Ketchup is the third-best-selling condiment in the U.S., with Heinz being the top brand sold worldwide. Most people use ketchup on a regular basis, on top of burgers, for dipping French fries, or even (alarmingly) on spaghetti. Needless to say, ketchup has its fans and followers.
Some critics might accuse ketchup of bad nutritional content due to its high sodium levels and ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, but ketchup might not be bad for you at all — it may actually possess some surprising medicinal properties!
In 1834, John Cook Bennet, a physician who would later play a prominent role in the Latter Day Saints movement, declared that the tomato could cure anything — and his ideas were published in newspapers nationwide. Bennett advocated using tomatoes in a wide variety of ways, including in ketchup, which had originally been made of mushrooms or fish along with spices before a tomato-based variant was introduced in the early nineteenth century.
Bennet claimed his recipe could cure diarrhea, indigestion, jaundice and rheumatism. “We knew an instance of a very severe case of dyspepsia, of ten years standing, cured by the use of the tomato,” an 1843 article in The Boston Cultivator quoted Bennett as saying. “The patient had been unable to get any relief; he could eat no fresh meat, nor boiled vegetables. Reading an account of the virtues of the tomato, he raised some, and used them as food in the fall, stewed, and made some in a jelly for winter use. He was cured.”
Soon the market was swamped with various tomato pills, many of which did no good whatsoever (neither Bennett nor any other boosters had solid scientific evidence for their claims). The lack of actual miracles led to the collapse of the ketchup medicine empire in 1850.
While these miracle tomato pills might no longer be available, more recent studies have indeed shown that tomato ketchup might possess medicinal qualities.
Another study, by Finnish scientists in 2007, saw the cholesterol levels of participants drop by six percent over six weeks when they added ketchup to their three daily meals.
Aside from any major health benefits, tomato ketchup is undeniably a tasty, low-calorie condiment that is fat-free and contains vitamins A and C. It may not be the miracle cure Dr. Bennett touted it as, but certainly compared to other popular condiments — looking at you, mayonnaise! — ketchup is a healthier option.