Super Salsa

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By Carolyn Rogalsky

It may be a mere condiment, but salsa is one food that’s got it all: Great taste, few calories, fiber and vitamins! In fact, Best Life Advisor L. Kathleen Mahan, M.S., R.D., expert nutrition counselor and certified diabetes educator, was singing the praises of salsa during our recent webcast, Family Nutrition and Helping the Overweight Child.

So why is salsa so special? The spicy condiment, which is typically a combination of tomatoes, onions, cilantro and chili peppers, is fat free and it’s rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. A bonus: If it’s hot, you’ll reap even more benefits. The capsaicin in hot peppers has been shown to increase satiety and may even improve pain tolerance. Though you used to only be able to find salsa at Mexican restaurants, more and more chefs are using it for its taste, adaptability and health benefits.

You can also use it at home in your own cooking. Try adding some to the top of a baked potato instead of high-fat butter or sour cream. Better yet, use a tablespoon of light sour cream along with one to two tablespoons of salsa, says Best Life lead nutritionist Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D. Of course, you can also add some to zip up burritos and wraps. Janis suggests a wrap of chicken, spinach, a little cheese and lots of salsa for a simple and tasty sandwich.

You can use salsa to spice up: beans; mix together a can of beans reduced-sodium or no salt added) with two cups corn, 1/2 an avocado, chopped, and salsa to taste. Or fish, chicken or other lean meat; poach or grill fish, chicken or other lean meat, and top with salsa before serving.

One caution: Store-bought salsa can be high in sodium, so be sure to check the labels. Look for one with no more than 150 mg sodium per two tablespoons. Or, you can try making your own by using these Best Life recipes:

Roasted Scallops with Tomato Salsa. Top scallops with nutritious, fresh tomatoes and kalamata olives.

Fiery Fruit Salsa. Sweet mango is the perfect addition to this spicy chipotle salsa.

Jamaican Pork with Creamy Lime Salsa. Count on this delicious dinner to wake up your tastebuds.