventually wind up in a sauce, although if that sauce is one of the higher salt ones, the effect on blood pressure would presumably be lessened.

Does cooking make tomato sauce less nutritious? Not only does it not, but some research also says it makes tomatoes healthier. A study done on antioxidants in tomatoes found that both cooked and raw tomatoes lost antioxidants when digested. However, when the tomatoes were cooked, the availability of one antioxidant, lycopene, actually increased, and probiotic levels in the gut increased with the lycopene. [15]

Lycopene affects more than just probiotics in the gut. Low levels of lycopene and beta-carotene (which is also found in tomatoes) have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. [16] When a study specifically looked at eating tomatoes, it found that the lycopene in tomatoes could help lower cholesterol levels. [17]

Can Diabetes Eat Tomato Sauce?

Tomato sauce, all by itself, isn’t bad for diabetics at all. But the pre-made tomato sauces found at the store are usually high in salt and sometimes high in sugar. Diabetics are better off making their own tomato sauce at home.

Does Tomato Sauce Spike my Blood Sugar Level?

Tomatoes have a low glycemic index (GI) level. Their GI level is 30 (out of 100), and their overall GI load is 1.1. [18] Garlic, which is commonly added to tomato sauce, has an identical GI level of 30. [19] So unless a lot of sugar is added to the tomato sauce, it’s unlikely to cause blood sugar to spike. Tomatoes also have a lot of fiber (1.2g in a 100g serving), making them have an even smaller effect on blood sugar levels. [20]

Tomato sauces found in the store can have more sugar in them than a diabetic might want to consume. It’s best to look at the labels for any added sugars if you are buying pre-made tomato sauce and pick the ones with little or none.

Homemade Diabetic-Friendly Spaghetti/Pasta Sauce Recipe

Diabetes UK offers a simple tomato sauce recipe that is diabetic-friendly. The Diabetes Food Hub offers another sugar-free tomato sauce recipe.


Are Cherry Tomatoes Good for Diabetics?

Cherry tomatoes are a type of tomato that are smaller than most tomatoes. They are nutritionally identical to larger tomatoes and are also good food for diabetics to eat.

Tomato Sauce and Soup, which is better for Diabetics?

Tomato sauce and tomato soup have similar bases, but many tomato soup bases call for butter and thus have more fat and calories. Homemade versions of both are better for diabetics than pre-made ones.

Are there any Health Sauce Alternatives for Diabetics?

Diabetics don’t need to give up tomato sauce if they are watching their carbohydrate and salt intake. Making tomato sauce at home gives you all the flavor without the added sugar and salt.

Does Tomato Juice Increase Blood Sugar

Tomato juice does not increase blood sugar by any significant amount. Many tomato juices on the market have added salt, however, and thus should be carefully consumed.

Final Thoughts

Tomato sauce is popular for a reason – it’s rich, warm, and comforting. As long as they stay away from pre-made brands with added sugar and salt, there’s no reason that diabetics shouldn’t enjoy them along with everyone else.


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  2. Tomatoes in a Diabetic Diet? | Sutter Health. (n.d.).
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  14. Shidfar, F., Froghifar, N., Vafa, M., Rajab, A., Hosseini, S., Shidfar, S., & Gohari, M. (2010). The effects of tomato consumption on serum glucose, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein A-I, homocysteine and blood pressure in type 2 diabetic patients. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 62(3), 289–294.
  15. García-Hernández, J., Hernández-Pérez, M., Peinado, I., Andrés, A., & Heredia, A. (2018). Tomato-antioxidants enhance viability of L. reuteri under gastrointestinal conditions while the probiotic negatively affects bioaccessibility of lycopene and phenols. Journal of Functional Foods, 43, 1–7.
  16. Karppi, J., Laukkanen, J. A., Makikallio, T. H., & Kurl, S. (2011). Low serum lycopene and  -carotene increase risk of acute myocardial infarction in men. The European Journal of Public Health, 22(6), 835–840.
  17. Palozza, P., Catalano, A., Simone, R. E., Mele, M. C., & Cittadini, A. (2012). Effect of lycopene and tomato products on cholesterol metabolism. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, 61(2), 126–134.
  18. admin. (2021, February 8). Tomatoes: Glycemic Index (GI), glycemic load (GL) and calories per 100g. Glycemic Index Guide.
  19. admin. (2021, February 8). Garlic: Glycemic Index (GI), glycemic load (GL) and calories per 100g. Glycemic Index Guide.
  20. FoodData Central. (n.d.).

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