Sodium — a term often used interchangeably with salt — is an essential mineral. In the body, sodium is used for important body functions such as muscle contractions and fluid balance (1).
However, too much salt in the diet can lead to chronically high blood pressure — medically known as hypertension — which is a risk factor for several diseases including heart disease and chronic kidney disease. For this reason, most health professionals agree the average person should limit sodium intake to no more than 2300mg (1 teaspoon of salt) per day (2).
Unfortunately, many Americans are far from achieving this goal. In fact, it’s been estimated that 90% of Americans consume too much sodium (3).
Many people think the biggest contributor of sodium in the diet is added at the table with the salt shaker. The reality is that salt added at the table typically only accounts for 5% of daily sodium intake — the majority of sodium in the average American’s diet comes from processed food and restaurant or takeout meals (4).
Store-bought pasta sauce is no exception. Though some are more processed than others, many brands are laden with sodium. However, there are several low sodium pasta sauces on the market today.
Here is a breakdown on how to choose a healthy low sodium pasta sauce, plus 7 of the best options based on their nutritional value.
How to choose a healthy low sodium pasta sauce
There are countless different types of store-bought pasta sauces to choose from. To choose a healthier pasta sauce, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Sodium content. The amount of sodium in store-bought pasta sauce varies greatly by brand, with some varieties containing over 600mg in a single serving. For reference, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that a product must contain less than 140mg per serving to claim it’s “low sodium” on the label (5).
- Added sugar. Added sugars are concentrated forms of sugar, introduced to food during processing. These sugars are often hidden in store-bought foods, including those we typically think of as savory such as pasta sauce. Because added sugars provide energy but offer little to no other nutritional value, The American Heart Association recommends limiting them to 25 to 36 grams (6 to 9 teaspoons) per day (6).
- Saturated fat. Saturated fat is a type of fat mainly found in animal-based foods such as meat and dairy. For heart health, strong scientific evidence supports reducing saturated fat in the diet (7). The amount of saturated fat in pasta sauce depends on the type you choose — for example, there is likely to be more saturated fat in a cream-based sauce such as Alfredo than in a tomato-based marinara sauce.
- Other nutrients. Some pasta sauces are rich in beneficial nutrients such as iron, calcium, potassium, and fiber . Check the nutrition facts label — if there is 10% of the recommended daily value (DV) or more of any of these nutrients, you can consider it a good source.
1. Silver Palate Low Sodium Marinara
With only 115mg (5% of the recommended DV) per 1/2-cup serving, Silver Palate Low Sodium Marina is a true low sodium pasta sauce.
It’s also made with wholesome ingredients and contains no added sugars.
Additionally, it’s a good source of iron, a mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Each serving supplies 15% of the DV of this essential nutrient.
2. Daves Gourmet Organic Roasted Garlic & Sweet Basil Pasta Sauce
Daves Gourmet Organic Roasted Garlic & Sweet Basil Pasta Sauce is another nutritious low sodium pasta sauce, supplying only 125mg (5% of DV) per 1/2-cup serving.
This pasta sauce does contain some added sugar in the form of evaporated cane juice — hence the word “sweet” in its name.
3. Harris Teeter Organics Green Pesto Sauce
Harris Teeter Organics Green Pesto Sauce is relatively low in sodium compared to other pesto sauces, containing only 170mg (7% of the DV) per 2-tablespoon serving.
It’s free of added sugar and is made without any artificial ingredients or additives.
However, like most pesto sauces, it contains cheese. Therefore, it does contain some saturated fat — 2 grams, or 10% of the recommended DV per serving.
4. Monte Bene Spicy Marinara Pasta Sauce
Monte Bene Spicy Marina Pasta Sauce supplies 189mg, or 8% of the DV for sodium per 1/2-cup serving.
Despite it’s low salt content, this pasta sauce is anything but bland. A blend of crushed red pepper, black pepper, and white pepper give this marinara sauce a delicious kick.
5. Cucina Antica Pasta Sauce La Vodka
Some vodka sauces contain over 25% of the recommended DV in a single serving.
In contrast, each 1/2-cup serving of Cucina Antica Pasta Sauce La Vodka contains 220mg of sodium, or just about 10% of the DV. Plus, it’s free of added sugars.
However, each serving of this pasta sauce contains 2 grams (10% of the DV) of saturated fat due to ingredients such as heavy cream and cheese.
6. Organico Bello Organic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce
Per 1/2-cup serving, Organico Bello Tomato Basil pasta sauce contains 230mg of sodium — or 10% of the recommended DV.
This traditional pasta sauce is made with high quality ingredients and is free of added sugar.
With just 30 calories per serving, it’s also the lowest calorie pasta sauce on this list.
7. Homemade low sodium pasta sauce
Since you have better control of the ingredients used, preparing food at home can help you reduce the amount of sodium in your diet.
Here is a quick and easy recipe for a homemade low sodium marinara sauce with just 130mg of sodium per 1/2-cup serving:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 2, 28-ounce cans tomatoes (peeled, crushed or diced, no salt added)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup fresh basil (chopped)
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, for added spice)
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Saute the minced garlic for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
- Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt, and optional red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the chopped basil and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and enjoy!
Key takeaways for choosing a low sodium pasta sauce
Though it’s an essential mineral, too much sodium in the diet is associated with high blood pressure and an increased risk of health problems such as heart disease and chronic kidney disease (2).
Most store-bought pasta sauces contain excessive amounts of sodium. Instead, opt for low sodium varieties — ideally brands that contain less than 140mg of sodium per serving.
For a more nutritious low sodium pasta sauce, also consider choosing brands low in saturated fat that contain no added sugars. Aim for brands that are good sources (10% of the DV or more per serving) of one or more beneficial nutrients such as iron, calcium, potassium, and fiber.
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