GO! Pesto™ - Why Is Pesto Bad For You? - Is Pesto Bad? (2024)

by Michael Hawkins

GO! Pesto™ - Why Is Pesto Bad For You? - Is Pesto Bad? (1)

We understand why some people assume that pesto is bad for you. After all, any sauce that contains high quantities of oil, nuts, and cheese can never hope to be found in the health-food aisle.

However, despite its reputation, nutritionists agree that if consumed in moderation, pesto is healthy, and itsbenefits far outweigh the risks. Let's break this down one-by-one.

Most pestos are around 25-30% fat. That's enough for it to be slapped with a "red" warning symbol on the Food Standards Agency's traffic light system. On that basis, it's not recommended for anyone trying to lose weight or for those following a low-fat diet.

However, we all know that there are good fats and bad fats, and luckily pesto falls into the “good fat” bracket. Healthy diets should contain a good amount of monounsaturated fat, and, contrary to popular belief, it's not bad for cholesterol but can help to lower your risk of heart disease.

From our research, the number of calories in pesto varies from 184 kcal to 654 kcal per 100g. On average, though, shop-bought pestos contain 372 kcal per 100g, meaning that our recommended portion size of 50g will contain around 186 kcal. To put it in context, that's about the same as two slices of bread, so not too bad for you on the calorie front.

Nuts form a crucial part of all pesto sauces, and despite being high-fat and high-calorie, they are one of the world's greatest superfoods, packed full of fibre, nutrients, and heart-healthy fats.

The vast majority of pestos contain around 1% salt. That's enough to give it an amber warning on the food traffic light system, but that's a far cry from snacks like Pringles, which contain almost five times that amount.

The sauces you find in the non-fresh supermarket aisle must be slightly acidic for their shelf-life to be so long, so you won't normally find manufacturers adding sugar. Some pestos that contain fruit or vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, for example, are the most common source of sugar, but bear in mind that those natural sugars are far better than the refined white stuff you put in your tea.

If you're looking for good levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, almost all pestos boast that. Some supermarket pestos can be anything up to 50% basil, which most would regard as a smart way to sneak some greens into kids' diets.

As long as it forms part of a diverse diet with plenty of vegetables, fibre, and moderate levels of protein and dairy, there's absolutely no need to worry about pesto being bad for you. It's packed full of nutrients and healthy fats, which are needed in a well-balanced diet.

There are plenty of low-calorie, tomato-based sauces if you're watching your weight, but if you simply add 50g of pesto to one portion of pasta, you'll be consuming no more calories than two hard-boiled eggs, and we're certainly not going to lose sleep over that.

GO! Pesto™ - Why Is Pesto Bad For You? - Is Pesto Bad? (2024)


GO! Pesto™ - Why Is Pesto Bad For You? - Is Pesto Bad? ›

Most pestos are around 25-30% fat. That's enough for it to be slapped with a "red" warning symbol on the Food Standards Agency's traffic light system. On that basis, it's not recommended for anyone trying to lose weight or for those following a low-fat diet.

Is pesto bad for you? ›

A. While pesto has impressive amounts of nutrition, it's still not the healthiest sauce. It would be best to eat it in moderation because pesto contains fats and calories from olive oil and nuts. Moreover, it is higher in fat and calories than most tomato-based sauces.

Why does pesto go bad? ›

Because it's an oil-based sauce, it will spoil and go rancid after a while if exposed to air. So if you see it start get exposed to air, you can top the jar with some high quality olive oil to cut off contact with air. Good news is that store-bought pesto will come with instructions on the label.

Is pesto bad for cholesterol and triglycerides? ›

Additionally, tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, which is a plant compound known to reduce cholesterol levels. Meat-based tomato sauces and pesto sauce can also be good options as most of these sauces contain low levels of cholesterol.

What happens when you eat too much pesto? ›

That's largely down to the fact that most pesto sauces contain generous amounts of oil, nuts, and cheese. All three of these are high in fat and calories, so eating too much pesto, too regularly, and not getting enough exercise can ultimately be fattening.

Is pesto bad for high blood pressure? ›

Dieticians consider pesto's positive health benefits to far outweigh their negatives, especially when it comes to high blood pressure.

Is pesto bad for inflammation? ›

It has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and one component of its natural volatile oils (called eugenol) actually inhibits the very same enzyme in the body as many non-steriodal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

What happens if you don't refrigerate pesto after opening? ›

While your pesto can safely reside in your pantry until its first use, forgetting to refrigerate it after opening is guaranteed to spoil it long before the five-day mark. It's also best to seal and refrigerate your jar of sauce right after using, as exposure to oxygen can speed up the spoiling process.

Can spoiled pesto make you sick? ›

Consuming spoiled pesto can lead to foodborne illnesses due to bacteria growth, including symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Can you eat pesto out of the jar? ›

Almost all the jarred pestos you find in the supermarket will have been pasteurised to not only ensure that they can last a long time unopened, but so they are perfectly safe to eat straight from the jar. There is no need to heat pesto, although too many people do.

Is pesto high risk? ›

Yes, in the past, pesto has been responsible for botulism poisoning. However, the better food safety standards we have nowadays mean outbreaks are vanishingly rare.

Is pesto healthier than tomato? ›

As you would expect, pesto's wider variety of ingredients means it does slightly better in the vitamin and mineral stakes. Pesto outsmarts tomato sauce in many of these, but the pasta sauce still provides a sizeable chunk of your recommended daily targets.

Is pesto heart friendly? ›

Homemade pesto is a great option when it comes to making heart-healthy food choices. Try this pasta recipe for a delicious and healthy meal.

What makes pesto unhealthy? ›

Because its ingredients include olive oil, nuts, and cheese, pesto can be high in calories and fat. However, the fat is primarily unsaturated and may have heart health benefits. Pesto is also full of antioxidants that can help protect your cells from damage.

Why do I feel weird after eating pesto? ›

If, after savoring pesto, you encounter symptoms such as itching in the mouth, hives, digestive distress, or even severe reactions like difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis, it's plausible that an allergy is present.

Can I eat pesto every day? ›

You'll want to be mindful of the sodium content. Some jars have more than 500mg per serving and the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines recommend you eat no more than 2,300mg per day. It would be hard to stay within those guidelines if you get more than 20% of your sodium from pesto.

Is pesto ok for weight loss? ›

Given all of the above, pesto can undoubtedly be considered a healthy food, and as long as you keep track of portions, it can also be part of a diet that supports a healthy weight. Pesto is nutrient-dense, and because of its fat content, it's also calorically dense.

Is pesto pasta healthier than tomato sauce? ›

pesto and alfredo sauce are less nutrient dense than tomato sauce. however, it's your food, and it's just sauce, so I would do what you feel like and not worry too much about it. eating a balanced diet it general is more important than worrying about the “health" value of specific foods.

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