Written by Dan Jackowiak, Nc, HHP
Pesto is a type of Italian sauce usually made from Parmigiano-Reggiano, known as hard cheese, garlic, pine nuts, basil, and olive oil. The ingredients are blended in a mixer to form a thick purée, heated up in a saucepan. This healthy sauce sometimes varies in ingredients depending upon the region it is made in.
Pesto is a savory green sauce that is not only good in taste, but it is also good for health. Its ingredients help prevent inflammation in the body, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and keep your heart strong. (1)
The origin of pesto is Genoa, the city of Italy. The name pesto came from the local Genoa language, which means to crush or blend. This term refers to the traditional way of making pesto. The ancient romans used to eat the same kind of paste made with garlic, cheese, and olive oil. (2)
Traditionally the ingredients are crushed or grounded by a circular motion of a wooden pestle or pounded in a marble mortar. First, pine nuts and garlic are added to the mortar and reduced to a cream. Then creamy consistency is further enhanced by adding washed and dried basil leaves with coarse salt. This is further grounded. (3)
Only then, a mixture of Pecorino and Parmigiano cheese is added. Finally, a little extra virgin olive oil is added to help integrate the cheese. Traditionally, after preparation, fresh pesto is poured into tight jars and covered with extra virgin oil, which keeps it fresh for years. (3)
Pesto is commonly used as a paste on pasta. Boiled in the same pot where the pasta was cooked, potatoes and stringed beans are traditionally added to the dish. Pasta has become a popular dish in many countries with numerous recipes for “pasta with pesto.”
One tablespoon of pesto (16 grams) contains 92 calories. (4) Pesto is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids. Every brand has its mix of ingredients, resulting in varying sodium, fat, and caloric content. Pesto is a good source of sodium. It also contains calcium and potassium. These nutrients are necessary to support the body’s daily functioning.
One tablespoon of pesto (16 grams) contains 0.9 grams of carbohydrates, including 0.1 grams of sugar. (4) Although pesto sauce is high in calories, it is a healthy, nutritious addition to your diet. In addition, these carbohydrates provide energy which is necessary to perform physical activities.
One tablespoon of pesto (16 grams) contains 0.2 grams of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber plays a crucial role in promoting regular bowel movements, maintaining food movement through the digestive tract, and preventing constipation. In addition, soluble fiber helps people with diabetes in maintaining cholesterol levels. Fiber also helps in fighting and preventing type 2 diabetes.
One tablespoon of pesto (16 grams) contains 1.4 grams of protein, 3% of an adult’s required daily intake (RDI) of protein. (4) Pesto sauce is a mix of different ingredients, making it a good source of protein. Protein is necessary for maintaining and repairing cells throughout your body.
One tablespoon of pesto (16 grams) contains 9.5 grams of fat, 12% of an adult’s required daily intake (RDI) of fat. One tablespoon of pesto (16 grams) contains 1.5 grams of saturated fatty acids. (4) It is high in monounsaturated fatty acid content, which helps improve blood cholesterol levels and contributes to lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Vitamins & Minerals
Pesto contains basil and olive oil, making it a wealthy source of vitamins and minerals. One tablespoon of pesto (16 grams) contains 17.6 micrograms of vitamin K. 15% of an adult’s required daily intake (RDI) of vitamin K. (4) Vitamin K is necessary for regulating bone mineralization. It may also contribute to maintaining the cardiovascular system by preventing the hardening of arteries.
One tablespoon of pesto (16 grams) contains 1.26 milligrams of vitamin E, 6% of an adult’s required daily intake (RDI) of vitamin E. (4) Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin, act as an antioxidant that protects the structure of the cell and regulates the transport of cholesterol and fat through the blood stream.
One tablespoon of pesto (16 grams) contains 14.56 micrograms of vitamin A, 2% of an adult’s required daily intake (RDI) of vitamin A. (4) Basil in pesto sauce provides lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, which are carotenoid forms of vitamin A.
One tablespoon of pesto (16 grams) contains 158.08 milligrams, 36.80 milligrams, 33.12 milligrams, and 31.84 milligrams of sodium, phosphorus, calcium, and potassium, respectively. (4) These minerals are important for maintaining your metabolism and bone health.
Antioxidants protect your cells against free radicals. Pesto is loaded with many antioxidants like vitamin A, and E. Extra virgin olive oil and basins are rich sources of these antioxidants. (5) Olive oil contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants like oleocanthal and oleuropein, which protect LDL from oxidation. This reduces the risk of heart disease. (6)
Pesto is a flavor-rich sausage. Pesto sauce gives not only a distinctive and wonderful taste but a variety of health benefits. Here is a closer look at how your health improves with pesto ingredients.
Olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fatty acids maintain blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol levels, unlike the Trans and saturated fats in your body. In addition, this oil includes antioxidants recognized for fighting the effects of aging. (7)
Monounsaturated fatty acids lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol levels (HDL). These fatty acids provide nutrients to cells and reduce the risk of heart diseases. Pine nuts are also an important source of fatty acids like omega-3 in pesto sauce. In addition, they are a nutritious source of protein. This protein will support bone health and enhance metabolism. (8)
Pine nuts, garlic, and Parmigiano cheese are important for bone health. They provide calcium, iron, and potassium that boost your bones. (9) Garlic, Parmigiano cheese, and pine nuts are also rich in selenium, manganese, and phosphorus sources. Selenium acts as an antioxidant. Phosphorus support bones and teeth health. Manganese supports body tissues and enhances metabolism. (10)
Garlic present in pesto sauce helps to stabilize blood pressure and prevents the hardening of arteries. It also lowers the risk of brain and lung cancer. (11)
Basils are a great source of phytochemicals. For example, it destroys free radicals in the body that can cause cancer and other inflammations. With all good things in life, yes, pesto is healthy in moderation. It is rich in nourishing ingredients. So, there is no reason not to enjoy this nutrient-rich healthful pesto.
An allergic reaction to basil-containing pesto sauce is the most common adverse effect of pesto sauce. Some people are sensitive to olive oil and garlic. They may develop nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, sneezing, and coughing to this allergic reaction. When the pesto is used only as a flavor enhancer, it will not be bad for you.
But excessive consumption of pesto sauce results in the excessive uptake of salt and fat content, which may have a negative impact on your health. This high-fat content may lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, and strokes. (12)
The following information is for one serving (16 grams) of pesto sauce.
As you can see, pesto sauce is very low in carbohydrates. The calories in pesto come from the 9.5 grams of fat. This fat comes from olive oil and has many health benefits. Because of the low carb and low sugar content, pesto is ok to eat on the Candida diet. Enjoy!
1. García-Casal MN, Peña-Rosas JP, Malavé HG. Sauces, spices, and condiments: definitions, potential benefits, consumption patterns, and global markets. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016;1379(1):3–16.
2. The history of Pesto.
3. How To Make Pesto - Recipe _ Kitchn.
4. Nutrition facts for Pesto sauce, recommended daily values and analysis.
5. De Santis S, Cariello M, Piccinin E, Sabbà C, Moschetta A. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Lesson from Nutrigenomics. Nutrients. 2019 Sep 4;11(9):2085. Available from:
6. Gaforio JJ, Visioli F, Alarcón-de-la-Lastra C, Castañer O, Delgado-Rodríguez M, Fitó M, et al. Virgin Olive Oil and Health: Summary of the III International Conference on Virgin Olive Oil and Health Consensus Report, JAEN (Spain) 2018. Nutrients. 2019 Sep 1;11(9):2039.
7. Visioli F, Franco M, Toledo E, Luchsinger J, Willett WC, Hu FB, et al. Olive oil and prevention of chronic diseases: Summary of an International conference. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2018;28(7):649–56.
8. Ros E. Health benefits of nut consumption. Nutrients. 2010/06/24. 2010 Jul;2(7):652–82.
9. Pampaloni B, Bartolini E, Brandi ML. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and bone health. Clin Cases Miner Bone Metab. 2011 Sep;8(3):33–6.
10. Tsai C-W, Chen H-W, Sheen L-Y, Lii C-K. Garlic: Health benefits and actions. BioMedicine. 2012;2(1):17–29.
11. Bongiorno PB, Fratellone PM, LoGiudice P. Potential Health Benefits of Garlic (Allium Sativum): A Narrative Review. J Complement Integr Med. 2008;5(1).
12. Fusco V, Besten HM den, Logrieco AF, Rodriguez FP, Skandamis PN, Stessl B, et al. Food safety aspects on ethnic foods: Toxicological and microbial risks. Curr Opin Food Sci. 2015;6:24–32.
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