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How Healthy Are Condiments, Exactly?

August 24, 2020

There are people with a fridge full of condiments — ketchups, BBQs, and mustards of every kind, and then there are those with just the essentials. Condiments are key to enhancing the flavor of our food — it’s why our fridge door is lined with them. After all, what would a hot dog be without ketchup? A turkey sandwich without a slather of mayo?

As well-acquainted as we are with various condiments, the contents of them often remain a little unknown to most of us. We buy bottles, toss them in the fridge, and grab them as needed, typically reserving our nutrition-related worries for the so-called actual food we’re eating.

It’s time to take a closer look at those can’t-live-without condiments. Here’s what you need to know.

Is ketchup healthy?

Perhaps the most popular condiment of all time, ketchup trends more toward healthy than unhealthy. “Ketchup is beneficial for its lycopene content from tomatoes,” says Kylene Bogden, RD and Love Wellness Advisor, while Sofia Norton, a registered dietitian at Kiss My Keto adds that it’s a low-calorie, zero-fat condiment and a good source of Vitamin A.

It’s important to pay attention to the ingredient list of any brand you buy.. “Ketchup is still high in salt and added sugar. A small, 1 tablespoon serving has 7% of the daily value for sodium and some companies use high-fructose corn syrup as their choice of added sugar,” says Norton. “Read the ingredients before buying your next bottle of ketchup and look for ‘fancy ketchup,’ which tends to have a higher percentage of tomato concentrate.”

Read more: 3 Low Sugar Ketchups That Actually Taste Like You Know Who

Is mustard healthy?

If you’re a mustard fan, you’re in luck: It’s one of the healthiest condiments out there. “True mustard is made from high quality ingredients, does not contain added sugar and, best of all, turmeric gives mustard its yellow color,” says Bogden.

Norton adds that mustard has only 55 mg of sodium, which is lower than other condiments. “Plus, mustard is rich in antioxidants, is a source of omega-3 fats, and provides a bit of selenium. Yellow and Dijon mustard are probably the healthiest and least processed mustard types.”

Is mayo healthy?

Mayo gets a bad rap, but Norton assures that it can be healthy. “If you choose a mayo with real food ingredients such as eggs, vinegar or lemon juice, oil, salt and mustard seed, then a high fat condiment like mayo (in moderation) can be great for blood sugar control,,” says Bogden.

Is soy sauce healthy?

If this is your go-to condiment, you’ve got one big area to pay attention to here: Sodium. “Extremely high in sodium and often for cost purposes, companies use cheap oils and wheat,” to produce the soy sauce, explains Bogden. “A better, more nutrient-dense alternative would be coconut aminos.”

While coconut aminos are a decent alternative, if you can’t live without your soy sauce, Norton says there can be healthier ways to consume it—and take advantage of it’s undeniable health benefits. “Used in moderation (1 teaspoon per serving), it can add flavonoids, which are antioxidant compounds, to your diet. But if you use too much, you could be adding excessive amounts of sodium to your meals.”

Is barbeque sauce healthy?

This is another tricky one. Though delicious, barbeque sauce often contains a lot of sugar. “Most commercial varieties of barbeque sauce aren’t really healthy,” says Norton. “They are made with a long list of unhealthy ingredients like sugar, high-sugar ketchup, pineapple juice, caramel color, and so on,” she says. Love barbeque sauce? Norton suggests making it yourself. “Homemade varieties can be healthy, especially if you eat in moderation.”

Is Sriracha healthy?

If you love spice, you’re probably well-acquainted with that bright red bottle of Sriracha. And lucky for you, sriracha is reasonably healthy. “This is an awesome condiment if you like spice! Again, be a careful label reader as some companies add extra sugar or corn syrup,” says Bogden. “The best option? Make your own! Peppers can be an awesome source of vitamin C and adding a little kick to your food may actually help to moderate portion control.”

The consensus on condiments seems to be that they’re relatively healthy, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief. But as with all foods, it’s important to be a label sleuth and look out for unhealthy ingredients that tend to sneak in there.

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