What Are the Health Benefits of Barbecue Sauce?

Fact Checked

iStephanieFrey/iStock/Getty Images

Barbecue sauce is often the center of competition as cooks compare their favorite recipes. Different geographical regions have reputations centered on a specific type of barbecue sauce and cooking methods vary. But no matter what type of barbecue sauce you prefer, it’s good to know that the delicious flavor delivers health benefits. Just be aware that it’s also high in salt.

Barbecue Sauce Basics

Tomato sauce and vinegar form the basis of most barbecue sauces, then any combination of seasonings may be added, with some of the most common being mustard, brown sugar, garlic, onion, Worcestershire sauce and hot peppers. While all of these items deliver some nutrition, the primary health benefits come from the tomato sauce.


Just like paint protects your car from rust, antioxidants protect your body from free radicals. They’re the normal byproduct of vital chemical processes in your body, but free radicals damage cells if they are not neutralized by antioxidants. Vitamins A, C and E, and the mineral selenium, are important antioxidants found in barbecue sauce. One cup of sauce provides 20 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, 13 percent of vitamin E, 2 percent of vitamin C and 5 percent of selenium. Vitamin E protects vitamin A and other lipids from damage, while vitamins A and C protect cells throughout the body. Vitamin C also supports your immune system, vitamin A is essential for healthy eyes and selenium regulates thyroid hormone.

Cancer Protection

Carotenoids are substances found in plants that function as antioxidants, but that are also responsible for other health benefits. The tomato base in barbecue sauce provides a carotenoid called lycopene, which is known to significantly reduce the chance of developing prostate cancer. Total carotenoid intake, including lycopene, is also associated with a lower risk of lung cancer. One cup of barbecue sauce contains 11 milligrams of lycopene. This is about one-third the amount of lycopene you would gain from 1 cup of canned tomato sauce.

Heart Health

Barbecue sauce provides nutrients that contribute to heart health, but those benefits must be weighed against its salt content. Your body needs some sodium to maintain blood pressure and keep your heart beating, but too much sodium causes high blood pressure. The Institute of Medicine recommends consuming no more than 1.5 grams of sodium a day and 1 cup of barbecue sauce has 2 grams. Magnesium and calcium are needed to stimulate the contraction and relaxation of heart muscle, and potassium maintains the electrical impulses that regulate your heartbeat. A cup of barbecue sauce has 11 percent of the recommended daily value of potassium, 7 percent of magnesium and 3 percent of calcium. Barbecue sauce also contains a small amount of an essential nutrient called choline that lowers your risk of heart disease by removing homocysteine from the blood, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.