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Healthy Salsa

One of the many contributions of Mexican cuisine to the US is salsa, which is Spanish for "sauce".

Typically based on tomatoes, salsa is a low calorie dip that can be enjoyed with tortilla chips, alongside rice and beans, and with tacos. Traditional recipes call for some heat, usually derived from spicy peppers.

What makes a good salsa?

If you make it on your own, it's sure to be awesome. All you need are diced ripe tomatoes, onion, vinegar, cilantro, salt and pepper. If you are buying your salsa, it shouldn't have much more than that.

Here, for example, is the ingredient list for Frog Ranch Salsa:

Vine ripened tomatoes, pickled peppers (peppers, vinegar, salt), fresh onions, parsley.

From a nutrient perspective, salsas are a very good choice. They tend to be very low in calories: just 10-30 calories per serving of two teaspoons. This means you can have seconds without feeling guilty. The tomatoes provide a nice amount of vitamin C and lycopenes (antioxidants).

Be watchful of the sodium content and try to choose salsa with less than 100mg of sodium per serving. Some salsas go as high as 250mg of sodium for a serving of 10 calories!

Stay away from "cheese" salsas. They are usually full of unwanted additives. Here, for example, is Tostitos Salsa con Queso:

Water, Nonfat Milk, Monterey Jack Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Corn Oil, Modified Food Starch, Diced Tomatoes in Tomato Juice, Jalapeno Peppers, Chili Peppers, Red Bell Peppers, Maltodextrin, Natural Flavors, Salt, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Monosodium Glutamate, Sodium Citrate, DATEM, Sodium Phosphate, Artificial Colors (Yellow 5, Yellow 6), Spice, and Soy Lecithin.

Bottom Line

Salsa is a great dip to have handy.

Supermarket tips

Choose tomato based salsas without too many added ingredients. Choose salsas with less than 100mg of sodium per serving.

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