Sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, sushi, and stir-frys just aren’t complete without a topping. But many commonly used condiments can negatively impact your health. Learn which ones top our worst topping list.
Does having a burger without ketchup make you feel naked? Would the experience of having a topping-less burger seem sacrilegious and totally un-American?
Well, bad news because ketchup scores #1 on the worst condiments list.
Why is ketchup a terrible topping? After all, if you look at the nutrition label for a leading brand of ketchup, you’ll see the following facts, based on a tablespoon serving size:
- 0 fat
- 0 cholesterol
- 1% daily value sodium
- 3 grams of carbs (2 grams of sugar, 1 gram added sugar)
So why is ketchup a condiment of concern?
It’s because the leading brand that’s sold in conventional supermarkets and used in restaurants contains high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
What’s the harm in having a little HFCS, especially if there’s only 2 grams of sugar per serving? There are two major problems. First, few people stick to just one tablespoon. To cover a big burger, you need a big squirt that equates to three tablespoons. And that’s not including the fries. So if you grab a burger and fries for dinner, you’re likely consuming a dozen grams of sugar—just from ketchup. Then there’s the carbs from the bun and the beer.
But perhaps an even bigger problem with the HFCS in conventional ketchup is how the synthetic sweetener affects hunger hormones.
HFCS, according to research in the journal Nutrition, acts on metabolism the same way sucrose (table sugar) does. Moreover, HFCS also increases fasting levels of insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels, says a study in PLOS ONE.
The same study also suggests HFCS alters dopamine signaling. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter-like hormone, lights up the reward center of the brain and regulates appetite control.
HFCS seems to interfere with dopamine signalling and by doing so, even if we eat a huge burger with fries with a bunch of ketchup, our brain’s reward center essentially takes longer to register satisfaction. And that’s not all. HFCS also interferes with leptin signaling. Leptin is the satiety hormone. When you eat a lot of conventional ketchup, your brain won’t get the message that you’re full.
Best Alternatives to ketchup: If you’re grilling burgers at home, top them with organic ketchup. Organic varieties don’t use HFCS. Plus, there’s another reason to use organic ketchup. According to Mother Earth News, organic ketchup may contain up to 50 percent more of the antioxidant carotenoid, lycopene, than conventional ketchup; the darker the ketchup, the more lycopene.
Or you can top the burger with salsa, avocado or tomato paste.
Soy sauce makes this worst condiment list not necessarily because of its high sodium content. If you have high blood pressure, then eating lots of soy sauce is not a good idea. More concerning is the gluten in soy sauce. On its own, soy, in most of its various forms, e.g. soybeans, tofu, tempeh, etc, is gluten-free.
However, soy sauce is made with both soy and wheat, which does contain gluten. If you have gluten sensitivity, avoid soy sauce. Instead, use tamari.
Although it’s also a soy-based sauce, tamari is not made with wheat. Another advantage of tamari is that it’s made with fermented soy, which some health experts believe is more beneficial for digestion and gut health because it contains beneficial bacteria.
Surprised that this condiment (well, technically it’s more of a dip, but let’s not get too technical) has made this list? Why would hummus be bad for you? After all, it’s made from crushed chickpeas, a high-protein legume, as well as olive oil and perhaps some spices…
The reason why hummus makes this list is because chickpeas are heavily sprayed with the herbicide, glyphosate. Best known as the active ingredient in the Monsanto brand of Roundup weed- and grass-killer products, glyphosate is a controversial chemical that’s ubiquitous in the global food supply because it’s also used to accelerate the drying of food crops in order to more quickly bring them to market.
The Environmental Working Group last year released a report, revealing that of 43 conventional, chickpea and hummus samples tested, more than 90 percent had detectable levels of glyphosate. Moreover, over one-third of the 33 conventional hummus samples exceeded the non-profit research organization’s suggested limit for daily consumption, based on a 60-gram serving of hummus (about four tablespoons).
The good news is that if you can’t crunch your veggies without hummus, organic brands typically have much less detectable levels of glyphosate.
What’s your favorite healthy condiment? Leave a comment below.