Heinz is one of the most popular brands of ketchup in North America and Europe, consistently winning taste awards and making our question even more valid. In fact, in some places, people will walk out of a restaurant if they do not serve Heinz ketchup. While we will concentrate on Heinz, the points we’ll make can also be made for the majority of the most popular ketchup brands around (Del Monte, America’s Choice, Hunt’s, etc.). Let’s start by reading the Heinz ketchup ingredients label. By digging deeper behind the ingredient list, you’ll soon find it’s not only unhealthy, but can be quite harmful to consume in moderate quantities, especially over time.
Here’s the Heinz ketchup ingredients label:
If you aren’t familiar how ingredients labels work, the label lists ingredients in order from most to least present in the product, meaning that “tomato concentrate from red ripe tomatoes” is what is in this ketchup most, followed secondly by distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Salt, spice, onion powder and “natural flavoring” have a small percentage of the overall content.
Let’s take a look at the full ingredient list:
- Tomato Concentrate;
- Distilled Vinegar;
- High Fructose Corn Syrup;
- Corn Syrup;
- Salt, Spice, Onion Powder, Natural Flavor.
The problem here is that both “high fructose corn syrup” and “corn syrup” are exactly the same thing – they are both “high fructose corn syrup”. So why is Heinz adding a second corn syrup name on the label?
There could be several reasons. As high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been getting a bad name in the last few decades, companies are likely to try to confuse you with different names for it. Corn syrup is no healthier than HFCS and there is no reason to separate the two. So why do it? Could it be because when separated in two, the ingredients will be lower on the ingredient label and can fool the consumers into thinking that there is less of it? Since consumers are becoming aware of the dangers of HFCS, having it near the top of your product’s ingredients label is less than flattering for that product.
While we lack raw data, we can theorize what will happen if we combine the two corn syrups into a single ingredient. One thing is for certain, it would be much higher on the list. It is certainly more that the distilled vinegar and may even approach the tomato concentrate. In the worst case scenario, the real ingredient label may even look like this:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup;
- Tomato Concentrate;
- Distilled Vinegar;
- Salt, Spices, etc.
If the label would be presented in this way, the brand would have a hard time. It would mean that there is more corn syrup (most likely from GMO corn) than ACTUAL tomatoes in their ketchup. This could be a serious motive for attempting label manipulation.
There is more, too. The label states that they use distilled vinegar. Guess where most vinegar used in these processed foods comes from? – Genetically modified corn. With the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn syrup and distilled vinegar, we already have three corn based ingredients in what should be tomato based ketchup.
The label goes on to say ‘salt, spice, onion powder, natural flavoring’ at the end. The salt used is the cheapest form of salt available – a cause of high blood pressure and mineral imbalances (high sodium in the blood) which leads to many health problems when consumed on regular basis. The label goes on to say ‘natural flavors’, a very ambiguous term. If we look at the rest of the Heinz label (as you can see below) you’ll notice that there is no fiber or protein, but there is plenty of sodium and sugar. Where does the sugar come from? The ‘natural flavor’ is as good a guess as any. You’ll see that 1 tbsp. is 7% of your daily sodium value, meaning that with 4 small spoons you already are at 28%. While it does add up quickly, the real problem is that you consume a large chunk of your daily sodium value with just a condiment, let alone the food you eat along with it. If you add the ketchup on any smoked, cured, salted or canned meat, fish or poultry, you are already beyond your daily sodium value.
Main Reasons to Avoid Heinz Ketchup
There are multiple reasons to avoid Heinz (and other heavily processed) ketchup for the sake of your health and well-being, however let’s concentrate on these 3 reasons:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup:Heinz ketchup is overloaded with high fructose corn syrup. It may very well be the highest present ingredient in the ketchup if they didn’t list the ingredient twice under two names. Why should you care? High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is very likely a harmful substance. Health concerns have been raised about the connection between HFCS and metabolic disorders (1), and with regard to manufacturing contaminants (2). HFCS acts like a sugar in the body when it’s metabolized, with the majority of the fructose molecules being converted to glucose or metabolized into byproducts identical to those produced by glucose metabolism. This means that HFCS can lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, a weakened immune system and much more.
Why you should avoid HFCS:
- Sugar in general causes obesity and disease when consumed in pharmacologic doses;
- HFCS and cane sugar are NOT biochemically identical or processed the same way by the body;
- HFCS contains contaminants, including mercury, that are not regulated or measured by the FDA;
- Independent medical and nutrition experts DO NOT support the use of HFCS in our diet, despite the claims of the corn industry;
- In most cases, HFCS is a marker of poor-quality, nutrient-poor disease-creating industrial food products or “food-like substances”.
Dr. Mark Hyman noted is his blog that when an FDA researcher contacted the corn producers to send her a barrel of high fructose corn syrup for testing, they refused her multiple times. Finally, she changed her approach and asked a new beverage company on the market for a barrel for testing which they complied. After doing the testing she found that high fructose corn syrup contains high levels of mercury, an extremely toxic heavy metal (3). Remember, this information and research comes from an FDA researcher! Mercury affects the nervous system and can lead to skin rashes, anxiety, memory problems, trouble speaking, trouble hearing, trouble seeing, kidney problems, decreased intelligence and even cause acrodynia in children in which the skin becomes pink and peels off.
Not only has HFCS been proven to be unhealthy and harmful, genetically modified foods have long been suspected of the same, and here we have them combined.
- Distilled Vinegar & Sugar:Heinz ketchup lists distilled vinegar as another ingredient and on their label they list 4 grams of sugar per serving. Distilled vinegar has been connected to GMO corn, which may be grown with toxic pesticides and chemicals. Not only do we have a product full with high fructose corn syrup, but they added sugar as well and most likely labeled it as ‘natural flavors’. Sugar in mass products often comes from GMO sources as well. More than half — 54% — of sugar sold in America comes from sugar beets. GMO sugar beets account for 90% of the crop; a percentage is expected to increase after a USDA’s decision gave the green light to sugar beetplanting before an environmental impact statement was completed. If the HFCS wasn’t bad enough for your pancreas, liver, metabolism, immune and nervous system, consider the added chemicals, GMO sourced vinegar and sugar…
- No Nutritional Value at All:Heinz ketchup contains NO fiber and NO protein. It’s devoid of any nutrition yet full of GMO’s sourced sugars, chemicals and even possibly mercury, an extremely toxic metal. The product contains a limited amount of ‘tomato paste’ and one wonders if that is enough to label it as ketchup. In any case, it’s a poor replacement for real tomatoes or homemade ketchup.
If you consider your health and well-being, and the health and well-being of your family, there are better and healthier choices on the market. Another option is to simply learn how to make your own organic ketchup – it only takes two minutes to make!
Making Your Own Healthy Homemade Ketchup
- 1 cup organic tomato paste;
- 1 tbsp. raw organic honey or a stevia equivalent;
- 1 tbsp. raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar;
- 1/4 tsp mustard;
- 1/2 tsp sea salt;
- 1/4 cup water;
- Optional: 1/4 tsp onion powder.
Simply take all the ingredients and stir them into a bowl until they have the density of ketchup. Put the mixture in a glass jar, store in the fridge. You now have a healthier alternative to any processed brand on the market and with a bit of experience you can modify the recipe to suit your personal tastes. Enjoy!