8 best condiments for your health: Balsamic vinegar, pesto, hummus & more
From kimchi to extra virgin olive oil, add these condiments to your next meal.
The right condiments can make or break a dish.
While many condiments add extra calories and are high in sugar, salt and fat, some are actually good for you.
Read on to learn the eight best condiments for your health.
Balsamic vinegar is made from fermented grapes. It has a dark brown colour with a sweet, mellow taste. The condiment contains natural antioxidants that protect your cells from damage and helps to lower inflammation in the body.
Additionally, vinegar may also improve digestion, boost your appetite and improve blood sugar levels.
Researchers suggest that vinegar positively influences digestive enzymes, which could lead to these health benefits.
Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and is well-known for its nutritional benefits. It's rich in monounsaturated fats and can help lower LDL cholesterol.
Olive oil can also lower inflammation, blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and cancer. These effects are likely due to the natural plant chemicals that help protect cells from damage.
Sprinkle it over your pasta or steamed vegetables, or replace salad dressing with olive oil and lemon juice.
Pesto is a staple that pairs well with everything from pasta and rice to fish and chicken.
Traditional basil pesto is made with chopped and toasted pine nuts, basil, garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil.
At three grams of protein, one gram of fibre, and 19 grams of healthy fats in a ¼ cup serving, pesto is packed with nutrients. It’s also rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Kimchi is a fermented cabbage dish from Korea made with garlic, ginger, red pepper spices, cucumbers, radish or other kinds of vegetables. The vegetables are fermented by adding lactic acid and other bacteria. The result is a side dish rich in probiotics with health benefits similar to yogurt.
Kimchi is low in fat and calories and rich in vitamins A, B, C and K. It supplies fibre and plant compounds like phenols and sterols. These natural compounds can help prevent inflammation and protect against plaque buildup in your arteries. Plus, regularly eating probiotic-rich fermented foods like kimchi can help improve digestive health and enhance your immune system.
You can add one tablespoon to ½ cup of kimchi to your meal, depending on your preference. However, some kimchi products can be high in sodium, so stick to a smaller serving if you watch your sodium intake.
Hummus is a popular Mediterranean bean spread made from chickpeas and tahini. Chickpeas are in the legume family and are a good source of protein. They’re also rich in fibre, B vitamins, potassium, phosphorous, calcium and healthy unsaturated fats.
Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. It's rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, calcium and phosphorous. The combination of chickpeas and tahini in hummus is a good vegetarian source of protein, fat, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Studies show that eating hummus can improve short-term blood sugar. However, making it a regular part of your diet can also lead to improved heart health and lower blood pressure.
Sauerkraut is popular type of fermented cabbage and one of the most common fermented foods. Made with only cabbage and salt, it contains simple ingredients yet is rich in probiotics and vitamins K and C, calcium, potassium, iron and fibre.
Regularly eating sauerkraut can help build a balance of friendly bacteria in your gut and improve digestion. It’s also low in calories and pairs well with coleslaw, sandwiches and meat.
However, some products can be high in sodium, so choose a low-sodium option if you need to watch your salt intake.
Nutritional yeast is a non-living strain of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It’s deactivated with heat, so it doesn’t have leavening or fermenting abilities like baker's or brewer's yeast. Instead, nutritional yeast is used in cooking for flavour and as a source of vitamins.
Nutritional yeast has a cheesy flavour and is rich in fibre, protein and B vitamins, especially B12. Some products are enriched with extra B12 for an even higher B12 content, making it a popular choice among vegetarian and vegan diets. Nutritional yeast is an easy way to get the B12 you're missing from meat and animal foods.
You can use nutritional yeast as a non-dairy replacement for cheese, or add it to sauces, soups, potatoes, eggs, pasta, stir-fries and even popcorn.
Plain Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is another name for yogurt that has the natural whey strained out. It’s also called strained yogurt or yogurt cheese and has a thicker consistency than regular yogurt.
Greek yogurt is a fermented dairy product rich in protein, calcium and probiotics. Compared to high-calorie dairy products like sour cream, low-fat plain Greek yogurt has no added sugars or artificial sweeteners and less unhealthy saturated fats.
Daily yogurt intake might help improve your gut health and blood sugar, lower inflammation and protect against heart disease. The high protein content can also help you manage calories by helping you feel fuller longer.
Try using plain Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. Replace sour cream on baked potatoes, tacos and veggie dips with Greek yogurt.
Swap your condiments
Condiments can be the perfect finishing touch to your favourite meal, but many come with added sugar, fat and salt.
Swapping certain condiments for fermented foods and fibre-rich options are a simple way to eat healthier.
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