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These Homemade Condiments Are Good For You

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Date: May 1, 2008      Publication: Bottom Line Health      Source: Marjorie Fitch-Hilgenberg      Print:

And other nutrients in your diet

Sauces, marinades and sandwich spreads (commonly known as condiments) have long been relegated to the “bad-for-you” category of foods. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Condiments actually can be good for you—if you choose the right ones. When made from fruits and vegetables, condiments can provide essential vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants that help protect the body from chronic diseases, such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Combined with a well-balanced diet, healthful condiments can shore up one’s total daily intake of fruits and vegetables.

My favorite condiments (made from ingredients available at most grocery stores)…

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Cranberry relish. Cranberries are packed with vitamin C and the flavonoids anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins—a disease-fighting combination that lowers LDL “bad” cholesterol, helps prevent blood clots that cause heart attacks and stroke, and may fight certain cancers, such as oral and esophageal cancers.

Best uses: Makes a delicious spread for turkey, chicken or pork tenderloin sandwiches, or it can be mixed into sauces and marinades (such as barbecue sauce or a spicy citrus marinade) as a tart counterpart to meat, fish or poultry dishes. Mix cranberry relish with orange juice (enough to create a syruplike consistency) for a delicious glaze on chicken, turkey or pork.

Cranberry Relish

2 pounds fresh cranberries

1 cup sugar or Splenda (a sugar substitute)

3 tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur or orange juice

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1 orange, zested and juiced

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, pulse several times to chop cranberries (until chunky) and mix ingredients. Let relish stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow flavor to develop. Relish can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator until served.

Curry. Long used in south Asian cooking, curry (available in powder form or as a sauce) is a mixture of several pungent spices, including turmeric, a perennial herb that has been found to lower blood levels of LDL cholesterol and raise levels of HDL “good” cholesterol. Turmeric contains curcumin, a substance that may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Best uses: For a spicy kick, sprinkle curry powder on egg salad or on top of baked chicken. Use curry sauce on beef, pork, chicken, fish or shrimp dishes, or to add “zip” to rice or vegetables.

Guacamole. This Mexican dip combines mashed avocados with tomatoes, onions, spices, lime juice and heart-healthy garlic. Avocados contain nearly 20 vitamins (such as folate and vitamins C and E), minerals (iron and potassium) as well as fiber. Avocados are rich in cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fat. Avocados also contain phytonutrients, such as the antioxidant lutein, which may promote eye health.

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Best uses: On sandwiches (such as turkey or chicken breast), try guacamole as a low-cholesterol alternative to mayonnaise.

Guacamole

3 avocados

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (juice from one lime)

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup diced onion

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2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 plum tomatoes, diced

1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

Ground cayenne pepper, to taste

Cut avocados in half, remove pit. Scoop avocado into a medium bowl. Add lime juice and salt. Mix while mashing avocados. Add onion, cilantro, tomatoes and garlic. Mix. Season with cayenne pepper. Refrigerate for one hour for best flavor, or serve immediately.

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Mustard. An excellent source of iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium and niacin, mustard is an incredibly versatile, low-calorie condiment. Mustard also contains protective phytochemicals called glucosinolates that research suggests may help fight prostate, esophageal, gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers.

Best uses: Prepared mustards, such as store-bought yellow mustard—and especially coarse-ground, spicy, brown Dijon—are delicious when used on meat sandwiches, as a base for salad dressing or in marinades and sauces for beef or fish, such as salmon or swordfish. Add honey to mustard to create a sweet-and-sour marinade for pork or chicken or a dipping sauce for finger foods. (Start with two tablespoons of honey to one-half cup of mustard, then add more honey to taste.) For an extra kick, add some horseradish to mustard. Wasabi mustard, a hot mustard available at gourmet food shops, is great on beef or on tuna or salmon fillets. (A little goes a long way.)

Caution: People with high blood pressure should limit their consumption of mustard, which generally is high in sodium (about 50 mg to 120 mg per teaspoon).

Wasabi Mustard Sauce

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon wasabi paste

Mix all ingredients. Try it on flank steak.

Yogurt. Yogurt contains probiotics, the live, beneficial bacteria that occur naturally in the digestive tract. The most common probiotics in yogurt are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which studies show improve intestinal function, fight infection, reduce risk for colon cancer, ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and decrease inflammation associated with arthritis.

Best uses: A healthful, low-fat alternative to mayonnaise or sour cream, plain low-fat yogurt also can be used as a tangy sandwich spread if you add just a little mustard. Yogurt can be used in place of heavy cream to thicken a variety of sauces and stews.

TANGY YOGURT MUSTARD DILL SAUCE

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt

3 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons fresh dill weed

2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

18 teaspoon ground pepper, preferably white pepper

Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate 30 minutes or longer before using. Try it on salmon.

Source: Marjorie Fitch-Hilgenberg, PhD, RD, LD, an associate professor and director of the dietetics program at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.