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9 healthy condiments revealed — a few might surprise you

FILE PHOTO: Bottles of Heinz Tomato Ketchup, owned by the Kraft Heinz Company, are seen for sale in Queens, New York, U.S., November 16, 2021.
Many people feel their meals aren't complete without ketchup, mayo, mustard, hot sauce, ranch, soy sauce or other condiments. Here are nine nutritional picks.

Relish the fact that not all condiments are bad for you.

Many people feel their meals aren’t complete without ketchup, mayo, mustard, hot sauce, ranch, soy sauce or other condiments.

You might think that adding these flavor enhancers to food would decrease the nutritional value, but some experts believe such add-ons can actually be worth their salt, so to speak.

“I would way rather folks add a condiment that really brightens their day and makes their food enjoyable than for them to swear off that food entirely,” registered dietitian Abbey Sharp told USA Today this week.

“If ranch is the only way that you’re going to eat vegetables, by all means, you should be adding ranch,” she added.

When looking for the ideal condiment, the lowest-calorie option isn’t always the healthiest.

Some contain artificial additives and large amounts of salt and sugar — too much salt, for one, can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.

Healthy condiments, on the other hand, tend to have little added sugar but lots of fiber, protein and healthy fats, according to Healthline.

Many people feel their meals aren’t complete without condiments. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo
Many people feel their meals aren’t complete without condiments. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

It’s important to be mindful of labels and nutrition facts when grocery shopping. Condiments labeled “fat-free” or “low-fat” often have added sugar and salt to make up for the taste, Sharp said.

The healthiest options will generally have the simplest and shortest ingredient list.

According to WebMD, homemade condiments are likely to be less processed and to be lower in calories than those available in stores, but there are still many options on grocery shelves that you can buy without worrying about health risks.

Here are nine top condiment picks from seasoned health and nutrition experts.

Pesto

Pesto traditionally contains olive oil, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil leaves and pine nuts.

WebMD reports that a quarter-cup serving of pesto is enough to give you at least 8% of the daily value of zinc, a nutrient that supports immune function and metabolism.

Mustard

Mustard can be high in sodium, so be sure to check your portion sizes. pavel siamionov – stock.adobe.com
Mustard can be high in sodium, so be sure to check your portion sizes. pavel siamionov – stock.adobe.com

Store-bought mustard is typically made from distilled vinegar, mustard seeds, turmeric, garlic powder, lemon juice and salt, and has only six calories per 10 grams.

Turmeric contains a compound that acts as an antioxidant, anticancer and anti-inflammatory ingredient — and it’s good for the nervous system. Research has shown it can treat indigestion as well as prescription drugs can.

However, mustard can be high in sodium, so watch your portion sizes.

Guacamole

Guacamole contains nutritional value thanks to the avocado. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Guacamole contains nutritional value thanks to the avocado. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Guacamole contains hpotassium, fiber and healthy fats from the avocado — Sharp says it’s her favorite condiment.

“When a condiment can add healthy fats and fiber or protein, it’s actually adding nutrition to our overall diet … and also improving the satiety profile of our meal,” she told USA Today.

Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is a dark vinegar made from grapes and, according to Healthline, is rich in antioxidants that could protect against cell damage and lower the risk of heart disease.

Soy sauce

WebMD suggests making an “imitation” soy sauce at home as a healthier alternative to the store-bought version, which can contain a lot of sodium.

Mix a cup of low-sodium vegetable broth; a tablespoon of vinegar; 2 teaspoons of brown sugar; a dash each of ground ginger, garlic powder and black pepper; and a pinch of salt. Boil it all together for one minute and then simmer for 10 minutes.

Salsa, tomato sauce and ketchup

Tomatoes are a great source of potassium. showcake – stock.adobe.com
Tomatoes are a great source of potassium. showcake – stock.adobe.com

Tomatoes are a great source of potassium, biotin, iron and zinc. They also provide lycopene, an antioxidant that helps to reduce inflammation, according to WebMD.

Making your own tomato products can help you avoid consuming high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener that has been shown to increase the risk of developing obesity, diabetes and other conditions.

Hummus

The main ingredients in hummus are all considered superfoods in their own right: chickpeas, sesame paste (tahini), garlic and olive oil.

Chickpeas contain protein, healthy carbs and fiber, while garlic and olive oil are prominently featured in the Mediterranean diet.

Hot sauce

Hot sauce can aid digestion. kmfdm1 – stock.adobe.com
Hot sauce can aid digestion. kmfdm1 – stock.adobe.com

Hot sauce contains just a few key ingredients — peppers, salt and vinegar — which can contribute to healthy gut bacteria and aid digestion, according to the Food Revolution Network.

However, be sure to look out for high sodium content.

Tahini

Tahini, made from ground sesame seeds, is extremely rich in protein that comes from plants. It also has selenium, a mineral that reduces inflammation and promotes the immune system and brain health.

Two tablespoons of tahini covers 10% of the daily protein needs for an adult.