Pasta sauce can be a great way to sneak more vegetables into your diet, helping you eat the recommended 2.5 cups each day. Eating enough vegetables helps lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, obesity and Type 2 diabetes because of the fiber, vitamins and minerals they contain.
The average ready-to-serve marinara pasta sauce contains 65 calories per 1/2-cup serving and provides you with 2 grams each of protein and fat as well as 10 grams of carbs, including 2.4 grams of fiber. This is about 10 percent of the daily value for fiber of 25 grams if you consume a 2,000-calorie diet. Getting plenty of fiber in your diet helps you fill up with fewer calories and keeps you from getting constipated, as well as lowering your risk for heart disease.
Eating pasta sauce is also a great way to up your vitamin intake. Pouring 1/2 cup of marinara sauce on top of your whole-wheat pasta provides you with an extra 5.2 milligrams of niacin, or 26 percent of the DV; 858 international units of vitamin A, or 17 percent of the DV; 3.2 milligrams of vitamin E, or 16 percent of the DV; and 18.3 micrograms of vitamin K, or 23 percent of the DV. Niacin is important for making hormones and improving your circulation, and vitamin A helps with immune function and vision. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and helps with immune function, and vitamin K helps your blood clot and strengthens your bones. Marinara pasta sauce also contains 16,718 micrograms of lycopene, an antioxidant which may lower your cancer risk, and 251 micrograms of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are plant chemicals that help keep your eyes healthy.
You get small amounts of all of the essential minerals when you eat pasta sauce, as well as larger amounts of potassium. Each 1/2-cup serving of pasta sauce provides you with 421 milligrams, or 12 percent of the DV, of this mineral which helps keep your blood pressure from getting too high and keeps your heart beating regularly.
If you use store-bought pasta sauce it can be high in sodium, with 553 milligrams per serving. This is 24 percent of the recommended daily limit for sodium of 2,300 milligrams for healthy people. You can make your pasta sauce healthier by chopping up extra vegetables in a variety of colors and adding them to your sauce; color indicates which beneficial compounds are in different vegetables. Try adding red peppers, grated carrots, chopped spinach and mushrooms for a good mix of nutrients.
- USDA: Choose My Plate: Vegetables
- Diabetes Forecast: Eating Colorful Food Has Health Benefits
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Sauce, Pasta, Spaghetti/Marinara, Ready-to-serve
- MayoClinic.com: Lycopene
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: 14. Appendix F: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.