Pesto is a very popular addition to many dishes. In Italian cuisine, pesto is sometimes used to replace many red, or tomato, sauces or used entirely on its own.
Pesto is often put on plain pasta or used to flavor chicken, fish, and other meats before and after they are cooked.
Because of its versatility, pesto can be used as a dip, sandwich spread, or even salad dressing.
The basic ingredients of pesto are pretty simple; basil, olive oil, garlic, and cheese, (some recipes call for pine nuts as well). These ingredients are blended together into a semi-thick and great smelling sauce.
To determine if pesto is acidic we must look at its components and identify what makes something acidic.
Is Pesto Acidic?
Many of the ingredients in pesto, such as garlic and pine nuts, have a pH between 5 and 6, but when mixed together and blended the sauce becomes more acidic. While basil has a pH of around 5 the average pH for mixed basil pesto is 4.9, meaning that this delicious sauce is, in fact, acidic.
If a food is considered acidic that means it has an overall pH that is less than 7 (which is the neutral point). Water has a pH of exactly 7 while tomatoes, and therefore tomato-based sauces, have a pH of 4.3.
If you are looking for a less acidic option to your favorite tomato sauce, try pesto or even an alfredo sauce.
Most alfredo recipes have a pH level of 4.6 making them a little easier to enjoy for those with acid reflux or gout issues.
Is Acidity in Foods Bad?
Acidosis, gastritis, acid reflux and ulcers are all known to be caused by high levels of acid in the body. This wording is a bit misleading though, simply eating foods that are acidic (such as tomato sauce and pesto) alone will not cause these health issues.
In fact, they can do quite the opposite! Many vegetables (like broccoli) can help reduce acidity and its effects in your body.
In India, they commonly prescribe basil tea or even chewing on a few basil leaves to help reduce heartburn and acid reflux!
So while pesto may be considered acidic, in many cases it can assist with lowering your body's overall levels of acid.
If you do have one the above issues than your physician may advise you to enjoy these high acid foods in small amounts and to monitor your body afterwards.
Because pesto is acidic it is important to also consider what ingredients are being used (if it is store bought) and what you are putting your pesto on for dinner.
Why Choose Pesto?
Because pesto contains huge amounts of basil and garlic this sauce is a great source of disease-fighting antioxidants.
Antioxidants protect your cells from free-radicals, which are thought to break down the cells in our body over time.
Antioxidants are measured using the ORAC scale, and ALL of our pesto ingredients (basil, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts) rank very highly. Vitamins E and C are considered antioxidants.
Pesto's star ingredient, basil, contains as much as 1 mg of vitamin C per every 2 tablespoons! If an extra virgin olive oil is used, there is nearly 13% of your daily vitamin E intake in a single tablespoon.
Due to the garlic, pine nuts and cheese pesto is also a great source of key minerals. Iron, calcium, potassium and manganese are all abundant in this simple sauce.
These minerals help to support your body by aiding in the essential functions of your organs and tissues.
While pesto can be high in fat and calories it is still rich in many other healthy ingredients making it a pretty healthy choice overall.
If you are concerned by the high caloric count of traditional pesto sauces there are many substitutions that can be made. For example, if you are making pesto at home I would suggest cutting the amount of cheese and nuts you use in half, this will help to reduce the fat in your sauce.
Creamy additions like low-fat Greek yogurt and almond milk can also help you achieve a light and flavorful sauce.