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Salsa for the Health Conscious

by Penny Mohney

Due to an increasing awareness of nutritional issues, salsas have become the best selling condiment in North America. This is largely because they are low in cholesterol, fat, and calories and because they provide a great way to add flavor to even the dullest of dishes.

Salsas are traditionally spicy and vegetable based and can be cooked or uncooked, but there are many variations of salsa. Tomato salsas are great with chicken or beef but you might want to try a mango based salsa over fish tacos or even pork tenderloin. A sweet Pineapple based salsa goes great with blackened seafood or chicken and compliments the smoky, spicy flavor. For a great tasting fruity salsa try the melon like flavor of papaya blended with spicy hot peppers, this creates a mouth watering topping for chicken or pork.

Salsa has become the best selling condiment and has recently pushed ketchup right out of the top-selling spotlight. We appear to be returning to a healthier way of eating and salsa does more than bring color and variety to a plate, salsa can round out the nutritional needs of any meal.

Some Salsa Nutritional Facts:

Tomatoes contain lycopene, the carotenoid pigment that turns tomatoes to red and may help to prevent some forms of cancer by lessening the damage caused by free radicals. Tomatoes are also a good source of beta carotene and potassium.

Onions are low in calories yet add abundant flavor to a wide variety of foods. With only 45 calories per serving, onions are fat and cholesterol free, very low in sodium, high in vitamin C, and a good source of fiber and other key nutrients. Onions contain generous amounts of a flavonoid called quercetin. Other sources are tea and apples, but research shows that absorption of quercetin from onions is twice that from tea and more than three times that from apples. Studies have shown that quercetin protects against cataracts, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Garlic is a tasty addition to any salsa and the aromatic seasoning that people either love or hate. It’s been said that if garlic had been created in the laboratory instead of by nature, it would probably be a high-priced prescription drug. That’s how really good it is. Medical studies have shown that garlic can lower cholesterol, prevent dangerous blood clots, reduce blood pressure, prevent cancer, and protect against bacterial and fungal infections.

Jalapeño Peppers are a good source of vitamin C, folate and vitamin A but are not the only pepper that can be used in salsa. Here are some examples of different peppers that can be used and they are ranked from mild to hot.

• El Paso (Very mild)
• Anaheim
• Jalapeno
• Serrano
• Cayenne
• Tabasco
• Red Chile
• Chiltecpin
• Kumataka
• Habanero (One of the hottest - 30 to 50 times hotter than a Jalapeno)

Isn’t it nice to know that when we smother our food with salsa, we are adding the great nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables?

So this summer when you find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes from your garden try making some healthy homemade salsa. If you are interested in some great tasting salsa recipes or have some you would like to share go to www.PennysTomatoes.com.

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