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Find a Tasty, Healthy Pasta Sauce

Half the sauces we tested were salt bombs, containing 400 mg of sodium or more per ½ cup. You should have less than 2,300 mg per day. Three of the sauces—Mezzetta Napa Valley Homemade Tomato & Sweet Basil, Trader Giotto’s (Trader Joe’s) Traditional Marinara, and Hunt’s Traditional—clocked in at more than 500 mg per serving.

“A manufacturer may hesitate to lower the sodium because they believe that consumers won’t accept lower-sodium versions,” Keating says. “But in our tests, the two sauces at the top of the ratings were low in sodium.” The Silver Palate Low Sodium Marinara (with 115 mg of sodium per ½ cup) and Victoria Low Sodium Marinara (120 mg) scored an Excellent for nutrition and a Very Good for taste.

“Although some higher-sodium sauces got excellent scores for taste, the differences were so slight that it makes sense to choose lower-sodium,” Keating says. “And sprinkled with a little cheese, you probably wouldn’t notice any difference in flavor between a lower- and higher-sodium sauce of similar overall quality.” If you’re having trouble adjusting to less salt, Keating suggests stirring ¼ teaspoon into an entire jar of low-sodium sauce. That still keeps the sodium count lower than it is in most of the worst offenders. Or try Rao’s Homemade Sensitive Marinara. With 290 mg of sodium per serving, it was the lowest-sodium sauce among those that rated an Excellent for taste.

All tomato sauce gets a touch of sweetness from the natural sugars in tomatoes, tomato purée, or tomato paste. Certain products have added sweeteners, though, such as sugar, cane sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup. “Keeping added sugars to a minimum in your diet is important for weight control and reducing your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes,” Keating says. Don’t worry that you’ll be sacrificing flavor if you skip sauces with added sugars. Just two of the 18 sauces that received at least a Very Good taste rating in our tests contained added sugars.

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