NEW YORK (CBS 2) — The next time you top a burger with ketchup or sprinkle some cinnamon on your cereal, you’ll be adding nutrients to some foods that are guilty pleasures.
Those and other condiments are loaded with health benefits, some of which can even help you lose weight and live longer.
When you think health, you probably never conjure up images of French fries or hot dogs – but even those guilty pleasures can come with a surprising health benefit: the toppings.
“From cumin to coriander, to pepper, to mustard, to ketchup, they’re food enhancers that add nutrients,” Dr. Eric Braverman says.
Condiments, the ingredients that give a flavor boost to foods, can do the same for your health.
Over the last 18 months, Janet Jenkins has made them an important part of her diet, and has lost more than 40 pounds – even while enjoying an occasional hot dog.
“I’m one of these unusual people that put sauerkraut and actually mustard and ketchup at the same time,” Jenkins says. “It’s the best thing ever. I feel a little guilty afterwards because it’s a hot dog, but it tastes so good.”
In ketchup, for example, lycopene is the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their bright, red color. It’s also considered an anti-cancer agent, and it’s helpful for male fertility.
“The truth is all ketchups aren’t the same,” Laura Slayton, of foodtrainers.net, said. “Organic ketchup will have three times the lycopene of conventional ketchup, and that’s a big difference.”
Mustard also packs a nutritional one-two punch.
“One is mustard seed, which is actually in the same family of foods as broccoli and cabbage, a very strong anti-cancer, good for asthma, reduces arthritis symptoms,” Slayton said.
Check the label for tumeric as well.
“The tumeric is a strong anti-inflammatory, and they think that it accounts for lower rates of Alzheimer’s in many parts of the world, so your hot dog can be healthy for you,” Slayton said.
If you must eat a frank, top it with sauerkraut – it’s fermented cabbage that’s low in calories and loaded with helpful bacteria.
To balance out a burger, try some hot sauce if you can stand the heat. It has a long list of nutritional and weight benefits.
“It’s good for our nasal passages and breathing in general, that’s just from the direct hotness,” Slayton said. “That same thing that helps you sweat is what helps your metabolic rate increase a little bit.”
On the sweet side, honey is recognized as a cough and allergy suppressant. New studies have also shown cinnamon as an effective antioxidant that could help reduce risks associated with diabetes and heart disease.
“In terms of anti-cancer benefits, heart health, allergies, for athletes, your condiments can go a long way,” Slayton said.
Experts say it’s great to be creative, and that you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with condiments – the more you use, the more nutritional benefits you’ll derive.