Turns out your diet may be healthier than you think. Those little extras you love like ketchup on burgers or hot sauce in tacos have hidden health benefits. New research shows that certain spices, herbs, and spreads not only boost flavor but can also help curb appetite, ease digestion, promote better memory, and even fight heart disease and cancer.
What’s your favorite sauce or condiment? Here’s the skinny on some of them:
Benefit: Lowers risk of cardiovascular disease
Daily Dose: 3-4 tablespoons
How It Works:Lycopene — a powerful antioxidant in ketchup — may slow the process that leads to atherosclerosis, says Betty Ishida, PhD, a USDA research biologist. While all ketchup contains some lycopene, a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that organic versions contain up to 60% more per gram than conventional brands. The researchers also found that organic ketchup had the highest levels of vitamins A, C, and E.
Serving Tip:Use dark-hued ketchup for the most lycopene, and squirt on burgers and baked fries or stir with equal parts reduced-fat mayo for a Russian dressing, says Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, a dietitian in New York City. Or mix with chopped garlic and herbs to marinate grilled chicken, suggests Daniel Stern, executive chef and co-owner of MidAtlantic and R2L restaurants in Philadelphia.
Benefit: Fights aging
Daily Dose: 2-4 tablespoons
How It Works: Dark honey like buckwheat or blueberry contains the most antioxidants, say researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, who analyzed 19 varieties. Antioxidants protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals and may reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline, and macular degeneration.
Serving Tip: Honey has a strong flavor, so add in small doses to oatmeal, plain yogurt, and tea, and use instead of refined sugar, suggests Stern. Whisk it into homemade salad dressing for a touch of sweetness.
Benefit:Eliminates foodborne carcinogens
Daily Dose: 1-2 tablespoons
How It Works:Rosemary minimizes or eliminates carcinogens formed when cooking some foods, say scientists at Kansas State University, who found that seasoning beef with rosemary before grilling can reduce cancer-causing substances called heterocyclic amines by 30 to 100%. Danish scientists got similar results when adding rosemary to dough. Acrylamide, a potentially carcinogenic compound, forms in carb-rich foods when heated above 250?F. “By incorporating 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary for each pound of f lour, we reduced acrylamide by more than 50%,” says Leif Skibsted, PhD, a professor of food chemistry at the University of Copenhagen. He believes that the antioxidants in rosemary “scavenge” the harmful compounds.
Serving Tip: Add 1 to 2 tablespoons per 2 pounds of pork loin, steak, or lamb, or spread a paste of chopped rosemary, Dijon mustard, garlic, and coarse sea salt on meat before cooking, suggests Marc Meyer, executive chef at Cookshop, Five Points, and Hundred Acres restaurants in New York City. Stuff chicken or turkey with citrus fruit and rosemary sprigs, then roast.
Find out more about your favorite sauces, spreads and spices here