Salsa, made from finely diced vegetables and spices, is a fresh, nourishing, and flavorful addition to any meal. But, more significantly, it is a nutritious powerhouse with numerous health advantages. Salsa is the Spanish word for “sauce”, but it is healthier than sauces like sriracha. Its primary ingredient is usually fresh-chopped tomatoes. However, other exotic salsa flavours, such as jalapeno or mango, are becoming increasingly popular today.
Many believe salsa is unhealthy because it pairs with less nutritious foods such as chips. However, the truth is that salsa is high in nutrients and is much more than a simple topping. It is an iconic condiment that consists of vegetables, fruit, herbs, spices, and even grains. While salsa has certain benefits, you also need to watch out for some things. Additionally, consider what you’re eating with salsa.
Salsa: An Introduction
Salsa often resembles a spicy tomato sauce due to the prominence of hot chilli peppers. It comes in different varieties; however, the primary ingredients are tomatoes or tomato paste, water, chilli peppers, optional jalapeno peppers, vinegar, onions, garlic, green bell peppers, and spices. The spices in traditional salsa include black pepper, cilantro, paprika, cumin, and oregano. Most commercially prepared salsas also contain salt, sugar, vegetable oil, calcium chloride, pectin, modified food starch, guar gum, dextrose, and potassium sorbate. There are different categories of salsa, uncooked and cooked.
Unlike in other sauces, the different flavours of salsa complement the others while retaining their individuality. Fruit salsa is a refreshing summer treat comprising blueberry, watermelon, or tropical fruits like mango or pineapple. You can serve salsa with tortilla chips, salads, meat entrées, and desserts. Regardless of type, salsa complements the foods with its bursts of colour and flavour.
Nutritional Profile of Salsa
As per the USDA, around 100 grams of traditional salsa contains the following nutrients:
- Calories: 30 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 6.06 g
- Fibre: 3 g
- Fat: 0.19 g
- Sodium: 758 mg
- Vitamin C: 7.3 mg
- Vitamin A: 303 IU
Vitamins and Minerals
According to USDA data, 100 grams of ready-to-serve salsa has the following vitamins and minerals.
- Calcium: 28 mg
- Magnesium: 15.2 mg
- Phosphorus: 32 mg
- Potassium: 258 mg
- Sodium: 656 mg
- Lycopene: 6310 µg
- Niacin: 1.12 mg
- Thiamine: 0.035 mg
- Pantothenic Acid: 0.202 mg
- Vitamin E: 1.22 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.176 mg
- Vitamin A: 24 µg
The HealthifyMe Note
Salsa is a low-calorie, nutritious sauce that creates a balanced set of flavours in any food. In addition, ready-to-serve salsa has a high concentration of essential vitamins like lycopene, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. The nutritional value of salsa may also differ due to its ingredients. However, considering the basic ingredients used to make salsa, it is safe to say that it is a nutrient-dense food.
Potential Benefits of Salsa
Low in Calories
Unlike other flavourful, processed foods, salsa does not contain many calories. For example, approximately two tablespoons or one serving of salsa only contains about ten calories. Therefore, salsa alone does not add unwanted, unhealthy calories to your diet.
Salsa Keeps you Hydrated
Tomatoes are the primary ingredient of traditional salsa. Tomato is a water-rich food because 95% of its weight comes just from water. Research shows that water-rich foods like tomatoes can be beneficial for preventing dehydration.
Excellent Source of Potassium
Salsa contains a lot of potassium, which is not usually found in Western diets today. Research shows that potassium helps regulate blood pressure and mineral-fluid balance in the body and helps reduce kidney stones and age-related bone loss. These benefits come from certain ‘organic anions’ in potassium directly from fruits and vegetables. Therefore, salsa is a healthy way to add potassium-rich vegetables into your diet.
Improves Heart Health
Essential ingredients in salsa are onions and garlic. Research shows that garlic has cardiovascular-protective properties because it increases good cholesterol and decreases bad cholesterol. In addition, a study proves that onion helps increase high‐density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, which is good cholesterol. Therefore, salsa can be perfect for people seeking to manage cholesterol levels.
Salsa is Power-Packed with B Vitamins
Salsa is full of different types of Vitamin B. Research shows that Thiamine and Vitamin B6 contribute to maintaining a healthy nervous system. In addition, a study proves that Pantothenic Acid is essential for improving brain function.
Research also indicates that Vitamin B6 plays a pivotal role in cellular metabolism. In addition, thiamin, Niacin and Pantothenic Acid help the body release energy from food.
Helps Prevent Diseases and Fight Inflammation
Salsa is an excellent source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Research shows that vitamin E is critical in disease prevention because it enhances immunity and is anti-inflammatory. It even prevents platelet aggregation, which is necessary for the formation of clots. Inhibition of platelet aggregation prevents thromboembolic events (blood clot in one blood vessel travels and blocks another blood vessel). Therefore, it is essential for patients with acute coronary syndromes.
Might Reduce Risk of Cancer
The main ingredient in traditional salsa is tomato. Thanks to this, salsa contains lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomatoes. Studies have linked lycopene to reduced risk of cancer because lycopene prevents the potential transformation of normal cells into cancer cells. A study has especially concluded that higher lycopene consumption leads to a lower risk of prostate cancer.
Homemade Salsa Recipe
If store-bought salsa is not available in your locality, you can use this simple, five-minute recipe to make salsa. You can also change the recipe according to your taste. For example, if you need thinner consistency salsa, add a bit of tomato juice or sauce.
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
- Ripe Tomatoes: 550 g
- Canned Diced Tomatoes: 400 g
- Green Onions, chopped into thirds: 3
- Red Onion, chopped:⅓ cup
- Jalapeno Pepper seeded and chopped: 1
- Fresh Cilantro: ⅓ cup
- Garlic: 1 clove
- Lime Juice: 2 tbsp
- Chilli Powder: ½ tsp
- Ground Cumin: ¼ tsp
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Method of Preparation
- Use a food processor to pulse all ingredients.
- If you don’t have a food processor, you can chop the vegetables and combine them with the spices and herbs in a big mixing bowl.
- Note that salsa tastes best after being chilled for a few hours, so if you have the time, marinate the flavours together before serving.
- Keep refrigerated for up to one week.
Nutritional Value Per Serving
- Calories: 20 Kcal
- Carbohydrates: 4 g
- Fibre: 1 g
- Potassium: 189 mg
- Sodium: 41 mg
- Vitamin C: 10.7 mg
- Calcium: 16 mg
The HealthifyMe Note
Salsa pairs well with chips and nachos as a famous dip, adding health benefits to relatively unhealthy snacks. It is also a fantastic addition to breakfast. A little salsa on your eggs or tofu, paired with toast, can make a nutritious and filling breakfast and kick off the day with a delicious start. In addition, you can use salsa to dress on tacos and salads to add additional health benefits with significantly fewer calories.
Storage Tips and Food Safety
- A glass jar with an airtight cap is ideal for storing salsa. A glass container will protect external flavours from seeping into your salsa and keep your vegetables as fresh as possible.
- Homemade salsa can stay in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. After that, you can freeze the salsa to increase its shelf life further. Store the salsa in sealed containers or heavy-duty freezer bags to freeze it.
- Above all, always wash your vegetables. Salsa is prone to contamination since it contains various raw, uncooked veggies. In addition, cross-contamination incidents can happen with tomatoes, cilantro, avocados, and peppers. As a result, you should wash all salsa ingredients before use.
Precautions to Keep in Mind
Read the label on the store-bought salsa to ensure that you are not allergic to any ingredients. Research also cautions that if you are allergic to grass pollen, you could be allergic to tomatoes also. In such instances, you can opt for salsa with a unique flavour, such as mango salsa, instead of the traditional salsa made from tomatoes.
Some acidic foods like salsa trigger symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Therefore, if you are prone to heartburn or acid reflux, you should avoid eating salsa. Additionally, salsa has onions and garlic, which are high in FODMAPs. Research indicates that FODMAPs are a group of compounds that contribute to irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and similar gastrointestinal disorders. Therefore, people who suffer from such conditions must avoid or limit salsa intake.
Watch Out for High Sodium Content
Many store-bought salsas contain a hefty amount of salt, harming your health. Studies indicate that too much sodium can cause inflammation, bloating, a rise in blood pressure, and weight gain. Therefore, if you opt for store-bought salsa, read the nutrition label and pick the option with the lowest sodium. You can quickly fix this problem by reducing the salt in your salsa recipes.
Salsa is packed densely with vitamins and minerals essential for the body. It is low in calories and the perfect condiment or sauce. You can pair salsa with healthier counterparts in meals, such as vegetable chips or salad, than with unhealthy snacks like chips or nachos to get the most of this healthy food. The common ingredients in salsas like onions, tomatoes, and lime juice help with hydration, boost heart health and provide dietary potassium. However, people view salsa as an unhealthy option because it often comes with fast foods which lack nutritional value and are high in salt and calories.
While salsa offers a wide array of benefits, beware of the sodium content in the salsa you choose. Many recipes and store-bought salsas contain a high amount of salt, which can cause bloating, severe thirst, high blood pressure, and stomach ulcers. Pick the option with the lowest sodium or make the salsa by reducing salt in your recipes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Is salsa good for your health?
A. Yes, salsa is perfect for your health because the traditional tomato-based salsa comes with potassium and B vitamins that provide numerous health benefits. In addition, it is always low in calories and provides hydration. However, eat the low sodium version to reap the maximum benefits.
Q. What’s the benefit of eating salsa?
A. Salsa is packed with nutrients, especially B vitamins and minerals. Minerals such as potassium are not usually found in Western diets today but can be plentiful in salsa. It is also a good source of B Vitamins and Vitamins C and E, which provide numerous health benefits.
Q. Is salsa good for dieting?
A. Yes, salsa is great for dieting because it is low in calories. It has 30 calories per 100 grams, making it the perfect pairing for a delicious salad or meal. The carbs levels are also relatively low in salsa.
Q. What happens if you eat salsa every day?
A. The consequences of eating salsa every day vary according to the type of salsa you opt for. Limiting salsa intake to a few tablespoons per day is acceptable if the salsa is homemade and you have controlled the amount of salt and sugar. However, eating store-bought salsa every day would lead to the consumption of excessive amounts of sodium consumption. Too much sodium leads to hypertension and ulcer.
Q. Is salsa in a jar healthy?
A. Yes, store-bought salsa can be very healthy, as long as you read the food label and choose the salsa with less sodium content. Salsa in a jar also has various minerals and vitamins from its ingredients, such as vegetables, which give many health benefits.
Q. Is salsa good for your heart?
A. Yes, it is. Ingredients of salsa include onions and garlic, which increase good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. In addition, it reduces the chances of blood clots and heart attacks, so salsa is perfect for your heart.
Q. Is salsa a good source of lycopene?
A. Yes, it is. As per the USDA, around 100 grams of salsa contains 6310 µg of lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid found abundantly in tomatoes, and the main ingredient in traditional salsa is tomato.
Q. Is salsa high in vitamin C?
A. Salsa contains ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, and lemon juice which are all power-packed with Vitamin C. As per USDA, 100 grams of traditional salsa offers 7.3 mg of vitamin C. Therefore, Salsa made with these ingredients is extremely rich in Vitamin C.
Q. Is salsa high in vitamin K?
A. As per the USDA, salsa is a source of Vitamin K. Around 100 grams of salsa contains 4.2 µg of Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone), the primary type of dietary Vitamin K. Deficiency of this vitamin can increase blood clotting time, which leads to excessive bleeding and haemorrhage.
Q. Is salsa high in potassium?
A. Yes, it is. As per the USDA, around 100 grams of salsa contains 258 mg of potassium. Today, potassium is not usually found in Western diets but is found abundantly in salsa. Thanks to this, salsa helps regulate blood pressure and mineral-fluid balance in the body.
Q. Is salsa a good source of vegetables?
A. Salsa is made from an extensive list of freshly diced and chopped fruits and vegetables. Vegetables are the essential ingredients in salsa, such as onions, tomatoes, cilantro and peppers. Therefore, salsa is indeed an excellent source of vegetables, and for this very reason, salsa has high fibre content.