Marinara Sauce Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Marinara sauce
Marinara Sauce.

Whether making pasta or pizza or turning last night’s grilled chicken into chicken parmesan, marinara sauce is a must. This kitchen pantry staple helps you get a delicious meal on the table before the hunger takes over and you are ordering takeout.

With tomatoes as the main ingredient, you may even count the sauce as a serving of vegetables. But you may wonder if marinara sauce makes a nutritious choice.

Marinara sauce is low in calories and a good source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, and potassium; but high in sodium.  Here is a look at the nutrition, health benefits, and uses of marinara sauce.

Marinara Sauce Nutrition Facts 

A 1/2 cup (132g) serving of marinara sauce has 66 calories, 2 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, and 10 grams of carbohydrates. The following nutrition information comes from the USDA.

  • Calories: 66
  • Fat: 2g
  • Sodium: 577mg
  • Carbohydrates: 10g
  • Fiber: 2.4g
  • Sugars: 6.5g
  • Protein: 2g



Carbs

Most of the calories in marinara sauce come from carbs with 10 total grams per serving. The sauce is also a fairly good source of fiber, with 2.4 grams in a 1/2 cup.

However, more than half of the total carbohydrates—6.5 grams—in marinara sauce are sugar. Though many store-bought varieties have added sugar, some of the sugar in marinara sauce is from the fruit sugar fructose naturally found in tomatoes.

Fats

Marinara sauce is low in fat with only 2 grams per serving. Most of the fat in the sauce is healthy unsaturated fat, including 0.4 grams of monounsaturated fat and 0.9 grams of polyunsaturated fat. When part of a healthy diet, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat may help lower cholesterol.

Protein

Marinara sauce has 2 grams of protein per serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

One of the reasons you may be able to count marinara sauce as a serving of vegetables is because it contains many of the essential vitamins and minerals found in the healthy food group. One serving of the sauce meets more than 20% of your daily vitamin A and E needs. It is also a good source of vitamin K, vitamin B6, niacin, copper, and potassium.

However, with 566 milligrams of sodium in a 1/2 cup serving, marinara sauce is a very high-sodium food. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends you limit your daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams or less.

Though a good source of many health-promoting nutrients, one serving of marinara sauce meets about 25% of your daily sodium limit. To get the health benefits without the salt, use low-sodium marinara sauce, which has about 40 milligrams of sodium in a 1/2 cup serving.

Calories

One serving of marinara sauce has 66 calories. About 61% of the calories in the sauce come from carbohydrates, while 12% come from protein and 27% come from fat. 

Health Benefits

Because marinara sauces are rich in vitamins and minerals, there are a number of potential health benefits. Here is an overview of how marinara sauces can contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

May Protect Against Cancer

Marinara sauce is rich in an antioxidant called lycopene. Part of the carotenoid family, like beta-carotene, lycopene is the pigment that makes tomatoes, and your sauce, red.

Carotenoids like lycopene are antioxidants that protect your body and cells from oxidative damage. Preclinical studies indicate that as antioxidants, these carotenoids protect against cancer by killing cancer cells and stopping them from growing.

There is some evidence that eating tomatoes may reduce your risk of stomach, lung, and colon cancer. Research also indicates diets high in lycopene-rich tomato products may reduce your risk of cancer death.

While the evidence is promising, most health experts agree that more research is needed before health claims can be made. Both tomatoes and marinara sauce contain lycopene, however, your body absorbs more of the lycopene and other carotenoids from the marinara sauce. 

May Support Heart Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. What you eat plays a significant role in your risk of developing heart disease.

A review of epidemiological evidence indicates eating tomato products rich in lycopene, like marinara sauce, may reduce your risk of heart disease. High blood levels of lycopene may also lower your risk of having a stroke. 

May Keep Bones Strong

Though calcium is the primary mineral found in your bones, it’s not the only nutrient your body needs to keep your bones healthy and strong. Vitamin K and lycopene also play important roles in promoting bone growth and preventing bone loss.

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin best known for the role it plays in helping form blood clots. But these fat-soluble vitamins also promote bone health by activating proteins that support bone formation and mineralization.

There is some evidence that diets rich in carotenoids increase bone mineral density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a serious bone disease that makes you more susceptible to fractures. It is theorized that the antioxidant properties in carotenoids like lycopene play a role in supporting bone health.

A small pilot study published in January 2020 investigated how daily consumption of a lycopene-rich tomato sauce affects bone mineralization and bone loss in a group of postmenopausal women. The researchers found that the lycopene-rich sauce may protect bones by preventing bone loss.

The researchers also theorize that lycopene may support bone growth by positively influencing bone cell and collagen production. Marinara sauce is rich in both vitamin K and lycopene, and also has a small amount of calcium.

May Protect Skin Health

Your skin serves as your body’s first line of defense against germs, toxins, and injuries. Unfortunately, your skin’s primary function also makes it more vulnerable to damage, especially from the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.

But you can provide your skin an extra layer of protection by eating foods rich in beta-carotene and lycopene. These two carotenoids protect your skin, making it less vulnerable to UV damage.

May Prevent Diabetes

Epidemiological evidence indicates that high consumption of foods rich in lycopene may prevent diabetes. It is theorized that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of lycopene may play a role in preventing this chronic health condition. These same activities also may also prevent obesity

Allergies

When buying jarred marinara sauce, carefully read the label to look for potential allergens like wheat, gluten, or soy. Tomatoes are not a common food allergen, but you should avoid marinara sauce if you have unpleasant reactions after eating tomatoes, like indigestion or rash.

In some cases, people may develop oral allergy syndrome related to tomatoes. But this has more to do with a pollen allergy than a food allergy. If you experience an itchy mouth or throat after eating tomatoes or tomato products, talk to a healthcare provider. You may have to limit your intake of tomatoes and tomato products.

Usually, oral allergy syndrome is not life-threatening. But if you experience swelling of the lips or tongue or have difficulty breathing, get medical attention right away.

Adverse Effects

Marinara sauce is a source of potassium. If you follow a low-potassium diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about whether or not marinara sauce can fit into your meal plan.

You also want to be mindful of the vitamin K content in your marinara sauce if you take warfarin, also known as Coumadin. Warfarin is an anticoagulant that prevents the formation of blood clots. Fluctuations in the amount of vitamin K you eat day-to-day affects how well your warfarin works.

Varieties

A simple marinara sauce consists of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs. But there are many variations of the sauce, including versions that contain capers, olives, and anchovies. If you have health concerns, like high blood pressure or diabetes, you may look for low-sodium or sugar-free varieties of the sauce. 

Storage and Food Safety

Jarred marinara sauce is a shelf-stable food and maintains its quality for up to 2 years in your kitchen cabinet. Keeping unopened jars in the refrigerator will not lengthen its shelf-life. Once opened, consume or discard your sauce within 5 days.

How to Prepare

Making your own marinara sauce is the best way to control the ingredients so you get the most health benefits. All you need is fresh garlic and onions, canned tomatoes, olive oil, oregano, and salt and you can have your own homemade marinara in 30 minutes.

Use your sauce to make pizza, baked ziti, or spaghetti and meatballs. You can even vary your recipe, adding red pepper flakes for spice or cooked ground turkey for a healthy meat sauce.

Recipes

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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