Pesto Isn't As Healthy As You Thought. Here's Why.

Pesto is best known as an Italian topping often found on pasta or pizza. Its bright and flavorful taste is light and refreshing enough to be paired with heavier dishes, while also acting as a great topping to anything else one may want to try it with. Places like Marinara Pizza in New York City even serve it in conjunction with other usual suspects like marinara and vodka sauce to create a three-topping hybrid, dubbed the MVP slice, that makes taste buds go wild.

The New York Times' cooking page explains that pesto is made from a blend of a handful of ingredients, including fresh stemless basil, pine nuts (or walnuts), garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and grated parmesan. All of these seem healthy enough, so it's easy to see why many might consider the mix a healthy topping option for any meal. However, it turns out that pesto may be less healthy for you than other heavier options. So what makes this delicious dip so bad for you?

Pressing pause on the pesto

It turns out that the pesto you're grabbing from your local grocery store may have added ingredients that put its healthy status into question. According to the Irish Times, many of these pre-made and store-bought pestos have tons of additional salt, so much so that they've been found to be higher in sodium than a cheeseburger from McDonald's, and contain "30 percent more salt than seawater." And while there are some store-bought pestos with lower sodium levels, it's worth taking a second look.

On top of the Irish Times' assertions, Healthy Dining Finder urges you to eat pesto in moderation for another reason; even homemade pesto sauces are a bit of a risk as they contain a high calorie count due to the addition of both olive oil and pine nuts, both ingredients high in calories. 

There is a way around even this issue though: make your own healthier pesto! Slender Kitchen's skinny pesto, for example, goes lighter on the olive oil and cheese, resulting in a lower calorie count. You also have ability to manage how much salt you include when making pesto yourself. That's good news for pesto lovers who can still enjoy the sauce, but for those shopping for pesto instead of making it at home, keep your eyes on the nutrition labels before you check out!